New York Times Best Sellers

For the majority of my life… I’m talking as far back as I can remember, I’ve always thought of a ranking on the New York Times Best Sellers list as a reflection of the quality of a book. After all, a book wouldn’t be able to make it on the best sellers list if people didn’t love it, right?


A few years back, I started to question the New York Times Best Sellers list because I was seeing books make this list that were really poorly written. I was seeing books make this list solely because… well because they were written by celebrities. I stopped believing that the New York Times Best Sellers list was a judgement of quality and just started believing that… so long as you were a celebrity, you’d make the list.

In retrospect, it was probably quite naive of me to ever believe every writer made that list based off the quality of their writing, story, content to start with. That might happen for a few, but, for the majority it seems the system is seemingly rigged from the get-go…

It wasn’t until last year that I learned of ‘Bulk Purchasing’.

See… DJT, infamous idiot son of the present President, ‘wrote’ a book. I use the term wrote loosely because I don’t believe that he wrote anything. I reckon he probably paid a few ghost writers so that he could slap his name on the front and add it to his resume.

Shortly after the release of this book, I saw a portion of an interview on CTV (a Canadian tv station) to which DJT was excited to claim that he made the New York Times Best Sellers list and thus he was a New York Times Best Selling Author.

‘This can’t be right’, I remember thinking. As much as I know the Trump family has a fan base still in the United States, it can’t be enough to make him the top of list as a New York Times Best Selling Author, it just can’t.

Am I wrong?

Turns out, I’m not wrong.

See the screenshot of the book from the New York Times Best Sellers list above… there’s a little dagger shown just above the ‘Buy’ button on the screenshot. That dagger is very important. That dagger means that a bulk purchase of the book was made.

The dagger is something that the NYT has had to start including on their Best Sellers list to denote bulk purchases because celebrities, rich folk and corporations started scamming the system by buying enough books in one go to land said book on the Best Sellers list. So every book that lands on the NYT Best Sellers with a dagger denoted on it means that the book isn’t necessarily there because of popularity, it’s more so there because of a bulk purchase. It’s essentially artificially inflating the book to ensure that it gets clout, is talked about more and gives the writer the ability to claim they’re a best selling author for the rest of their lives.

After doing some research, it turns out DJT’s book was purchased in bulk, by the RNC. Do we think dad had a hand in making sure that purchase happened? I know I do…

This makes me mad. It makes me mad because I finally have proof to my belief that people are artificially inflating the popularity of their books. It makes me mad because it means that writers, people who put out good, quality and interesting content who might otherwise have made the list are being bumped from the list because of these daggers popping up week after week. It makes me mad because it’s a reminder that this list can’t be treated as a true measure of the value of a book’s contents when people can scam the system to get themselves and their books on the list.

When I finally learned what this dagger meant, I started doing some research to find other books who have this dagger as well and I noticed a serious pattern with respect to this tactic. Here are some screenshots:

Anybody else find something in common with all of the books listed above, or is that just me?

Now, it’s worth noting that it’s not just books related to politics that this tactic is used. I want to make that abundantly clear. This happens across all categories – fiction, non-fiction, advice, childrens, etc… To show this, I’ve taken screenshots of this week’s list (from today January 11, 2020) to showcase more genres where this occurs.

Everybody talked about how great this book was and when I read it, I was less than impressed. I guess I’m not really surprised to see this little dagger here. 160 weeks though, that has me questioning if it’s had bulk purchases made all along? I did go back the past five weeks and the past eight weeks have all been noted that it’s made the list due to bulk purchasing. WHO IS BUYING THIS BOOK WEEK AFTER WEEK? Is there a secret billionaire out there hoarding these in their basement?

This book. I haven’t read this book – mainly because my best friend told me that it’s stupid, she wasn’t the only person I’d heard that from. I went back five weeks on the NYT Best Sellers list and found this one was bumped off the list and got back onto the list thanks to bulk purchasing three times. Funny how that works…

Edit: Now that I’ve double checked, all of Rachel Hollis’ books have daggers next to them at various stages throughout the list.

Just the title of this book alone seems unappealing to me. The book, advocating for skipping meals and taking apple cider vinegar in its place to lose weight. It’s been out two weeks and has been on the best-sellers list for two weeks thanks in part to bulk purchasing.

