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April 27, 2006

Right behind this potted plant
Posted by Patrick at 01:16 PM *

Via Glenn Greenwald: Matt Drudge, a man always willing to make his followers look stupid, has claimed that Crashing the Gate, a book by prominent liberal bloggers Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, is a flop. Roger L. Simon leads the parade of right-wing bloggers crowing over this:

Although it underscores what we already knew—that Glenn Reynolds (whose book is selling much better) has remarkable respect in the blogosphere for his integrity and intelligence—I must say I am surprised at the relatively pathetic sales figures for Markos Zuniga’s book Crashing the Gates. It could mean one of several things: 1. Kos’ audience has heard it all already; 2. Kos’ audience is not “bookish”; 3. Kos’ audience is not as big as it’s cracked up to be; 4. Kos doesn’t write particularly well; 5. Kos doesn’t have anything new to say. 6. People are tired of all this political blather anyway. (Hinderaker thinks the latter).

This is crap. As Greenwald points out, Drudge’s claim is based entirely on numbers from Nielsen Bookscan, which counts cash-register sales at a bunch of major chains and some independents. I’ve had contradictory reports about whether Bookscan does or doesn’t cover Amazon, but I’m pretty sure they’re a ways away from covering every online and brick-and-mortar bookseller. And it’s certainly not a stretch to suspect that a book by a pair of famous bloggers would see its strongest sales in some unusual venues.

It wasn’t Glenn Reynolds (a man with fine taste in science fiction) who set up a pissing match between his book and Kos’s. Indeed, while Reynolds linked to the Drudge story, he also “updated” with an expression of doubt. Just as evidently, though, Drudge really does want to play the Bookscan game. And Roger L. Simon seems to take it as a matter of established truth that Reynolds’ book is selling well while Kos’s is crashing and burning. Meanwhile, I happen to have Marshall McLuhan Bookscan access right here.

As of this morning, for Reynolds’ An Army of Davids (February 2006), Bookscan reports 1716 retail sales and 2609 “discount” sales, for a total of 4325.

As of this morning, for Armstrong and Kos’s Crashing the Gate (March 2006), Bookscan reports 2598 retail sales and 1804 “discount” sales, for a total of 4402.

In other words, despite the fact that it’s been available for four fewer weeks, Kos and Armstrong’s book has now clocked Bookscan sales in excess of Reynolds’. Notably, several hundred more full-price sales. This is leaving aside the fact that Kos and Armstrong’s book is currently at #40 on Amazon, whereas Reynolds’ is at #801.

Here’s Glenn Greenwald again:

These twin items by Drudge and Simon—equally baseless, fact-free and misleading on their face—were mindlessly recited as fact by countless Bush followers all day yesterday. The always fact-free Powerline John dutifully recited the claim that CTG “has sold an astonishingly low 3,630 copies,” and even repeats Simon’s fantasy-driven fiction “that Glenn Reynolds’ book is selling well.” Right Wing News drools: “It’s really nice to see Kos’s book nosedive into the pavement.” The Bush zombie at BlogsFor Bush echoes the script: “I’ve stopped laughing long enough” to note that “there is no mention of the pathetic book sales of Kos’s book on the site’s front page.” And PunditGuy, after celebrating the “failure” of CTG, says this:
Kos claims that Drudge�s numbers aren�t on the up and up. What-ev-eh.
Doesn’t that pretty much capture the whole sickness? “There are facts that suggest that what I am saying is not actually true. What is my response do that? ‘What-ev-eh.’” As in: “Some people claim there are facts that show that things in Iraq are not going really great. Something about civil war, sectarian hatred, anarchy, widespread violence, a total lack of security. What-ev-eh.”

Don’t they have somewhere lurking in their brain any critical faculties at all?

Oh, and Glenn Greenwald’s own book’s Amazon rank right now? Why, that would be “#1 in Books.” For the second day in a row. Darn shame that “people are tired of all this political blather anyway.”

Comments on Right behind this potted plant:
#1 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:19 PM:

Apparently the only things those folks know how to count are (possibly-contaminated) votes.

#2 ::: Jp ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:20 PM:

Drudge in "hear a fact in ignorance, ignorantly fail to understand or attempt to understand the context, ignorantly apply said fact in ignorant attempt to make an ignorant, preconceived, ideological point to similarly ignorant people who ignorantly repeat it in cavalcade of ignorant ignorance" shocker!

Ugh....

#3 ::: Dan R. ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:28 PM:

Not a harmless Drudge.

#4 ::: Scott Lemieux ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:33 PM:

Thank you; I was wondering what exactly the basis for Simon's claim was. I'm not exactly shocked that the answer is "none"...

#5 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:33 PM:

There are two approaches to working with data.

