Mega-Ministry Methods: David Jeremiah Sows the Wind and Reaps the Windfall

David Jeremiah, Screen capture from YouTube
David Jeremiah, Screen capture from YouTube

One of the key events that led to the demise of Mars Hill Church in 2014 was the revelation that the church leaders had used around $250,000 of church money to strategically buy a spot on the New York Times bestseller list for Mark and Grace Driscoll’s 2011 book Real Marriage. Manipulating bestseller lists became a debated topic for several months after it was learned that other leading Christian authors had also used Result Source to manipulate the bestseller list (e.g., Les & Leslie Parrott, and David Jeremiah). Articles in World, Christianity Today, and this blog examined the ethics of the matter.
Stepping into the debate at the time was a former Chief Financial Officer (2007-2009) of David Jeremiah’s Turning Point ministry, George Hale. In a January 14, 2015 post, Hale asserted that David Jeremiah used similar book buying practices as those made famous by Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll. Hale said he left Turning Point because he didn’t agree with the ethics of using ministry funds to manipulate the bestseller lists and enrich Jeremiah.
Turning Point is a large ministry that took in over $47 million in 2013 compared to nearly $40-million the year before. The last two years David Jeremiah’s non-profit has spent more than it made by around $3.2-million. However, the organization’s balance is strong with net assets of just over $9.5-million, as of June 2014.
At the time, Hale did not explain just how beneficial the arrangement was for Jeremiah. Now, Hale has disclosed that Jeremiah was able to purchase a $2-million ocean front condominium (San Diego Co., grant deed) in January 2010 not long after receiving a $3-million advance from Faith Words, a book publisher based in Nashville.
Hale said, “I never saw a contract between David Jeremiah and a publisher, but I did see an advance check made out to David for $3-million for a multi-book deal.” The books covered by the advance were The Coming Economic Armageddon (2010), I Never Thought I’d See The Day (2011), and God Loves You (2012). All three of these books made the New York Times bestseller list.
Despite the financial success of the books, Hale questioned the ethics of using donor money to create a fiction and personally benefit David Jeremiah. In 2015, Hale said in his public letter:

I began my employment at Turning Point during July 2007.   During August of 2007 Turning Point began promoting David Jeremiah’s Book “Captured by Grace” for pre-publication purchase for a donation of $25 or more.  I believe that approximately 100,000 books were pre-purchased (I could be wrong on this number but I think it is close) for an average donation of $25 during the months of August and September 2007.  When the book was released in October, Turning Point used the money donated for the book to purchase copies of the book from retail booksellers such as Amazon and Borders. Turning Point then sent the book to those who had donated and requested the book.  These purchases where timed to get the book listed as a “best-seller.”  It worked.
After this occurred, I voiced my concern as to the ethics of such action to David Jeremiah.  I was also concerned because Turning Point could have purchased the same books directly from the publisher for approximately $10 each instead of the $25 each paid to the book retailers.  David assured me that his agent and attorney, Sealy Yates had opined that the transactions were honest and ethical.
This same action was repeated during August, September and October 2008 with the same results. I again requested that Turning Point not repeat such transactions as I could not discern any benefit to Turning Point for purchasing the books at retail versus purchasing the books wholesale from the publisher.   I thought the transaction to be unethical.  David told me that he would take my advice under consideration.
During August 2009 David Jeremiah said that he wanted to promote his new book for pre-publication purchase but for a donation of any amount.  He had not yet made a decision as to the method that Turning Point would use to purchase the books to be sent to those who would request them.
During September 2009 David Jeremiah told me that he had decided to use the money received by Turning Point from those requesting his book to purchase the books at retail from booksellers and not purchase the books from the publisher at a lower amount.  He acknowledged that he was aware that this was disappointing to me.
Turning Point had received an average donation of $35 per book instead of $25 dollars during this 2009 campaign.  Therefore, if my memory is correct, Turning Point had received approximately $3.5 million dollars for the approximately 100,000 books pre-sold.  I thought that the added donation over and above the $25 purchase price of the book was meant to benefit Turning Point and was not to be used to purchase additional books at retail.  This did not happen. This thought, together with my prior opinion that the entire method was unethical and did not benefit Turning Point, led me to immediately resign my position with Turning Point which I did September 15, 2009.