Others to land on this list thanks to bulk purchasing? TV Anchors, Youtubers, Celebrities, Chefs, Financiers, Motivational Speakers, Religious oh… I can’t think of a name other than ‘Leaders’, Bloggers, Reality TV Stars… basically anyone in the public eye who needs their reputation boosted. Some mainstream authors seem to have daggers next to their books as well. Largely, from what I can see, it’s the more mainstream authors who are likely trying to stay on this list to keep up appearances.

To me this goes to show that anyone can be a New York Times Best Selling Author so long as they are rich, or have rich friends.

84 thoughts on “New York Times Best Sellers

  1. Main stream media has nearly zero integrity anymore. Your post here adds another supporting data point to that statement. It truly is a shame that content creators that put forth honest effort and creativity are apparently at a disadvantage. There are other ways to get out there and be seen, heard, read, etc., but it takes some effort on the part of the potential audience that would likely appreciate these creators to find the creators. Previously, that was not such a chore… when sources like NYT bestseller list was trustworthy. Very thought provoking post. Good information.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Great information my friend! I have to admit I’m not surprised. Yes, main stream media has no conscious and little integrity. This 24 hr news cycle we all churn about in is mind blowing and each outlet is trying to grab eye balls however they can, it’s totally gross. I stay away from the main stream ones in favor of smaller ones. Great post, thank you!!

    Liked by 4 people

      1. 100% our world is focused upon consumption of products, food etc.. and companies and individuals selling their wares will do whatever to make money. It should make you question what else is falsely inflated for sales. I feel our buying power speaks and if we are more consciously aware of our choices, boy the changes that could be made.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it kind of flies under the radar because people don’t really think twice about it. Everyone’s heard of the New York Time’s Best Sellers list… but who questions the legitimacy of it?

      Liked by 2 people

  3. OMG! I thought it was just me! I could not get through the Subtle Art… or the Hollis book. I was going to try reading them again because of all the hype but now I know its the books not me. It’s sad that authenticity, integrity and truth are no longer core values….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! While I am disgusted with this practice I am somehow not surprised! I too used to base my purchases off that list and had the same hesitations recently in finding them truly read worthy. I am very glad you brought this to our attention!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not something that people ever second guess, but the truth is, big money plays in a lot to what makes that list and what doesn’t. Sadly. The list isn’t a measure of quality anymore, it’s a measure of connectedness. If you know wealthy, you can claim the title.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a shame that good books might be hidden from a shoppers view because of this practice. I know I will definitely be paying closer attention when I review the list from now on!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I think it’s nice the NYT notes when mass purchasings affect the numbers at least. Not that there seems to be anyway around it, but it’s nice the information isn’t blatantly hidden.

    I remember reading “Subtle Art” and thinking something like, “Wow, this guy just took his blog and made a book out of it!” It’s really lazy but also smart and inspired me to self-publish a “book” of blog posts myself. But I agree, it’s really rough around the edges.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Apparently they started the practice about three years ago when people started questioning why certain celebrities books were on the list.. because even if they were celebrities their books weren’t worth purchasing by the public. That’s when they started noting there was a difference between people all over the world wandering into a bookstore and purchasing said book and one person purchasing $100,000 of the book in one go….

      As for the subtle art, that’s actually a good description of it, it’s like a blog but rough around the edges.


  6. Sad but true ☺️
    The rich and the powerful are involved in much bigger crimes than this Vee. I have known it for years. They own most of media world wide.
    Forgive them my Lord, they know not what they do

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This was news to me, and I’m supposed to be a well educated person who is well read. I now see why the books that have baffled me recently are there. Daggers. Money can just buy anything. Sigh. I just want to read good books and learn from them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly, I think this is news to a lot of people. I think that’s why I wanted to share it. No one really talks about how people like DJT wind up on the best sellers list, whilst everyone knows that he can’t string together proper sentences when he speaks, so how can he write a book? I guess, it’s all in how you look at it. I’ll no longer be taking advice from the NYT Best Sellers list, that’s for certain!


      1. 😂😂🤣. Seriously that’ll work. I walk into a library and randomly take books from the science/nature section! Canada has good libraries. I still have a membership card for Vancouver central library haha. What a library.