Option 1
1) Survey available data sources
2) Determine their reliability
3) Understand other factors that influence the data
4) Develop hypothesis
5) If possible, test (in the real world, this isn't always practical)
6) Make decision and act on basis of data
7) Measure success
8) Course correct as necessary

Option 2
1) Form conclusion
2) Cherry-pick data that supports conclusion
3) Proclaim truth loudly and often
4) Get not-too-bright supporters to echo conclusion
5) Do what you intended to do from the start
6) Declare victory
7) Declare victory again, invoking echo chamber
8) Move on and let someone else clean up the mess

Guess which one Drudge seems to prefer.

#6 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:34 PM:

Things like this make me despair of the possibility of finding a middle ground. How do you find a middle ground with people who are no longer considering facts?

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:41 PM:

You don't. You do your best to take and hold the middle ground. Someone's got to stake it out.

#8 ::: P J evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:52 PM:

How do you find a middle ground with people who are no longer considering facts?

Hey, they've pulled up the drawbridge and lowered the portcullis! We can have a siege! Who brought the grill and the steaks?

(They have to open their minds first.)

I've read Kos's book. It's interesting, occasionally grating on my nerves like fingernails on blackboard, and very much worth reading.

#9 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 03:02 PM:

"Who brought the grill and the steaks?"

Can't we use the portcullis for that?

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 03:21 PM:

Would falsifying numbers count as science fiction?

#11 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 03:22 PM:

"Who brought the grill and the steaks?"

Can't we use the portcullis for that?


For what? the grill or the stakes?

#12 ::: Orrnix ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 03:33 PM:

Bookscan numbers do include Amazon.com sales, but, last time I checked, did not include Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, airports, and supermarkets.

#13 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 03:39 PM:

"For what? the grill or the stakes?"

Oy. I missed the latter punning opportunity; I was thinking of using it as a grill. Well done.

#14 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 03:40 PM:

Hey, if Nielsen Bookscan bought the Hayden Planetarium, it would be the Bookscan Planetarium!

#15 ::: perianwyr ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 04:01 PM:

Color me silly, but where are these Amazon rankings to be found? They sound like mountains of fun.

#16 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 04:14 PM:

I just went to Amazon and How Would a Patriot Act? is the top book on the right column of the front page. Way cool.

This link should take you to the top sellers in books. To get there from a book's page, look under Product Details, subhead Amazon.com Sales Rank.

#17 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 04:15 PM:

If you open details of a title, its rank is down near the bottom.

#18 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 04:22 PM:

Falsifying numbers wouldn't so much be science-fiction as math-fiction. Of course, mathematics is the handmaiden of science, so it's close.

#19 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 04:31 PM:

You might also want to note that Reynolds has a large, funded network in Pajamas Media, whereas Kos simply has fans.

#20 ::: nitpicker ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 04:32 PM:

Great...The Marshall McLuhan bit may force me to pay for a coffee-covered office computer. Damn you, Nielsen-Hayden!

#21 ::: perianwyr ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 04:33 PM:

Hey, excellent! Thanks very much.

#22 ::: Yo ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 04:40 PM:

one other point, if minor. Given that (to my understanding, not having yet read the book), CTG discusses politics, and specifically a roadmap to progressive politics in overtaking the Dem Party, it appeals to a much narrower subsection of the population than a book like Greenwald's, which would appeal to most everyone with a brain.

#23 ::: Jp ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 04:44 PM:

Yikes, rogue hyphen. Duck, nitpicker, duck!

#24 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 04:47 PM:

Falsifying numbers is only science fiction if you can find a vantage point from which they add up. Ergo, this is fantasy.

#25 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:16 PM:

Falsifying numbers is only science fiction if you can find a vantage point from which they add up. Ergo, this is fantasy.

Maybe it's the Non-Euclidean Bookscan they are after. If Republicans are disguised manifestations of pan-dimensional space authors, I suppose it could stay science fiction.

Also, do Republican authors have talking horses or robot servants? That would clear things up.

#26 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:18 PM:

Avram: Hey, if Nielsen Bookscan bought the Hayden Planetarium, it would be the Bookscan Planetarium!

Not the Nielsen-Hayden Planetarium?

#27 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:25 PM:

So, if an author has Bookscan numbers of about 4,500, how many books does that really represent? And is this high or low for a book of this type. Can anyone make money on that?

The economics of the publishing industry lie outside of my experience set.

#28 ::: FMguru ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:32 PM:

"6. People are tired of all this political blather anyway. (Hinderaker thinks the latter)"

There's something awesomely fin-de-siecle about that sentence. Now that liberals and progressives have a large and growing wind at their backs, suddenly political discourse is back to blathering talking heads that no smart person would bother to take seriously. Huh, a couple years ago it couldn't be more important, what with our civilzation under siege from islamofascism and stalwart anti-idiotarians bravely manning the rhetorical barricades. I guess modern conservatarianism has definitively entered its late decadent era now.

