Novelist James Patterson Calls Out New York Times 'Bestseller' Lists Over Who Makes the Cut

P. Gardner Goldsmith | April 2, 2023
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It might be impossible to determine how long the supposedly “elite” publishing world has been run by people with agendas, particularly postmodernist left-wing ones.

In 2015, I declined a mid-range horror publisher’s proffered contract because someone from the company emailed to ask me when I was going to split my “political presence” from my “fiction presence” on social media by using a new name, implying that she didn’t like my libertarian posts and/or she thought they would be a drag on sales of my fiction.

More recently, fans of great prose have caught publishers arbitrarily altering novels by famed authors such as Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, and Agatha Christie.

Now, one of the most popular novelists in history is raising questions about how the “standard bearer publication” for the term “Best Seller List” actually is determining its “list.”

James Patterson – no avowed conservative or libertarian, by any means, as he has been willing to “co-author” more than one book with Bill Clinton – released on March 26 tweets revealing his curiosity about seeming discrepancies in a ranking that is supposed to be organized according to sales.

His first statement might have surprised many of those who assumed that book sales was the measure of the NYT Bestseller List, especially since Patterson expressed surprise that a book by Mike Pompeo that had sold well, was noticeably absent from the NYT non-fiction list.

“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?”

Kira Davis amplifies, for RedState:

“Patterson had his publishing company query NYT about how they determine their list after he noticed his own latest work, Walk the Blue Line  – a collection of real-life stories from police officers across the country – was placed below other, lower-selling titles. The answer they received concerned Patterson. The Times told his publishing company their best seller list was based on ‘raw sales.’ Could it be the Times didn’t want to highlight a book that humanizes police officers?

That was enough for the author of the Alex Cross series to write a letter of complaint to the NYT editor. When the paper declined to publish his letter, he posted it to social media instead.”

And here is some of what Mr. Patterson said to the NYT Bestseller List crew:

“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. 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 include grocery stores, newsstands, Amazon lockers and yard sales? But that’s a quibble.

The real problem is where you say ‘Sales are statistically weighted to represent and accurately reflect all outlets proportionally nationwide.’ Because here you suggest your process has statistical rigor. And it simply doesn’t. 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.”

In a separate March 26 Tweet, Mr. Patterson also noted the discrepancy between a hugely popular JD Robb (aka world-dominant bestselling novelist, Nora Roberts) release, and the NYT Fiction list:

“And, last week, J.D. Robb’s (that’s Nora Roberts’s pen name) novel wasn’t on the fiction list even though it was still selling more than 4 other titles there. By ‘best’ seller, does the Times mean best for their target audience?”

Might it be possible for those publishing this list to pull away from their preferences and prejudices and actually do what they claim?

Related: Publishers of James Bond Novels Sanitize & Re-Write To Serve Woke Ideology | MRCTV

One wonders what could be discovered if one could be a fly on the wall of the NYT List managers, what they say to each other, and how they justify this kind of behavior.

Perhaps they are similar to the people at the top of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), who recently attempted to strip the multiple Bram Stoker Awards that author Thomas Monteleone had won, after Monteleone, in his position to nominate someone for a “Lifetime Achievement” Stoker award, earnestly, but with a note of sarcasm, nominated Stu Schiff, a “smart, old white guy”, because he had noticed that the HWA appeared to be infusing their award decisions with woke agendas.

In a recent conversation with me, Monteleone discussed the email an insider gave him (and which he has forwarded to me) revealing that, indeed, one of the bigwigs at the HWA has asked the nominating committee to “prioritize” nomination slots for female nominees; as the document states:

“…(G)iven that only 6 of the 54 Lifetime achievement awards have been awarded to women, I have asked the committee to prioritize female nominees, although all nominees will be considered…”

Of course, the disregard for merit and dismissal of the factual sales reality both long have been part of the woke tactic to astroturf various aspects of our cultural zeitgeist. By engaging in underhanded tactics, fudging lists, disregarding reality, and trying to “make up for” what some wokesters perceive as past wrongs against people from past generations, they seem to think they are doing right.

In fact, as Patterson and Monteleone point out, they create new victims, and they further erode any shred of credibility they retained, as we who actually care about quality, fairness, morals, and merit, turn away from them and welcome each other, in new venues and ventures that are satisfying in their honesty and their recognition of achievement.

Related: Woke Publisher Rewrites Roald Dahl to 'Remove Offensive Words' | MRCTV