Hale later told me that he was paid until early 2010 to allow a narrative to be floated that Hale retired instead of quitting abruptly over ethics concerns.
As a result of the book buying scheme, Turning Point’s membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was jeopardized. Hale told me, as did one other source in a position to know, that in early 2010, Turning Point was allowed to drop membership in the ECFA instead of being publicly removed over the bestseller list manipulation scheme. These tactics are not allowed for ECFA members and, according to Hale, Turning Point chose to drop out instead of modify their book business.
One consequence of losing ECFA membership was the loss of membership in the National Religious Broadcasters since members are required to either be members of ECFA or some comparable group. However, after years of non-membership, I have learned that Turning Point is a member again. It is unclear if this means Turning Point has renounced the book buying scheme or if the NRB made an exception. Neither organization has responded to my questions regarding Turning Point’s membership.
If the return of Turning Point to the NRB means that David Jeremiah has finally taken George Hale’s advice, that would be quite a story. I hope the usual big evangelical cone of silence doesn’t cover up the matter.
In any case, with the ongoing silence and secrecy over bestseller list buying, the debate over the ethics of it will continue.

Prosperity Pastors Pray for Protestant Presidential Prospect Donald Trump (VIDEO)

This is not from the Onion.
Trump looks bewildered.
(The embed feature appears to be glitchy right now, so if the video doesn’t show up, click here)
[youtube]https://youtu.be/Yua1a2iHTGk[/youtube]
David (New York Times Best Seller Professional) Jeremiah is doing the praying at the beginning. I think his dad must be turning over in his grave.  Did Jeremiah just call Trump the next president of the U.S.? Talk about your Agents of the Apocalypse…
Kenneth Copeland is there.
One of them is trying to mind meld with Trump. I think he must be a Messianic Jew (anyone know who he is?). He thinks America and Israel are the only special nations.
Readers: Supply the caption for Paula White laying hands on the Donald.

Why Did David Jeremiah's Turning Point Give Up Membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability?

When I first heard former Turning Point CFO George Hale’s account of David Jeremiah’s methods of gaining spots on best-seller lists, I checked the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability membership directory to see if David Jeremiah’s ministry, Turning Point, was a member organization. It is not.
I checked because, in 2014, ECFA president Dan Busby took a public stance against the best-seller list manipulation scheme paid for by Mars Hill Church. At the time, he first told Ruth Graham that the scheme was “unethical and deceptive.”
Later, I asked Busby for an expanded statement which he provided and I published at the time. Busby said concerning best-seller manipulation schemes:

It is unethical and deceptive for ECFA-accredited churches (and other organizations) to:
a.   make efforts to mask the method of procuring products authored or developed by an organization’s leader in order to improve product ratings, and/or
b.   procure products authored or developed by an organization’s leader at a higher price than otherwise available for the sake of improving product ratings, even if there is a valid ministry purpose for paying the higher price.

These two elements appear to be true of former CFO Hale’s description of what Turning Point ministry does to elevate David Jeremiah’s books. According to Hale, Turning Point takes donations for the promise of a book in advance of the publication date. In addition to the book, the donor is often promised resources from Turning Point which are provided at the expense of the non-profit organization. The donations are then used to purchase books at retail cost from a variety of locations around the country in order to maximize the “product ratings.” The books have to be purchased at retail price in order to count in the best-seller list calculations. Jeremiah, as author, is able to purchase those books from the publisher at a tremendous volume discount but such purchases don’t “improve product ratings” nor do they generate royalties.
Busby then pointed to an advisory opinion which remains relevant today.

