Scandals

This has been a very strange month in the publishing industry. If you haven’t heard, down below the Mason-Dixon, Baltimore’s mayor, Catherine Pugh, is now on leave from her position due to health reasons. However, she has been embroiled in a self-publishing scandal that sure smells like corruption. Somehow she managed to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of her Healthy Holly series of books to various municipalities and organizations in the DC-Baltimore metro area. It is alleged some of these organizations received favors in exchange. Amazingly, the book series has little action on Amazon or other platforms — mostly available to the mayor’s exclusive clients. We all know how hard it is to sell 1000 copies of a book let alone 100,000 in one deal!
Meanwhile, the New York Times is embroiled in a scandal regarding its bestseller list. How many of us have faithfully believed the New York Times to be the ultimate arbiter regarding which books are worth reading and are selling the best? It has been the goal of many authors just to chart on their Sunday bestseller list. I had recently written about this being a sham — subject to being gamed by shady bulk purchases.
Now we learn former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett’s new book Finding My Voice charted at the NY Times despite very low rankings at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. If you check, you will see only 30 reviews on Amazon, most of them trashing the scandal. Apparently the publisher, Viking, used a third party to game the system by buying a huge quantity of the first print run. I am sure you will find this book in all the bargain piles at the beach this summer. You might buy it just to stomp on it or throw it out. Surely the publisher will lose money on this deal — their scheme backfiring. This hurts all of us in the book trade — especially the authors who really are selling well at independent presses and don’t get the time of day from the NYT. This is a lot like that college admissions scandal …

And one more. You can read the article below about the myriad of scandals on the Amazon platform. There is a lot of graft going on. While we refuse to game their system in any way, once again it is the dishonest perpetrators who are hurting everyone else …