      2. Vancouver’s is nice. Surrey has a nice new’ish library too – it’s where they film the Flash and Supergirl and Arrow and all those shows a lot. Reno Nevada also has a really nice library. And this, one’s a weird location but Kansas City has a REAAAAAAALLY cool library. Was there once for a Wedding and they had a couple of their wedding photos done outside of the Library because it’s such a cool building. Inside = Even better!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Cool! I don’t actually live in Canada now, I just lived in Vancouver for 9 months in 2014, which still feels surreal.

        That’s awesome how enthusiastic about libraries you are haha :D. You have such a ridiculous general knowledge.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yeah… 🙂 know the feeling. It’s so therapeutic to write and get some of it out, just to reduce the noise.


  8. Haha this isn’t that surprising I guess. How did you work out what the arrow meant? Does it disclose it on their website or are we just meant to know as consumers?
    I definitely try to avoid any bestsellers lists or “top 50/100” in generic book stores. My local quirky book store has a “staff picks” wall with handwritten reviews and that’s where I’ve found a lot of my favourites that never would’ve appeared on a fake popularity list. And you’re right with Mark Manson. He repeats himself a lot and wayyy too many analogies

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As of July 2019 the NYT is now noting in a small, light grey font to the right of the list online that “A dagger indicates that some retailers report receiving bulk orders.”

      It’s so small that it’s almost as if they’re trying to hide it. lol

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “Best seller”, literally that’s just reporting on what is “selling” right? So that’s just a reflection of numbers anyway, totally different from criticism. McDonald’s is a “best seller” in a way, doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While you do raise a valid point, I think for a long time this list has been touted as ‘most popular = quality’.

      So I guess it’s time we shed a light on most popular=most purchased=who’s richest or best connected.


  10. Putting aside the specifics of this particular book I don’t think the quantity of sales a book achieves proves much. Even if the sales figures are accurate, just because a lot of people have bought a particular title it doesn’t mean that title’s any good. Over here in the UK books “written” by “celebrities” (I use both terms lightly) often achieve huge sales, both because their fans want to associate with anything their hero / heroine does, and because publishers are more willing to throw their marketing budget at such “writers” in expectation of a bigger profit down the line.
    If you trust the reviewer books reviews may be a better guide to a good read than metrics, and some publishers have a better reputation than others for backing good writers. Other than that, I read an extract or two – if available – and then go with my gut instinct. Reading is such a personal thing that, for me at least, the “numbers game” just doesn’t add up!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re absolutely right. I guess I’m just baffled because, for so long, this list has been touted as ‘the list’, like if you make it on ‘the list’ you’ve officially arrived as an author. No, making the list may not mean quality (definitely doesn’t anymore) but it’s still being touted as having made it as an author, and I think that needs to be quashed. Ya know what I mean? Back to book reviews and random selection for me. lol

      I feel cheated after finding this out.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. That’s a very interesting pattern! It sounds similar to the way that some items may be sold out before they have even been generally released due to these private/ bulk purchases behind the scenes! I wonder if this is common practice for all of the best seller lists as it makes things difficult for non-celebrity new writers, if so!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES! When things go on ‘pre-order’ and they’re like ‘oh, we’re sold out’.

      There’s a Canadian sports team that always sells out their crowds and it’s notoriously hard to get tickets because they’re always sold out. But, if you watch their games on tv, there’s always giant chunks of empty seats in the stands. And it’s because they’re buying up the empty seats to artificially drive up the price of the seats that doo sell.

      It’s a rigged system!


  12. It’s a bullshit game and has been for a long time, particularly with self-help/business books. I know someone who orchestrates it and people think he’s a genius. He’s a prickly human who thinks he has a magic wand.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Kim K “wrote” a book. It’s a book made entirely of her selfies. Just because someone is famous doesn’t mean that their products are good. Paris Hilton is another fine example of this, but at least her perfume smells nice.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This right here ^ And this is everything that’s wrong with mainstream media.

        I recently finished reading a self-help book which is also a New York Times best seller and there were SO many grammar mistakes in it. Honestly, it’s like people don’t even bother editing their work anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Sadly, I think you may underestimate Trump’s base here in America, especially in the deep south. You have to look at Best Seller lists as just a list of books that more people purchased with no regard to quality. Even lists that are about quality are totally subjective. I believe the Korean film Parasite is as damn near perfect as a film gets and I haven’t seen anything like it in 20 years. It has been nominated for a lot of awards, but aside from Best Foreign Film, it’s not winning many. Why? People are scared of subtitles, so they didn’t see the movie, so they won’t vote for it. Popularity contests do not denote quality.