Product Procurement

Overview.  The leaders of many ECFA members author or develop various intellectual properties, including books.  Royalties received by these leaders for intellectual properties owned by the ECFA member should be considered as one of the elements of compensation when the organization’s governing body determines compensation for the leaders.
Additionally, the organization’s governing body should ensure that the organization is not involved in unethical and deceptive practices relating to the procurement of products authored or developed by its leaders.  The appropriate avenues with which to procure products should be reviewed against the backdrop of ECFA’s Standards 1, 4, and 6.
Standard 1 – Biblical truths and practices.  “Every member shall subscribe to a written statement of faith clearly affirming a commitment to the evangelical Christian faith, or shall otherwise demonstrate such commitment and shall operate in accordance with biblical truths and practices.”
In several of his letters, the Apostle Paul stresses the importance of being beyond reproach and behaving in such a way as to avoid even the appearance of wrong-doing. He tells us that we need to be circumspect to those outside the Church. The reason Paul most often gives is that we must not give Satan any opportunity to destroy the reputation of Christ. Arguably, and in an eternal sense, it may be true that the business of ministries and churches is of concern to God and not to others judging from the outside. However, Scripture is also very clear about our need to be open, honest, and above reproach as we wrestle with the issues of life before Christ’s return. As the Apostle Paul said, “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men” (2 Corinthians 8:21).
Standard 4 – Use of Resources.  “Every member shall exercise the appropriate management and controls necessary to provide reasonable assurance that all of the member’s operations are carried out and resources are used in a responsible manner and in conformity with applicable laws and regulations, such conformity taking into account biblical mandates.”
The use of resources in a responsible manner includes managing resources in a God-honoring way. An organization that has expended assets in an unwise manner may diminish its own Christian witness.
Standard 6 – Compensation-Setting and Related-party transactions. Every organization shall set compensation of its top leader and address related-party transactions in a manner that demonstrates integrity and propriety in conformity with ECFA’s Policy for Excellence in Compensation-Setting and Related-Party Transactions.”
Analysis. In reviewing these Standards and their related commentaries against certain methods in which products may be procured, the ECFA Board, Standards Committee, and Staff found the following:
A potential conflict of interest arises when an organization’s leader decides the organization will promote or purchase books authored by the leader, with the leader receiving royalties on the books.  This risk of a conflict-of-interest is heightened when, in relation to products authored or developed by leaders of ECFA members, (a) products are purchased at a higher price than is required and/or (2) there is an effort to mask the method of procuring products in order to improve product rating.
ECFA members must avoid an actual conflict-of-interest by utilizing the related-party transaction process outlined in ECFA’s Policy for Excellence in Related-Party Transactions when purchasing products authored by an organization’s leader.
If an organization pays a higher price than required for procuring products authored or developed by leaders of an ECFA member, there must be a valid ministry purpose for paying the higher price.  Otherwise, the excess expenditure of funds is for a non-ministry purpose.
Where an organization attempts to mask the method of procurement from organizations that determine product ratings, ECFA believes such practices are not in accord with biblical truths and practices.
ECFA’s Positions.  It is unethical and deceptive for a member organization to:

  1. make efforts to mask the method of procuring products authored or developed by an organization’s leader in order to improve product ratings, and/or

  2. procure products authored or developed by an organization’s leader at a higher price than otherwise available for the sake of improving product ratings, even if there is a valid ministry purpose for paying the higher price.

Given Busby’s stance, it is not surprising that Turning Point is not now accredited; the Turning Point approach as described by former CFO George Hale runs afoul of this advisory opinion. However, I recently learned that David Jeremiah’s ministry was once accredited by ECFA. According to a 2010 ECFA newsletter (page 8), Turning Point voluntarily resigned membership in the ECFA in 2010. Who was involved in that decision from Turning Point? Presumably, the key decision makers were David Jeremiah as CEO and Sealy Yates, Jeremiah’s literary agent, who chairs the Turning Point board.
An anonymous source with knowledge of situation told me that the resignation was allowed by the ECFA after an investigation into Turning Point’s means of elevating Jeremiah’s books to the best-seller lists. Turning Point’s leadership was offered the opportunity to stay in the ECFA if the book promotion schemes ceased. However, according to the source, Jeremiah declined and was allowed to resign without action from the ECFA.
I continue to get silence from Turning Point to all questions regarding the best-seller list promotions. I wrote ECFA to ask for comment about the narrative disclosed by the anonymous source. I received no answer from Dan Busby. If anything in this article is incorrect, I invite Turning Point and/or the EFCA to let me know.
On one hand, I am encouraged that the ECFA would insist on compliance with their standards. However, it is discouraging that the ECFA would not alert donors that Turning Point – an organization that pulls in nearly $40 million/year — is not following these standards. Such a deal does not help donors and raises again the value of the ECFA for donors.
 
