Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cooking the Books: How the Conservative Best Seller Scam is a Free Market Hypocrisy

by Nomad

When is a bestseller not a bestseller? A lot of bestselling conservative authors have found a way to turn horse manure into gold. It's a testament to their actual commitment to the free market system.  

The Making of a Bestseller

Ever wonder who buys all those books written by people like Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Sarah Palin? Somebody has to be purchasing them, right? How else can their books be making it on the best sellers lists so often?

John Iadarola, known for his work on The Young Turks, offers this insight into what can only be called a publishing scam.

It's a credible theory. In 2010, a reporter for Salon suggested the same thing:
The sales of books by awful right-wing authors like Jonah Goldberg are boosted by an entire industry dedicated to … boosting the sales of books by awful right-wing authors. Conservative book clubs purchase tens of thousands of copies and right-wing think tanks order right-wing books in bulk.
Three years before that in 2007, the scam was partially exposed by a group of contrary conservative authors. Five writers decided to take their publisher, Regnery Publishing, to court because they felt that they were being cheated out of their royalties. 

At issue was the company's practice of "selling their books at a steep discount to book clubs and other organizations owned by the same parent company."

Said one of the writers:
“They’ve structured their business essentially as a scam and are defrauding their writers.”
As well as trashing the term "bestseller."
As one source explained:
The authors also say in the lawsuit that Regnery donates books to nonprofit groups affiliated with Eagle Publishing and gives the books as incentives to subscribers to newsletters published by Eagle. The authors say they do not receive royalties for these books.
Regnery has published books by the likes of Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, Michelle Malkin, Haley Barbour and other conservatives. 

In its defense, a spokesman for the publishing house (which ultimately triumphed in court) offered this remarkable circular logic.
"These disgruntled authors object to marketing strategies used by all major book publishers that have proved successful time and again as witnessed by dozens of Regnery bestsellers.”
"Disgruntled" is the standard term used to describe any complainant against business practices. (It implies that the matter rests on worker unhappiness and dissatisfaction. As if people have no right to be angered by an unjust situation. )

In the view of publishers looking at the bottom line, they have discovered a successful business model. Success, even when it is achieved through fraudulent (or at least questionable means) is all that matters. 
And that makes sense, It's the kind of "winning above all else" mentality that has become the hallmark of conservative politics.

Palin's Incestuous Arrangement

Regnery is not by any means the only publisher that conducts business in this manner. The Byzantine connections in the publishing industry allow for all kinds of seemingly incestuous arrangements. 

For example, three of Sarah Palin's books were published by HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate News Corp. That made for a neat little arrangement. 

Fox News- a subsidiary of News Corps- in effect provided Palin with a platform to advertise her book to increase sales. Everybody was happy with the deception and conservative viewers- who won't even bother to read the Bible- got a warm and cozy feeling that the rest of America was getting the message. 

As Iadarola pointed out, that wasn't all there was too it.  There was yet another twist. 
Bulk sales of her books played an important role in her making the New York Times bestsellers list, as Politico reported in 2010.
Palin's sales were boosted by $64,000 in bulk purchases made by her political action group, SarahPAC. According to a Federal Election Commission filing, "America By Heart" was offered to donors with a $100 contribution. The book retails for $25.99 and bulk purchases are generally deeply discounted
So, in effect, Palin found a way to bilk her fans twice over. Once, when they donated to her SarahPAC- thinking they were contributing to her non-existent campaign- and secondly, when they bought her book.
In the third class of victim-hood, there were the chumps that got her book "free" when they donated $100.
A con game really doesn't get any slicker than that.
*   *   *
The knee-jerk response by conservatives to this shady merchandising is that this is not exclusive to right wing publishers. In fact, that's not accurate. As one source observes:
The two top selling Democratic authors, Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter have never required anyone to buy their books. Carter and Obama have sold millions of books and they have never had to game the system to do it.
Palin once said that she was a conservative Republican which made her also "a firm believer in free market capitalism."
A free market system allows all parties to compete, which ensures the best and most competitive project emerges, and ensures a fair, democratic process.
Competition in the marketplace is great but rigging the system behind the scenes is a whole lot more convenient. And for a person who seems to have a lot of trouble coherently stringing together four or more words,  America really is a land of opportunity. 
As long as her supporters never wise up.