The New York Times Bestseller list is trusted by hundreds of millions of people to gauge what books are popular with readers all over the US. Sometimes its hard to trust this list when it comes to politicians running for office. They buy their own books in vast quantities to artificially inflate their sales ranking and leverage the bestseller status to push their own agendas.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s newest book, “A Time for Truth” is a bestseller. So is his 2016 rival Ben Carson’s “America the Beautiful.” Same with Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue,” Mitt Romney’s “No Apologies,” and President Obama’s “Dreams From My Father.” All of these books were bought in bulk to put them on the New York Times Bestseller list and allowed them to campaign, under the guise of book touring.
Publishing and buying your own book is nothing new and normally happens quietly in the background. It came out of the shadows this summer when the New York Times said it wouldn’t include Cruz’s book on the bestseller list because of purchasing irregularities. Ted steadfastly denied he bought any of his own books but according to a recent filing to the Federal Exchange Commission, Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign lists a payment of $122,252.62 to HarperCollins. HarperCollins is the publisher of A Time For Truth, meaning those funds were likely used to purchase copies of Cruz’s book.
This is hardly the first time a presidential candidate—or sitting president—has come under scrutiny for questionable book purchases. In 2011, Herman Cain’s campaign was found to have purchased $36,511 worth of Cain’s books from the candidate’s private motivational speaking company. Conservative commentator George Will called Cain an “entrepreneurial charlatan” and said he “used [his campaign] as a book tour, in a fundamentally disrespectful approach to the selection of presidents.”
Says the former presidential adviser: “There’s no difference between a candidate buying their books and using them to raise more money than charging people $200 for a dinner where they eat $5 worth of hummus. “
I find it odd that you can game the New York Times, get yourself the status of being a bestselling author and receive instant acclaim because you buy your own book. In political circles this practice is fully endorsed and it is a common practice. I think its totally wrong and a slap in the face to “real” authors, who derive their living from writing books.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.