See also Christianity Today’s article on using book buying schemes to game the best seller lists.

Former Chief Financial Officer at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists

George C. Hale once worked for David Jeremiah at Shadow Mountain Community Church and Turning Point Ministry. Hale resigned in 2009 because he had misgivings about the way Jeremiah handled his book marketing and sales. From Hale, I have obtained an open letter to David Jeremiah and Turning Point Ministry. As he discloses in the letter below, Hale has approached David Jeremiah and Jeremiah’s agent, Sealy Yates, about the best-seller methodology. For several weeks, I have periodically reached out to Turning Point and Sealy Yates with no acknowledgement of my contacts. Hale believes that Turning Point employees who speak to the press about the book selling scheme will be fired.
From what has been previously disclosed, there is reason to believe Hale when he discusses the methods Jeremiah has used to attempt to secure a spot on the New York Times best-seller list. In a recent Christianity Today story, a link to an archived webpage belonging to San Diego based ResultSource indicated that Jeremiah was a client of the company for his book Captured by Grace. Captured by Grace did indeed make it onto various best-seller lists. Jeremiah has had at least six books reached the New York Times best seller list since 2007, including the 2014 book Agents of the Apocalypse: A Riveting Look at the Key Players of the End Times.
From my conversations with Hale, it appears that Kevin Small at ResultSource provided tips on how to make the New York Times list. However, it is not clear whether or not Jeremiah formerly used Small’s services for more than Captured by Grace. In contrast to the Mars Hill Church/Mark Driscoll contract, the Turning Point method does not appear to rely on church money to buy books, but rather solicits donations for a book in advance of the publication date. Turning Point’s Paul Joiner was touted by Kevin Small to Mars Hill Church as having special expertise in setting up such websites. ResultSource or a Turning Point team then buys the books at retail price from sources used by the New York Times in the count to form the best seller list. When donations were strong, Turning Point bought more books than necessary to cover the “orders” and gave them away.
According to Hale, the purchases did not benefit Turning Point. Hale believes that the ministry would have benefited by first purchasing the books at a vastly reduced price (which according to Hale, Turning Point did before 2007), and then offering them to listeners for a larger donation. When books are purchased at the author’s discount price, the author does not receive royalties. However, by purchasing the books at retail price, the ministry missed out on the markup but David Jeremiah obtained royalties and obtained a place on the best-seller lists. Hale told me that he doesn’t see how being on the best-seller list benefited the ministry.
Below is the letter from George Hale:

