This post has nothing to do with MicroSecession, but it has come up a lot with my friends, and I wanted to weigh in, because I think that someone’s reputation is being improperly smeared.
Mark Driscoll is being accused of buying his own book to boost his sales, through an intermediary known as ResultSource, Inc (known hereafter as RSI). This post is to show, by the source documents used by others to smear him, that this is a terrible, disingenuous misreading of the documents. In fact, what he is doing is pretty much common (and ethical) practice everywhere. It’s just that the group he is doing it with seems more effective than most. He is simply making valid, legitimate pre-sales, and making sure that they are reflected on all of the bestseller lists.
For background reading, here is:
- The WSJ story that talks about the work that RSI (Driscoll’s marketing group) does for authors
- The World Magazine Story that first makes accusations against Driscoll
- The blog post commenting on the claimed contract (claimed signed contract here – I have no independent knowledge if this is the actual contract but will presume it to be true)
- The issue seems to never go away
Quick question – if you wrote a book and made 6,000-11,000 presales, would you be upset if they weren’t counted towards the bestseller lists? What if an organization knew the ins and outs of the industry and could make sure that those presales were counted? What if they helped you with the presale campaign as well?
Let me say that I have no idea who Mark Driscoll is or what he believes. His name often comes up, but it’s the type of popular self-help theology which, whether true or not, I find outrageously boring. Therefore, this is not a defense of Mark Driscoll as a person or a pastor or a Christian or a theologian – topics I know nothing about. This is only a defense of Mark Driscoll as an author selling his work.
Mark Driscoll has been impugned by several people for “Scamming” his way into the New York Times bestseller list.
The claim that people are making is that Driscoll just bought a lot of his own books. That isn’t what happened. However, I will say that there are a *lot* of people who maintain their statuses by buying their own book. I know one science author that maintains his position in the Amazon bestseller list in his category by buying his own book whenever the Amazon SalesRank declines below a certain threshold.
To actually find out what happened requires a careful reading of the contracts. This link claims to have the signed contract. I have no idea if this is true, but I’ll go on this assumption.
In short, here is what is happening. Driscoll is NOT buying his own book, or using RSI to buy his own book. Instead, he is collecting 6,000 sales ahead-of-time, and using RSI to make sure that these *valid* sales get properly counted in the NYT bestseller count.
So, think of it this way. You go on a speaking tour. At each stop, you collect money for your book. Or, instead of speaking fees, every person pre-orders a copy of the book. They give you the money and their mailing address. You, then, send RSI a list of addresses and the money you collected. RSI then makes sure that those purchases are handled in the way that makes the biggest impact. For instance, BN and Amazon each have their own sales ranking system. Therefore, by splitting the orders between these two (and, apparently, BooksAMillion), both of these register the sales of the books. Then, in addition, you need to provide 90 different people who will bulk-order books, such as independent bookstores. So, if you are connected to 90 churches, and they want to bulk-order the book (55 each), they send you the bulk price, and you add it to the sale.
The only part of this that is even remotely potentially unethical is that if, instead of knowing 90 organizations that want to bulk order, you instead know 50 organizations that each want 100, then, RSI will split the orders in half, and have part of them distributed to their own intermediaries, and then distributed to those organizations.
So, according to the documents that are supposed to be damning, RSI is merely providing a service to make sure that the *real* sales of the book that are made are counted towards their reputation in the best way possible.
I should also point out that I have worked with a few popular bands, and they all follow a similar practice. They make sure that all of their presales get counted towards the first week on the Billboard charts so as to have maximum impact. There is literally no difference, except that Billboard makes it much easier to get this done than the NYT bestseller list, and, in the case of music, Billboard is the only list most people care about, and, with books, there are quite a number of lists that can be important (such as Amazon). So, instead of taking care of one list, RSI makes sure that the sales (which, I will point out again, are *real* sales), are reflected on all of the relevant lists.
If someone can tell me how this is unethical, please do so in the comments (note – the comments are moderated, but only to get rid of spam – any legit comment will go through when I check them).
I am tired of innuendo being substituted for reporting. Though I have historically like Marvin Olasky, this is not the first time that World magazine has done a hit job where innuendo was used in place of facts. Every negative piece simply looks at individual words in the contract, finds the least generous way of interpreting them, and then passing off the resulting insinuations as if they were objective facts.
I believe a lot of people who threw Driscoll in the dirt over this probably owe him an apology, and possibly need to repent for spreading half-truths and innuendos.