How even lousy political books can become best sellers

I think it is safe to say that Donald Trump Jr., the grifter son in a grifter family, would not be considered a deep thinker or a literary genius. So how did it come to be that the book he purportedly wrote rose to #1 on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list? In fact, it is surprising how so many political books by hack politicians are advertised as ‘best sellers’ according to this or that publication.

The answer is simple. It turns out that in the non-fiction category the numbers required to be considered a best seller are not that high. But the darker secret is that political interests supporting the author buy these books in bulk and then send them out as gifts to the members of their organizations or distribute them at political functions. And presto! You have a best seller even if the book itself is lousy. This article explains the process by which the New York Times creates its best-seller list and how you can game the system.

It turns out that, to no one’s surprise, Trump Jr’s practices were sleazier than the commonly used tactics and the newspaper has placed a dagger next to it, signifying a warning that the book’s ranking may have been acquired using suspicious practices.

But a source noted of Trump’s achievement: “It has the big dagger [symbol] next to it, which means a large portion of the sales came from bulk orders.”

The source added, “It’s known in the industry as the ‘deadly dagger.’ A rare penalty that is only called for flagrant fouls,” such as when an author or someone close buys large quantities.

Trump Jr.’s book came out Nov. 5. Reports said sales have been boosted by the Republican National Committee, which is sending out copies as a fundraising incentive. But an RNC rep told us, “We haven’t made a large bulk purchase, but are ordering copies to keep up with demand. Each book is sold to an individual who supports the Republican Party … Using books as a means to fundraise is standard practice from political parties on both sides of the aisle.”

No doubt, the Republican party will complain loudly next year that Trump Jr. did not get the Nobel prize for literature, the way they think that his father deserves the Peace prize.


  1. Holms says

    Each book is sold to an individual who supports the Republican Party …

    That language looks evasive to me. My suspicion is that they include a book with monetary support of the campaign, but call it a ‘purchase’ because money changed hands. Hey presto, they are now considered ‘sold’ to supporters.

  2. lorn says

    There is, of course, a perfectly reasonable explanation for buying Jr’s book in bulk: If you buy in bulk directly from the publisher you get nice discount. Up to 55%. Which is something of a double benefit. If your boss tells you you need to buy a case a discount makes it hurt less and it avoids any charges that you were foolish enough to pay sticker price for a stack of doorstops.

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