The author with the record for most number one New York Times bestsellers had a bone to pick with the outlet’s “cooked” number manipulation and, after getting an unsatisfactory answer to his concerns, he decided to make his letter to the editor public.
“At any rate, I’m asking you to please cut it out.”
With credit for over 200 novels spanning a five-decade career, 114 of them making it to the New York Times best sellers list and 67 number ones giving him the Guinness World Record, James Patterson’s dominance in the industry is unparalleled.
In monitoring those trends, he couldn’t help but point out that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s book, “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love,” wasn’t nearly as high up on the Times list as its sales would call for.
“What’s up with @NYTimes best seller lists? Anybody besides me notice that @MikePompeo’s book sold more copies than 6 titles on today’s list?” Patterson asked. He sought out an explanation and, their refusal to run his letter led him to make it public to see if something could be done.
“I’m a longtime reader of The New York Times. Since 1971, when I first moved to New York City, I’ve devoured your paper. Every Single. Day,” Patterson began.
I recently wrote @NYTimes a letter about them cooking the books on their best seller lists. They told my publisher they didn’t rely on just “raw” sales. And they refused to run the letter. But you, dear reader, can read it here. Please spread the word. https://t.co/9UmR4FcjhC pic.twitter.com/fr5NfX7uME
— James Patterson (@JP_Books) March 29, 2023
“I can’t begin to estimate what portion of my worldview has been influenced by your often amazing journalism. I’m also an author and have paid special attention to your book review section and to the bestseller lists it contains,” he continued.
“Your claim in the fine print that ‘The panel of reporting retailers is comprehensive and reflects sales in tens of thousands of stores of all sizes and demographics across the United States’ should be reassuring. But it’s not. Because it’s bonkers,” Patterson argued. “Tens of thousands of bookstores? We would be a happier and less dysfunctional nation if it were true–but it’s regrettably not! Maybe you mean ‘locations that sell books’ and you included grocery stores, newsstands, Amazon lockers, and yard sales? But that’s a quibble.”
The author laid out their claim that “Sales are statistically weighted to represent and accurately reflect all outlets proportionally nationwide,” but pointed out how readily debunked that is.
“As the nation’s bookstores and our publishing houses have known for years and can prove–your lists too often are outside the realm of the statistically possible, much less plausible. The fact is that you regularly publish–even now that we have computers and widely available data–lists that say a book sold better, or worse, than another even when it’s probably wrong,” he lamented.
His own non-fiction title, “Walk the Blue Line,” released in February was described as containing “important and illuminating firsthand stories by American police” yet it has moved from fifth to eighth and now thirteenth spot on their list despite at points in that period outselling 3 of the top 15 books, beating some by four times the sales.
The newspaper responded to a publisher query about its position on the list by saying they don’t look at “raw” sales, to which Patterson replied, “I guess that means you favor the cooked variety.”
Patterson, who found himself in hot water last year for pointing out that forced diversity was imposing racism against white, male authors, ended up apologizing for that position but pressed ahead on this point, “Maybe I’m foolish for thinking ‘best seller’ is supposed to be a measure of what’s most popular with my fellow book-buying readers, as opposed to some Times-decreed value judgement on the method by which the books were sold.”
‘Boo-F***ing-Hoo’: Author James Patterson attacked for saying white, male writers face a form of racism https://t.co/0UiNVN9IoG pic.twitter.com/6UQN2NwVNz
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) June 14, 2022
It’s important to note that position on the best sellers list does have a significant impact on a book’s success as it is often the determining factor as to where it will appear on a bookstore’s shelf, and whether they will carry it at all. Some readers even base their decision on purchasing a book on whether it makes it to the top of the Times’ list.
Radio host and best-selling author Glenn Beck knows this well and has been vocal about the cultural impact that the manipulated list has in passively censoring the spread of certain information.
My new book "The Great Reset" outsold all other hardcover nonfiction books by nearly 3x. But somehow, the @nytimes Best Seller list has it at … #12.
Conveniently not in the top 10, which is how book stores stock their shelves.
The NYT is nothing more than a political machine. pic.twitter.com/CQUaO1o4CG
— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) January 20, 2022
“At any rate,” Patterson wound down. “I’m asking you to please cut it out.”
“We live in a world where truth and accuracy are under frequent fire. This may be a narrow trade industry concern, but this lack of journalistic rigor also redounds to the reputation of what I have always believed is the most truth-loving, influential news outlet in the world,” he concluded. “An institution that I feel should always strive–with every single piece of news it sees fit to print–to stay that way.”
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