    Also, on the book front, you’re not going to make that list unless you work with one of the “Big 5” publishers. You can’t get one of the Big 5 publishers to look at you unless you have a literary agent. With fiction, you have to have a proven track record, something of a name, or a pre-existing relationship to land an agent. With non-fiction, like me, you have to have “a platform” which means a level of expertise/celebrity that other people know about. Without that, it doesn’t matter what you write about. I’ve had several agents tell me that they love what I’m doing and they wish they could represent me, but in this day and age where a book has to sell over 5,000 copies out of the gate to begin to break even, publishers don’t take chances. If they don’t think a publisher will buy a book, they waste their time trying to represent it. Maybe, in a few books from now, or if I land a couple of larger appearances I could get an agent, but that still doesn’t guarantee a contract with one of the Big 5. Yet, and this is the slap in the face, I put DJT’s name on my book and I sell a million copies. That’s why the real money is in ghostwriting for celebs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I may underestimate his base. But, to be fair, I did admit that I know he has a fan-base in the States… this is probably going to sound quite mean though, but I just don’t presume his fan base to be people that read…. I don’t presume his fan base to be people who could propel his son to the top of the NYT Best Sellers, I guess.

      You definitely have more knowledge of the publishing world than I do, and I wholeheartedly believe everything you’ve shared here, I just… for years this list has been touted as an author having ‘arrived’ or having ‘made it’ to have a book on this list. Now that I’ve learned you can essentially buy your way onto the list, the list doesn’t really mean that you’ve made it at all. It’s just a list. It shouldn’t be so highly touted as it is, I guess. I’ll definitely be second guessing next time I see ‘New York Times Best Selling Author’ on a book cover from now on.

      Being a celebrity ghost-writer probably pays the big bucks because celebrities want to look smart enough to write a book. I wonder how much one makes a year doing that. Actually, now that I write that, it’s probably done on a project basis.


      1. Depending on the project, the biggest deal ghostwriters can make $250K, but most make far less. That echelon is generally approached by a publisher, who has a deal with the subject and they try to get the subject and ghostwriter together to see if they click.

        As a ghostwriter, I still find it super weird when I see my words with someone else’s name, but until regular projects pay that much, allowing this legal plagiarism to happen keeps the family fed.

        As for the NYT list, you can’t buy your way onto the list, but you can buy your way to the top.

        I think Trump has two fan bases. One you nailed — the uneducated hick. The other is the educated, white-collar male who sees a changing world but doesn’t see their place in it. Either way, I think both sides are just trying to maintain the notion that the racist, misogynistic beliefs their parents raised them with are valid. I also believe Trump doesn’t have a core belief system, but knows how to play to a majority that does, no matter what he has to say to win their affection.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Great post! High five! I always wondered how certain books made it to the top. I do like Mark Manson’s book though because it’s funny but not so much the new one.
    To think about all the great writers out there who don’t get the credit they deserve is quite sad and unfair. Yet, that’s the kind of world we live in. Survival of the fittest – where people are willing to do whatever they need to in order to get to the top.

    Robert Greene wrote a book called The 48 Laws of Power that explains why these things happen and I really feel that his book deserved all the credit it received and more! He’s a phenomenal author!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, he sure did. He has quite a few books that made the list actually. A lot of my insights on human nature derived from his books. He’s one of my favorite authors.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. This was so interesting. Kind of depressing, but interesting nonetheless. I guess it’s important to remember that when we’re comparing ourselves to NYT bestselling authors, and our work to their work, it’s not just about quality. It’s as much about who you know and how much money you have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! If you don’t make that list, it’s likely because they’ve got more connections than you do. Indie writers are extremely talented and there are so many who won’t make it anywhere near that list. It’s all in how you look at it, I guess.


  17. Wow, this is kind of crazy. Initially I thought you were just saying that famous people end up on the list just because they’re famous and don’t actually have to write well for people to love them. But I had no idea about this bulk purchasing thing, good to know.


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