New York Observer Says The NYT 'Bestseller' List Wildly Skews Sales Of New Roger Ailes Book

Roger AilesAPRoger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch

Gabriel Sherman’s new book about Fox News chief Roger Ailes — “The Loudest Voice in the Room” — built up a huge buzz in the media world leading up to its release.

So far, the book’s sales haven’t measured up to the buzz.

As of Jan. 19, according to Nielsen BookScan, “The Loudest Voice in the Room” sold only 3,000 books, a publishing industry source with knowledge of the numbers told Business Insider. For comparison, Robert Gates’ “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” sold about 80,000 copies. (Both titles were released on Jan. 14, though Sherman’s book’s release date was moved up a week due to increased buzz.)

Other sources provide similar looks at the book’s performance. The USA Today has the book at No. 122. Publisher’s Weekly, which is based partially off Nielsen BookScan, does not have the book in its top 25 of hardcover non-fiction. As of Monday afternoon, “Loudest Voice” ranked No. 421 in the Amazon Best Sellers rank.

The one notable exception is The New York Times non-fiction best-sellers list, on which “Loudest Voice” debuted at No. 9. (Gates’ “Duty” came in at No. 1, at 80,000 copies, which signals a weak overall sales week.)

From experience, New York Observer editor Ken Kurson theorizes why the Times’ list is different. He says that in promoting “Leadership,” his 2002 book with Rudy Giuliani, he learned that the Times’ methodology doesn’t reflect the “political reality”:

“We kept getting booked at small, independent bookstores like Bookends in Ridgewood, NJ, and Books & Books in Coral Gables, Fla. We loved it. But we noticed that we sold a lot more books at a big box than at an independent bookstore signing. It was my job to manage these logistics, so I would ask Miramax, ‘Why do you keep scheduling us into independent bookstores, when we sold 1500 books at the Staten Island Costco?’

We were always told by Miramax’s able and knowledgeable publishing industry pros that it’s because the New York Times over-samples adorable little stores and under-samples chains, and especially non-bookstores that sell a lot of books, like Costco and BJ’s.

In other words, they over-sample the places where liberals shop, and under-sample the places where conservatives shop. So that might help explain why liberals who view Mr. Ailes as a sort of evil Svengali have propelled Sherman’s book to No. 9.”

The Times’ methodology is closely guarded. Kurson goes on to contrast with to the USA Today list, which details its methodology and is “thought to better reflect the middle-America patterns.” The USA Today list measures a number of different retail outlets — bookstore chains, independent bookstores, mass merchandisers and online retailers. It also details its list of contributors.

Overall, the Nielsen and USA Today numbers provide a good study between the buzz leading up to a media-centric book’s release — you can see the extent of the attention here — and its early results.

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