I worked for David Jeremiah for seven years.  Five years as the CFO and the COO of Shadow Mountain Ministries and two years as the CFO and acting Chief Development Officer of Turning Point Ministries.  David and I had a rocky beginning but ultimately a great working relationship.  I tell people that David fired me three times and I quit two times, and that was within the first month.  This is not far from the truth.  I am a no nonsense business person who believes that confronting issues is positive and productive.  I have very little gray area in my life.  Things are mostly black or white for me.  This comes in part from being a CPA and a successful Bank President during the rough and tumble years of the “80’s and “90’s. Having been a Navy Seal probably adds to my approach to issues and people.  David is not comfortable with my manner and he is no doubt right, most of the time.  I have learned much from him. One important thing is that people are more important than solving problems.
I began my employment at Turning Point during July 2007.   During August of 2007 Turning Point began promoting David Jeremiah’s Book “Captured by Grace” for pre-publication purchase for a donation of $25 or more.  I believe that approximately 100,000 books were pre-purchased (I could be wrong on this number but I think it is close) for an average donation of $25 during the months of August and September 2007.  When the book was released in October, Turning Point used the money donated for the book to purchase copies of the book from retail booksellers such as Amazon and Borders. Turning Point then sent the book to those who had donated and requested the book.  These purchases where timed to get the book listed as a “best-seller.”  It worked.
After this occurred I voiced my concern as to the ethics of such action to David Jeremiah.  I was also concerned because Turning Point could have purchased the same books directly from the publisher for approximately $10 each instead of the $25 each paid to the book retailers.  David assured me that his agent and attorney, Sealy Yates had opined that the transactions were honest and ethical.
This same action was repeated during August, September and October 2008 with the same results. I again requested that Turning Point not repeat such transactions as I could not discern any benefit to Turning Point for purchasing the books at retail verses purchasing the books wholesale from the publisher.   I thought the transaction to be unethical.  David told me that he would take my advice under consideration.
During August 2009 David Jeremiah said that he wanted to promote his new book for pre-publication purchase but for a donation of any amount.  He had not yet made a decision as to the method that Turning Point would use to purchase the books to be sent to those who would request them.
During September 2009 David Jeremiah told me that he had decided to use the money received by Turning Point from those requesting his book to purchase the books at retail from booksellers and not purchase the books from the publisher at a lower amount.  He acknowledged that he was aware that this was disappointing to me.
Turning Point had received an average donation of $35 per book instead of $25 dollars during this 2009 campaign.  Therefore, if my memory is correct, Turning Point had received approximately $3.5 million dollars for the approximately 100,000 books pre-sold.  I thought that the added donation over and above the $25 purchase price of the book was meant to benefit Turning Point and was not to be used to purchase additional books at retail.  This did not happen. This thought, together with my prior opinion that the entire method was unethical and did not benefit Turning Point, led me to immediately resign my position with Turning Point which I did September 15, 2009.
I have only spoken about these events in a very limited way since that date.  Primarily talking with David Jeremiah and Sealy Yates to encourage them to cease such activity which they tell me has continued since I left Turning Point.  They do not agree with my position and have stated that they see nothing unethical, immoral or illegal about how Turning Point promotes David’s books and gets them identified as “best-selling” books by the various listing agents such as the New York Times.  We have agreed to disagree on this topic and have otherwise remained friends.
Let me add that I very much admire David Jeremiah and believe him to be one of the best Bible teachers in the world today.  I helped craft the vision for Turning Point of delivering “the unchanging Word to an ever-changing world”.  I believe and support this vision.  I believe that David is blessed and chosen by God for this purpose.
That said, when Mark Driscoll was exposed in early 2014 for attempting in a small way to do what David had successfully done for the past seven years and it was also exposed that Sealy, ResultSource and possibly others associated with David Jeremiah may have assisted Mark Driscoll, I became very concerned that this cancer was spreading.  I thought that it may have gained acceptability in part  based upon the success of David Jeremiah.
When David Jeremiah spoke openly with World Magazine during June 2014 about his method of promoting his books I felt that he had placed this subject into the public domain for discussion.
The final events which led to my now talking were when LifeWay removed Mark Driscoll’s books from its book stores while prominently promoting David Jeremiah as a “best-selling” author, and when Mars Hills Church failed partly because of this book publication deceptive practice.  I feel that now is the time for the public to voice its opinion.  Is this practice OK as Sealy Yates and David Jeremiah proclaim or is it deceptive and unethical as I believe?;
I have taken my stand.
What do you believe?
In His service,
George Hale

I have placed links in Hale’s letter where important to help readers get more information. In this scenario, it appears that some deception could be involved if donations in amounts higher than the retail price of a single book are used to buy other books as if they were the subject of an individual purchase. More importantly, the ministry’s resources and staff serve to promote the book and run the fulfillment of the sales at ministry expense. By paying retail price, the book royalties go to the author and the sales count toward the best-seller lists.
As noted, I have contacted Turning Point numerous times and await their comment about Hale’s claims.
 
