The GOP’s big bulk book-buying machine is boosting Republicans on the bestseller lists

From The Washington Post:

As it happens, Crenshaw and his publisher, Hachette Book Group, got a little help from the Texas Republican’s friends.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which works to elect GOP candidates to Congress, spent nearly $400,000 on bulk purchases of the book. The organization acquired 25,500 copies through two online booksellers, enough to fuel “Fortitude’s” ascent up the bestseller lists. The NRCC said it gave away copies as incentives to donors, raising $1.5 million in the process.

The NRCC wasn’t the only outfit providing a big-bucks boost to conservative authors. Four party-affiliated organizations, including the Republican National Committee, collectively spent more than $1 million during the past election cycle mass-purchasing books written by GOP candidates, elected officials and personalities, according to Federal Election Commission expenditure reports. The purchases helped turn several volumes into bestsellers.

. . . .

A big buy can launch a book to prominence, unleashing a stream of royalties for its author and potentially driving up cash advances for their next book.

And that can be a significant source of income for lawmakers. Brett Kappel, an attorney who specializes in federal election regulations, said members of Congress are forbidden from earning more than $29,595 in income beyond their federal salaries in 2021. But book advances and royalties are specifically exempted from these limits.

“You can see why writing books is one of the favorite ways for members to earn outside income,” Kappel said.

. . . .

In February, [another Republican organization] paid nearly $65,000 to Regnery Publishing, Cruz’s publisher, for advance copies of Hawley’s forthcoming book. Hawley’s book was supposed to have been published by Simon & Schuster, but the contract was canceled in January after Hawley came in for widespread criticism for challenging Joe Biden’s electoral victory, leading up to the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol.

. . . .

In a series of rulings since 2014, the FEC has advised campaigns to make bulk book buys only through the author’s publisher. This is designed to enable publishers to withhold royalty payments from the author for those purchases, as required by law. Cruz’s campaign followed the FEC guidance in 2015, when it spent nearly $300,000 in campaign funds to buy copies of his previous book directly from the publisher, HarperCollins.

But when it came time to buy thousands of copies of “One Vote Away” last year, the campaign bypassed Cruz’s publisher and went through online retailers Books-a-Million and Barnes & Noble.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Mindy for the tip.

PG notes that, in addition to politicians of all stripes, lots of other people goose initial sales of a book by purchasing a lot of copies during the first couple of days following a book’s release.

15 thoughts on “The GOP’s big bulk book-buying machine is boosting Republicans on the bestseller lists”

  1. I didn’t know that campaign purchases couldn’t pay royalties. (Maybe that is shouldn’t pay royalties – as that is only “guidance.”)

    In any case, I find that laughable. The real payoff to the politician, or the politically influential, is in the advance. No matter how many a campaign purchases, it is highly unlikely that the book will ever earn out the outrageous advances that are handed out.

    Now, as to having “gone around” the guidance – that could be innocent, I don’t know. Unless the campaign pre-ordered, it is always possible that the publisher simply didn’t have that many on hand. (It could also be argued that “One Vote Away” is not a “campaign” book – it could help his reelection chances, and those of other Republicans, but it is an opinion book about the Supreme Court, not Senator Ted Cruz.)

  2. “PG notes that, in addition to politicians of all stripes, lots of other people goose initial sales of a book by purchasing a lot of copies during the first couple of days following a book’s release.”

    From the article:

    “This appears to be a largely Republican phenomenon. While at least seven Democratic senators published books during the past election cycle, neither the Democratic National Committee nor the party’s two congressional arms reported buying any of them in bulk quantities.”

    In other words, no, both sides don’t do it.

  3. PG wasn’t necessarilly referring to politics.

    It is a common practice among self-help gurus and consultants to buy their own books in job lots to be able to claim “NYT BESTSELLER!” and then “give away” copes with paid attendance to seminars or sell them at full list at conferences and seminars.
    Publishers do it often, from the BPHs to specialty publishers like Wiley.

    It is such a prevalent practice (discussed here repeatedly) that some outfits offer it as a marketing service.
    https://the-digital-reader.com/2013/02/22/new-trick-buying-your-way-on-to-a-print-best-seller-list/
    “New Trick: Buying Your Way on to a Print Best-Seller List
    22 February, 2013
    We’ve long known that it’s possible to cheat your way to a better ranking in ebookstores by buying faked reviews, but did you know that you can pull off the same trick with a print best-seller list (even a list as prestigious as that of The Wall Street Journal)?
    It’s going to set you back $60,000 to $100,000, but it can be done. What’s more, it’s an accepted practice that even publishers like Wiley have used from time to time.
    The WSJ reported this week that a marketing company by the name of ResultSource has expanded their services to include rigging the best seller lists.”
    (Much more at the vintage source. Among dozens of similar reports about publishers and authors buying their own books. The motives may vary but the practice is all over. Try a web search for “cheat bestseller”.)

    The news here isn’t that some IdiotPoliticians™ bought their own books but that they were too cheap to pay to cover their tracks.

    • “PG wasn’t necessarilly referring to politics.”

      Yes, he was, explicitly so: “in addition to politicians of all stripes”. What he wasn’t doing was referring exclusively to politicians. But within the specific realm of politics, he claims that both sides do it, despite not only having not a scrap of support for the claim, but the article he cites explicitly saying the opposite. Both-sides-do-it is the fallback position when your side is caught misbehaving. Sometimes it is true, but sometimes it is not. Pretending otherwise is lazy and disingenuous. See also: Elliot123’s fatuous comment.

      • Like I said, the news isn’t that politicians (or authors, publishers, etc) did it, because the practice is prevalent and informed people know it. The only news is somebody was sloppy and got caught when others don’t get caught doing the same thing.

        Goosing the bestseller lists is routine for everybody in tradpub; 50-100 times a year. And the lists are weekly so every list released has cheaters on it, usually one new and a few holdovers. And they do it because there is $$$ in it. It can be done and it pays off, just like gaming the Hugos pays off.

        Why focus on “a politician” instead of “bestseller list cheating”?
        To pretend everybody else is angelic?
        Or because it works?

        This is truly a case where “everybody does it” is a true *explanation*. (Not an excuse.) It’s not a morality diagnostic because it’s politics; there are no clean hands to start with and nothing is beneath them.
        Any of them.
        Some are just cheap or sloppy like the ones caught brown bagging.

      • but the article he cites explicitly saying the opposite.

        God Bless the lazy, disingenuous, and fatuous, for The Washington Post explicitly says so.

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