• Larry

    Its also a fairly common ploy for conservative politicos.

    Buy up a lot of copies of books to give out at various functions.

    “Are we so convinced that the message justifies the means that we will engage in dishonesty to spread the gospel? ”

    Various Christians will tell you any anti-social act is justified if you are doing for God. Many people don’t realize, “the ends justify the means” is meant to be said ironically.

  • Kristin

    Unfortunately, I believe that most bestselling authors do this, whether Christian or not. It’s the reason behind getting all those free books at church services or at Christian conferences. It’s why we see give-aways of books on national tv talk shows. It’s why pre-sales on Amazon.com are so important
    . It shows how money can corrupt the best intentions. Not sure how to change the game or fix the system when big publishing houses are involved.

  • Larry

    I think the statement is better qualified with most bestselling “non-fiction” authors do this. Fiction writers and their agents seldom have the infrastructure for such large scale shilling. Not like religious or political groups.

    Some genres of fiction or non-fiction are popular enough never to require this. At this stage Suzanne Collins can republish a phone book and it will be a NYT bestseller for at least the first week of release. It is highly doubtful Tom Clancy or Stephen Ambrose ever required such tactics to get their books as best sellers. Stephen King has coasted for the last 20 years on his reputation into bestsellerdom with nothing decent worth reading to show for it.

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  • Jack

    If true, this should be explored further.

    What I would like to see is a follow-up article, perhaps in a venue that allows for greater length, in which the writer works out the numbers for readers, ie how on a practical level, this works.

    In other words, tell the reader how many books of a NYT bestseller typically are sold (range), and then give examples of how many books authors or those working for them actually buy. This way, we could see the percentage of total books they sell that are books they themselves have actually bought.

    I don’t blame Turner for not doing so here, because she needs more space to lay it all out. But I would encourage her to make this into a lengthier article which would include facts, figures, statistics, and examples — and to get that piece published somewhere.

  • Jack

    As for Metaxas, I can attest to at least one book which he didn’t buy — the one I bought a few days ago at B & N.

    It’s the “Miracles” book. I’ve just begun it and so far, so good.

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  • Jennifer

    While I think the practice of gaming the NYT list is wrong, is there any evidence that it’s even much of a problem in the Chrstian community? We know Driscoll did it, and apparently David Jeremiah as well, but who else? I’ll take Metaxas at his word that he didn’t do it.

  • I actually go the other way with this. Maybe I’m overly cynical, but I’ve always assumed that all of those lists were made of people who gamed their way on. Look how many authors use Kindle discounts to increase their sales numbers. I don’t have a problem doing it, and I don’t think it’s fundamentally dishonest. That’s just how the system works.

    It’s in that spirit, then, that I took Metaxes’ comments. He’s saying skewering Driscoll (who I don’t particularly like) for violating the purity of the system is crazy when the system isn’t pure to begin with.

  • I don’t think the NYT hides the fact that there is a bit of a game to being on their list. The NYT list isn’t based on straight sales numbers, and they only collect certain sales data anyway. (They don’t, for example, use sales data from Christian book stores, and they famously didn’t include e-books at all for a long time.) When you ask NYT editors straight out, they’re pretty cagey on where those numbers come from.

    The Wall Street Journal’s list (of course) is based on straight sales numbers, which is why a book on one list isn’t necessarily on another.

  • Tim

    “The success of your book is never more valuable than who you are as a person” – Thanks for putting it all right there in a nutshell, Laura. Buying one’s way onto a bestseller list with a church’s money just doesn’t seem right unless perhaps you’re the shrewd manager from the parable in Luke 16, but I don’t think most believers would like to be identified with him.


    P.S. And speaking of parables, here’s one on a pastor who bought his way to the NYT’s list: The Mega-Pastor and the Best Seller List – a parable.

  • Turner seems to suggest that Metaxas might have done this, but I don’t see her offering any proof. Saying his statement in Christianity Today “sounds like his approval of a controversial marketing tactic: buying your way onto the NYT bestseller list” is speculation on her part. The update seems to undermine her premise regarding Metaxas.

    I agree that it is questionable to buy onto the list; it is also questionable to accuse someone of doing so without offering any evidence.

  • Ben in oakland

    “Why do Christian authors buy their way onto NYT bestseller list?”

    Because it is easier than selling books to get on the NYTBSL.

    Because the appearance of having something to say that’s important, like the appearance of holiness, is almost as valuable as actually having something to say, or actually being holy.

    Because they have no confidence in the god that they think blesses them.

    because they don’t actually believe that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. They’d rather be rich and take their chances, and they don’t own any camels.

  • Jack

    I just finished reading a second RNS article that has Metaxas in its cross-hairs.

    Hmmm…..Maybe a coincidence…….maybe….

  • Jack

    That’s a good point, Brian. I’m assuming the best about Turner, that she has already gone through the basic facts and figures and just lacks space to flesh out her argument.

  • I read through this article, and it appears to me that it is based on jumping to conclusions, not research. I don’t know if Metaxas or his publisher or anybody bought his way on to the list. He himself says he never heard of the agency to whom the buying is attributed. This write quotes a statement that is easily subject to numerous interpretations. It might constitute a basis for doing some research to find out the truth, but it does not seem to me to justify the conclusion being promoted.

  • There is a new morality among Christians, which looks just like the old immorality. Some Christians and others think it is okay to cheat since it is “just numbers” without real meaning. I talked about this issue this past December here:

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  • Thank you for this informative post. This gave me a lot to think about.