 
 
 

Christianity Today Revisits the Ethics of Using ResultSource to Score a New York Times Best Seller

Tonight, Christianity Today’s Ken Walker posted an article on the ethics of buying a spot on best seller lists. The coverage, which is also in the January print edition, links to the ResultSource contract I posted here.  Although I am surprised the views of Crossway executive Justin Taylor were not included, this is an important article with reaction from numerous industry sources. Most publishers who commented took a dim view of the methods used by ResultSource.
Some surprises from the article:
Eric Metaxas doesn’t see a problem with using a ResultSource like scheme. I wonder if he used them to help out with the Bonhoeffer book.
David Jeremiah’s book Captured by Grace was once listed on the ResultSource website as a part of the ResultSource portfolio. Back in November, I wrote about the mention of Jeremiah’s right hand man Paul Joiner in a Mars Hill Church memo on Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage campaign. Repeated contacts with Turning Point Ministry have gone unanswered. I plan some additional work on David Jeremiah’s approach to publishing best seller, possibly as early as tomorrow. It now appears that he has been using ResultSource to move his books up the lists since 2007.
ResultSource may not be doing much business since the secret sauce was revealed.
One thing not surprising is that the authors involved, ResultSource’s CEO Kevin Small, and Jeremiah’s current and Driscoll’s former agent Sealy Yates did not provide information or comment to CT.
 
 
 

Daily Beast: Evangelicals Scam the NYT Bestseller List

This morning, the Daily Beast published my article summarizing recent material I have obtained.
There is still more to develop on this story. For instance, it appears that the web of relationships involving Sealy Yates, Kevin Small, David Jeremiah and the Parrotts is longstanding. I hope to develop that part of the story more this coming week. As I pointed out in the post earlier this afternoon, Driscoll was a late comer to the party and an outsider to the club. Small is on the board of the Parrotts’ non-profit and Yates is on the board of Jeremiah’s Turning Point. Jeremiah credited Small’s publishing genius as far back as 2006.
It is hard to say if these folks will open up and reveal how all of this works.
Whether or not they do may depend on how much more media scrutiny develops. Christianity Today had a small blurb Friday linking to my blog posts. I think other stories are coming.
What I would like to see is a straightforward explanation from the agents, consultants, authors and publishers about the way they work the New York Times system. In the case of Driscoll’s contract, deception was involved. Has that occurred for the other authors? It appears that way but perhaps the agents, consultants, authors and publishers do not believe they are being deceptive. I would like to hear their side of it. Thus far, outside of a promise of a reply that didn’t come from Tyndale House, there have been no replies from those who have engaged in the best-seller campaigns.
When Mark Driscoll used this approach, his critics and the media were all over the story. Where are they now?
Yates and Yates have a significant cadre of authors they represent. Do all of them use ResultSource? I asked two of them but received no answer.
More broadly, I think the NYT Bestseller brand is tarnished by the actions of ResultSource. I asked the NYTs if they planned any kind of correction for those books proven to benefit from gaming the system, and the paper declined to comment.
On WORD-FM (Pittsburgh) last week, I was interviewed by Kathy Emmons. Her suggestion to the NYTs was to permanently ban any author caught cheating.
Clearly, this is a problem larger than evangelical authors but it appears that it would take evangelicals to change course given that some on the inside of this are within the camp.
 

Why Did ResultSource Need David Jeremiah's Ministry to Help Get Mark Driscoll on the New York Times Best Seller List?

In June 2011, Kevin Small wrote to then Mars Hill Church executive elder Jamie Munson to provide details about how ResultSource could get Mark Driscoll on the New York Times best-seller list. He gave him the details of what later was reduced to writing in the contract signed by Sutton Turner on behalf of Mars Hill Church. However, there was a detail or two not included in the contract which brings another evangelical figure — David Jeremiah — into the spotlight. Small told Munson:
ResultSourceJoiner
Although I mentioned this memo last week, I didn’t understand at the time the role Paul Joiner plays at David Jeremiah’s ministry, Turning Point. According to Turning Point’s most recent 990 form, Paul Joiner is the higher paid member listed on Jeremiah’s staff, with the title Director of Creative Services. Joiner is often lauded by Jeremiah in his books, including his most recent book, Agents of the Apocalypse, now sitting at the top of the New York Times best-seller list in the Religious, Spirituality and Faith category. In the Acknowledgments section of the new book, Jeremiah wrote:
pauljoinerAotA
 
