July 14, 2015

Why didn’t Ted Cruz make the New York Times bestseller list?


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Ted Cruz, author of the coloring book Cruz to the Future, has a new title that is not hitting the New York Times bestseller list. A Time for Truth was released June 30, and Cruz’s campaign spokesman, Rick Tyler, accused the Times of omitting the book for political reasons.

The Times emailed, “In the case of this book, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence was that sales were limited to strategic bulk purchases.” Tyler called this a “blatant falsehood,” and says that the paper is “presumably embarrassed by having their obvious partisan bias called out.”

It’s more likely that Cruz’s team is looking for some publicity out of a fight with the Times. (His agent said yesterday, “This controversy is already helping sales.”) In any case, Cruz demanded an apology from the Times last Friday, saying that he’d sold lots of copies at his events.

Plenty of conservative candidates have spent weeks on the bestseller list. And the numbers Cruz’s team have cited are from Nielsen Bookscan, an admittedly imperfect system for tracking book sales. The Times should–and says it does–have a more nuanced system than that. The Wall Street Journal forms its bestseller list based on Bookscan numbers alone, and Cruz made that list.

Peter Grier of the Christian Science Monitor reports that the book sold just under 12,000 Bookscan copies in its first week.  Amazon and Barnes & Noble told various media they had not noticed any unusual bulk buys. HarperCollins denies that there were bulk buys, too.

Yesterday the New York Times defended its decision,and an article by Elizabeth Titus and Alex Barinka in Bloomberg News includes this official statement:

“The Times’s best-seller lists are based on a detailed analysis each week of book sales from a wide range of retailers who provide us with specific and confidential context for their sales,” said newspaper spokeswoman Eileen Murphy in an e-mailed statement. “We are confident in our conclusion about the sales patterns for the Cruz book for the week in question…. Our system is designed to detect anomalies and patterns that are typical of attempts to manipulate the rankings. We’ve been doing this for a long time and we apply our standards consistently, across the board.”

Cruz’s team wouldn’t be the first to buy their way onto a bestseller list, as we’ve covered here before. So what did Cruz do differently? How did the Times track these sales? We’ll keep you updated as this story develops.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.