How Mark Driscoll Gamed the Publishing Game

Years ago, Rick Warren finagled his way onto the bestseller lists. Before Purpose-Driven Life came out, Warren had hundreds of churches lined up to buy thousands of copies, all of which he bought through and resold to said churches. It was so effective that Warren’s marketing rep and Zondervan left his job there and wrote a book about the process. Warren vehemently disavowed that he’d done anything unethical. Instead, the 35 million copies he’d sold was not marketing but “God’s supernatural and sovereign plan.”

Rick Warren

Nevertheless, as a result of PDL, bestseller lists changed their rules — some removed any book that showed large, bulk sales, while other lists put an asterisk by those titles. Also, they pulled books like PDL off of non-fiction and put them in their own category of “Self-Help and Advice,” since those are often the books with bulk sales.

Authors know that “non-royalty sales” don’t count toward bestseller lists. Those include, for instance, books that authors or their organizations buy at the author discount, usually 40 or 50% off the cover price.

Bestseller lists are important, even today. I once had a book contract that had a $10,000 incentive if my book made the NY Times or Publsihers Weekly list. (It didn’t.) Those lists are meant to gauge how many real, individual readers are buying books.

Now comes word that Mark Driscoll and his church hired a firm that used a thousand different credit cards and thousands of individual names — the names were supplied by the church — to drive Driscoll’s marriage book onto the bestseller lists. As a reward, the firm was paid $210,000 by Mars Hill Church:

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If Zombies Were Allowed in Christian Publishing

A list from Ben Howard at On Pop Theology, including these favs:

Zombie Love Wins – It doesn’t matter if there’s a hell if we can love each other as the undead.

Blue Like Zombies – A man comes to terms with his faith, his faults, all amidst the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse. Since, it’s based in the Pacific Northwest, I feel like this is vampire territory. The Cullen family needs to show these zombies what’s up.

How (Not) to Speak of Zombies – When we reject the zombies, the zombies surround us and become us, but when we learn to accept the zombies as the other, then they no longer know where to find us.

Read the rest of the list HERE.

Amazon Aims to Take Out the Library

Amazon made another big announcement today, one that will likely spur lots of Kindle purchases for the holiday: If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can now borrow books for a month at a time.

Amazon has already arguably put Borders out of business, and they’ve crippled Barnes & Noble.  Retail bookstores offer us readers little anymore that Amazon cannot.

Now they’re aiming at the public library.  I belong to mine, which has recently announced that patrons can borrow ebooks, but the process is something of a hassle.  Amazon, for the cost of a Prime membership, today announced that they will be loaning books to you on your Kindle (or device with a Kindle app).

Some will think this is a troubling trend.  Not me.  I think it’s great.  My new book (now only $2.99 on the Kindle) won’t even make it into any libraries.

What do you think?

Will Zondervan and Thomas Nelson Merge?

It’s just been announced that HarperCollins — which already owns Zondervan — will be purchasing Thomas Nelson before the end of the year.  Which leads one to wonder, how long will HarperCollins keep two Christian imprints going?

Based on my experience, not for long.  I speculate that they’ll keep the stronger brand and kill off the weaker brand.

HT: Bob Carlton