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Obama adviser's book 1,030 on Amazon, but hits NYT best-seller list

New York Times building (Wikimedia Commons)

Many conservative authors have complained that the New York Times Best Seller List has not reflected the sales of their books. Now, an industry insider suspects a former Obama adviser is getting the reverse treatment.

Valerie Jarrett’s new book made the vaunted list at No. 14 despite being 1,030 on the Amazon sales chart with just three reviews, the Daily Caller reported.

Calling the scenario “inconceivable,” the insider suspects Jarrett paid a company that helps authors buy their way onto the list.

“Given the organic sales of that book and the fact that during the entire week of rollout it barely cracked the top 100 on Amazon, there’s no way the book should have a place on the NYT Best Seller list. Inconceivable,” the insider told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“There’s likely an effort to game the system; it’s the only explanation,” said the insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Daily Caller noted that one company that “games the system” will purchase 10,000 copies of an author’s book while attempting to disguise the source.

The industry expert said there are “some industry sources who don’t think she should be on the list because of fraudulent reporting” of sales.

Jarrett is rumored to have received an advance of more than $1 million for the book, “Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward.”

The Daily Caller noted that hitting the best-seller list burnishes the image of public figures. Jarrett’s web page advertising her as a paid speaker describes her as a “Former Senior Advisor, Obama Administration; Bestselling Author.”

The Wall Street Journal published an exposé in 2013 on Result Source, a company that buys books in bulk to put authors on best-seller lists. The exposé resulted in the company closing its doors, but another company emerged in its place, called Highlights.

Result Source was employed by former pastor Mark Driscoll, who apologized and asked that the term “New York Times best-selling author” be removed from his bio.

Marji Ross, president of the conservative publisher Regnery, observed to the Daily Caller that even if the Times moved Jarrett’s book down in the rankings because of suspicious sales, it still put her on the list.

“There is still a bragging right that you get when you make the list, she’ll be able to say that,” Ross said.

‘Tipping point’

Regnery severed its ties with the New York Times list in 2017, WND reported.

Regnery cited at the time the Times’ low ranking of Dinesh D’Souza’s best-seller “The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left”. The Times ranked the book below titles with half as many sales.

In 2015, talk-radio host and author Michael Savage’s novel “Countdown to Mecca” outsold four books in the New York Times’ fiction top 20 in its first week but didn’t make the list. However, a later book by Savage, “Trump’s War: His Battle for America, hit No. 1 on the Times list.

Ross told WND in an interview at the time that Regnery for years believed the sales of its books had not been accurately reflected by the Times list.

“I think we just reached a tipping point. You get to the point where you’ve said, ‘I’ve had enough,'” she told WND of the decision.

“For the past 15 years, we’ve been getting that BookScan report on Wednesday morning, and we think, ‘Great, look at how many books we’ve sold.’ And then we kind of hold our breath and say, ‘What’s the New York Times going to do with that?

Potential problems

Tim Grahl, in a February 2016 column for Observer.com titled “The Truth About The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists,” noted the Wall Street Journal bases its list on BookScan, while the Times “keeps a tight lid on its process for selecting best-sellers.”

He said it is known the Times “samples its own list of certain booksellers across the country – though which ones make the cut are a tightly guarded secret – then look at the data with wise NYT brains, and decide whom they think should be on the list.”

“I’m certainly not the only one who sees potential problems with this system,” he wrote.

Grahl cited a researcher who found books by authors who happen to be employed by the New York Times are more likely to stay on the list longer and have a higher ranking than others.

And he believes there’s evidence of a political bias.

“If you happen to have written a conservative-political-leaning book, you’re more likely to be ranked lower and drop off the list faster than those books with a more liberal political slant,” he said.