New York Times blocks Ted Cruz book from bestseller list. Conspiracy?

The New York Times has told publisher HarperCollins it won’t put Cruz's new  “A Time for Truth” on its nonfiction bestseller list.

Andrew Harnik/AP/File
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, (R) of Texas, greets members of the audience after speaking during the Road to Majority 2015 convention in Washington in June.

Ted Cruz has a new book out – a memoir/campaign manifesto titled “A Time for Truth.” Published on June 30, it sold about 12,000 copies in its first week, which is pretty good nowadays for a tome that doesn’t have “shades” or “gray” on its cover.

Despite these sales, The New York Times has told publisher HarperCollins it won’t put “Time for Truth” on its nonfiction bestseller list. The problem isn’t overall numbers. On those, “Time” would rank second or maybe even first. The issue is that the NYT deems those numbers somewhat squishy.

“In the case of this book, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence was that sales were limited to strategic bulk purchases,” Times spokeswomen Eileen Murphy told Politico.

In other words, the Times editors have evidence that those sales didn’t all come from individual supporters camped out in line at a Walmart book signing. Institutions, presumably conservative organizations of some sort, may have just cut a check for hundreds of copies at a time.

Well, we’ve got some comments on that. The first is surprise, surprise. Bulk sales of political books to supporters have been common for years, decades even. There are lots of reasons this would be the case, from genuine enthusiasm to a desire to back a favored politician’s campaign.

Sometimes this crosses lines. Remember Jim Wright? He was a veteran Texas Democrat who served as Speaker of the House from 1987 to 1989. He was forced to resign after the House Ethics Committee reported that, among other things, he’d used bulk purchases of a book of his speeches to evade House limits on certain kinds of outside income.

Second, we don’t really know if Times editors are just dissing Senator Cruz because they don’t like his politics. There are other books on the bestseller list by conservative authors, such as Ann Coulter’s “Adios, America.” That’s evidence against the conspiracy theory. On the other hand, the Times process for determining bestseller rankings is opaque. Editors say they keep the methodology secret so people won’t try to game the system. But people try that anyway – there are publishing consulting firms who specialize in using bulk-buying and other techniques to boost books onto bestseller lists.

But finally, isn’t the existence of this controversy actually better for Cruz than would be any sales gained from NYT list exposure? It’s not like Times readers are his people. The paper is the flagship of the mainstream media that conservatives love to hate. Right-leaning sites such as RedState have picked up the story and are thus providing him some free advertising to boost the book.

And now’s a good time for Cruz to get a media push. He’s hanging in at No. 8 on the RealClearPolitics polling list of GOP contenders. He needs to hold that position to make the first GOP debate, which is Aug. 6, now only a few weeks away.

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