Conservative Publisher Quits 'NYT' Best-Seller List

Sep 7, 2017
Originally published on September 7, 2017 10:18 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Next, we have the story of a conservative powerhouse accusing The New York Times of getting facts wrong and being biased. And no, I am not talking about President Trump. This is the latest drama in the world of books. NPR's Lynn Neary explains why Regnery Publishing says it is breaking up with The New York Times best-seller list.

LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: In a letter to its authors, which includes such conservative stars as Dinesh D'Souza, Laura Ingraham and Newt Gingrich, Regnery said it will no longer track the Times best-seller list or use it in promoting books. That's a nervy step to take because the Times best-seller list has clout, as Regnery publisher Marji Ross acknowledges.

MARJORY ROSS: There is a certain cachet and a certain sort of bragging rights that an author has when they hit the New York Times best-seller list or become a No. 1 New York Times best-seller.

NEARY: But Ross is convinced that the Times best-seller list is biased against conservative authors. She says the Times list does not always match the numbers reported by BookScan, which tracks actual sales of print books from about 85 percent of all bookstores.

ROSS: Time and again, we would get our BookScan report on Wednesday morning and say, wow, look at all the books we sold of a certain title. And then we'd kind of hold our breath and wait to see what the New York Times would do with it.

NEARY: Ross says books that are high on the BookScan list often are a notch or so lower in The New York Times. That's because the Times list is based on what it says is, quote, "a detailed analysis of book sales from a wide range of retailers." But unlike BookScan, it won't say who those retailers are. Jim Milliot, editorial director for Publishers Weekly, says that has frustrated the publishing industry for a long time.

JIM MILLIOT: It all stems from the secretive nature of how they put the list together. I mean, I've been covering book publishing for 30 years or so. And there's always been (laughter) this sort of puzzlement about - what stores are they? Who's included? Who's not included?

NEARY: Milliot says the Times doesn't reveal the stores who report their sales to protect against authors or publishers trying to manipulate the list. Just recently, a young adult author was accused of doing just that, and the Times pulled her book from its list. But Marji Ross says the Times should base the list on sales, not stores.

ROSS: Because frankly, independent bookstores often lean more liberal than conservative - so you could have a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you gather your data from stores that tend to favor left-leaning books, well, then your list will reflect that.

NEARY: The Times issued a statement defending its list but declined to be interviewed.

Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.