UPDATE (1/8/15) – Eric Metaxas commented last night on Twitter about the CT article. I have a post at this link where his Twitter comments are presented. He said buying a spot on the NYT’s list is wrong but then said it was complicated. I think he could go further but this may be it.
(Original article begins here)
According to Christianity Today, author and evangelical leader Eric Metaxas said Mars Hill Church did nothing wrong by using ResultSource to get Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage on the New York Times best-seller list.
Metaxas told CT:
“Anyone thinking there is something pure about that list does not understand the system and how it works,” he said. “I would even argue that trying to get on that list is a combination of a realistic sense of the market and good stewardship. When you understand … the Times list is a bit of a game … you realize being on that list has less to do with the actual merit of a book than with other, far less important factors.”
Prior to that quote, Metaxas is cited as referring to the Mars Hill Church scheme and indicated that Metaxas found nothing wrong with what Mars Hill did. Since that particular segment of the article was not in quotes, I don’t know if Metaxas’ comments were meant to apply specifically to Mars Hill Church or if Metaxas knows that the church committed church funds to purchase copies of Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage at retail prices via fictitious buying accounts in selected zip codes to bypass the NYTs monitoring system. I contacted Metaxas via email and twitter earlier this morning and will add any response I get.
Most of the industry contacts cited in the CT article take a dim view of manipulating the system. The New York Times told me back in November that they try to prevent such gaming of the system. Justin Taylor at Crossway had strong words about the practice:
From our point of view at Crossway, the bestseller lists are designed to provide an accurate reflection of the market’s response to an author and his or her book. If an author, agent, or publisher intentionally tries to subvert or distort the intended purpose of the bestseller lists, we believe this would constitute an ethical violation, in terms of standard ethical norms, but even more so in terms of Christian ethics. This would be dishonoring to the Lord (to whom we are ultimately accountable), and it would also conflict with our calling to love our neighbors as ourselves (by not creating a distorted or deceptive picture of reality). Christian authors, agents, and publishers are called to a high standard of integrity as we seek to glorify God, not only in the content of what we publish, sell, and market, but also in the way in which we go about this calling.” — Justin Taylor, senior vice president and publisher for books, Crossway
Current Mars Hill Church president Dave Bruskas told his congregation that the ResultSource scheme was wrong as did Mark Driscoll in hindsight.
Readers can review the ResultSource contract with Mars Hill Church here.
I will be surprised and disappointed if Metaxas maintains the position he took in the article.