I'm doubly surprised that Simon is a part of this. I'd have thought that if anyone understood the numerics of low-selling books, it would have been him.

#29 ::: Manon ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:32 PM:

2. Kos audience is not bookish;

Wait, wait, I thought us gol-durn libruls were all ivory-tower intellectual wankers? Jeepers, Mr. Drudge, don't confuse my already fuzzy thinking with your clashing insinuations. :(

#30 ::: Adam Rakunas ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:11 PM:

To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, everybody gets their own facts now. Simon and Drudge are just truthier than, y'know, reality.

#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:19 PM:

Linkmeister: Since I've been spending part of today reading things like:

A persons social status since the discovery of America has always played a role in the judicial system.

The due process can be argued by many poor individuals for being selective and does not really apply to everyone in American jurisdiction as the government tries to emphasize.

As the times change, which they have drastically since the Bill of Rights should be amended with these times.

Making that pun was one way of keeping my brain from collapsing.

Adam Rice: Fair enough.

#32 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:53 PM:

Michael, Avram was making ze joke.

#33 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:57 PM:

Fragano L.,

Yikes. (looks at calendar) Ah! End of term grading?

If so, I am doubly glad I never went into teaching (the first reason is my dreadful lack of patience).

#34 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 08:24 PM:

Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.
#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 08:40 PM:

Linkmeister: And finals aren't in yet. These are just regular essays.

I may post a semester's worth, once the semester is over, if provoked. (Well, I'll post 'em on my own blog first.)

#36 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 09:43 PM:

It's worth noting that Markos sold 5,100 copies of Crashing the Gates before the book hit the shelves. These were apparently distributed by Working Assets, which is better known for long-distance service.

CTG was published by Chelsea Green, which is a tiny little publishing company in Vermont. Chelsea Green specializes in "sustainable living"-type books. They're good folks--and they publish some utterly gorgeous books--but they don't exactly have the marketing power of a major publisher.

It appears that Markos is trying to support his political allies, even if it forces him to do more of the marketing. With the traffic on DailyKos, he might just get away with it.

#37 ::: ghostman ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 09:55 PM:

I work in an independent bookstore in Tempe, AZ. Our year-to-date sales of the two books mentioned are as follows:

An Army of Davids: 0
Crashing the Gate: 6

I'm at work as I write this (don't tell), and am going to go put together a Crashing the Gate display right now...

Ok, done. Sorry Drudge.

#38 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 10:54 PM:

This reminds me of the old joke about the footrace between the Soviet and the American. The American wins. The next day Pravda reports, "The Soviet runner finished second, while the American finished next to last."

#39 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:45 PM:

I haven't bought CTG yet, but I helped push Glenn Greenwald's book up to #1, you betcha!! Support progressive bloggers, buy a book. Political blather? I don't think so.

#40 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:52 PM:

Larry-
Total sales = 6 to 10x the Ingrams number according to my casual research on this question last year. Any IndustryFolks here to confirm this range?

On Amazon, the guestimates I found suggested that the relationship of sales rank to daily sales can be anchored at:
#100 = 10 books per day
#30 = 100 books per day
and that if you ever find out the corresponding values for the top 10, Jeff will personally drop by your house and offer you books in exchange for your silence until you give in. No one has said no. (Especially as the alternative is to be found smothered under thousands of remaindered paperbacks of dubious value. Jeff knows exactly what books you'd hate to be found with...)

#41 ::: Jack Heneghan ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:06 AM:

And this is why there were only five people in the room when we showed up five minutes late after the reading/signing was over for Kos's signing at the 'Tattered Cover' last Wednesday. And we still got our copy signed.

Jack

#42 ::: ghostman ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 02:11 PM:

I was mistaken about the sales of these two books in the independent bookstore I work in, in Tempe. The correct numbers are as follows:

An Army of Davids: 0
Crashing the Gate: 21

This is a substantial difference in my original numbers, so I thought it important to correct it.

#43 ::: bartkid ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 02:28 PM:

>Would falsifying numbers count as science fiction?

I think that is actually the first six counts in the indictment of Ken Lay.

#44 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 07:51 AM:

Thanks, Patrick, that was fun.

#45 ::: Captain Slack ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 07:57 AM:

"There are facts that suggest that what I am saying is not actually true. What is my response do that? 'What-ev-eh.'"

We saw another example of this in Saturday's Mallard Fillmore strip (yeah, I know, the Fckd Duck demonstrates his contempt for fact-based argument, film at 11), where his response to somebody suggesting he was basically talking out his tailfeathers was "Gee, it must be nice to live in 1958." (It's better than living in 2003, when the "patriotic T-shirt" flap to which he was devoting four strips actually fckng happened. Why did it take the Freepers so long to get up in arms about it?)

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