 
Why did Kevin Small pitch David Jeremiah’s Director of Creative Services to help Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church scam the NYT best-seller list? To address that question, I asked Mr. Joiner via his Twitter account to contact me regarding Result Source. He did not reply. It is certainly possible that Joiner played no role in Driscoll’s campaign, but it is intriguing that Small felt he could drop Joiner’s name to pitch the best-seller campaign to Mars Hill’s executive elders.
Driscoll took much heat for using writing and research assistance, as well as using ResultSource to propel one book to the top of the NYT best-seller list. However, it now appears that Driscoll was a light weight compared to David Jeremiah’s nearly $40 million per year media empire. Over the years, Jeremiah has used various writers (e.g., Beau Sager, Rob Suggs) to help turn his sermons into books. He then has used Kevin Small and Paul Joiner to turn several of those books into best-sellers.
 
Jeremiah’s media empire is vast enough that he may not now require Kevin Small’s help. He could probably put out a book of pictures of his family pets and it would go to the top of the charts given the number of people on his mailing list who will commit to purchase his materials pre-launch. However, was the way paved by the same methods that caused Driscoll so much trouble? For now, no one at Turning Point is talking, and it is unclear if anyone in the Christian media will investigate.
………
See my article today at the Daily Beast on this topic for an overview of the work from the past week.
 
 

Crossway Books Condemns Manipulation of Bestseller Lists

Monday and Tuesday, I wrote about three Christian authors (David Jeremiah, and Les & Leslie Parrott) who have used help from ResultSource CEO Kevin Small to attain their publishing success. Mars Hill Church’s contract with ResultSource to elevate Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage shook public trust in that church. Perry Noble, pastor of New Spring Church, has admitted to using ResultSource to elevate the position of one of his books. There are other authors of books published by Christian publishers who use the ResultSource schemes.
Until recently, ResultSource’s methods were wrapped in mystery. However, with the disclosure of the contract between Mars Hill Church and ResultSource, the public got a look at the service purchased by authors who want New York Times Bestseller status. Essentially the author pays ResultSource to purchase a large quantity of books which ResultSource will send to addresses supplied by the author. If the author doesn’t provide enough addresses in the right geographic areas, then ResultSource will supply them. ResultSource deliberately uses methods which overcome obstacles “to the reporting system” (i.e., deceives the bestseller list). See the excerpt from the contract below for the details.
I asked three Christian publishers — Tyndale House, Harper Collins Christian, and Crossway — for opinions about the use of ResultSource. Tyndale House’s Todd Starowitz told me he would reply when publisher Ron Beers returned from a trip. However, Tyndale did not respond further. HarperCollins Christian did not respond at all. Only Crossway, speaking generally about list manipulation and not individual authors, provided an answer:

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 

I think Taylor cuts to the heart of the problem with manipulation of bestseller lists. The lists should provide a snapshot of the public response to a book. The public at large seems to see the lists as indicating broad public interest and even quality. However, as it stands, what the list provides is unclear. As the extent of manipulation by Christian and non-Christian authors unfolds, the list may be more of a shadowy glimpse into who has sufficient money to purchase their way into a fiction. Taylor calls the manipulation what it is: unethical. Taylor calls the Christian publishing world to a higher standard. The defense that everybody’s doing it is no defense at all.
Back in June, David Jeremiah’s non-answer to Marvin Olasky’s question about list manipulation provided an insight into another bogus rationale.

Marvin Olasky: TheNew York Times for its bestseller list counts sales from a bunch of secular stores; I understand there’s a company that will go in and buy several books in each of these bookstores. The companies that do that spread the release point of these books that are purchased by individuals so they can get attention. Is that legitimate?
David Jeremiah: The bottom line is you’re selling these books and they’re just not getting noticed. If you want the books to be noticed so that you can reach more people with them, you’ve got to figure out how to do that. I don’t know all of the ramifications of it, but I know that you can’t just write a book and say I’m not going to have anything to do with marketing. If you don’t care enough about it to try and figure out how to get it in the hands of other people, nobody else is going to either.

If you want your books to be noticed, you have to do something about it. It is stunning that David Jeremiah, a man who provides daily bible advice about a host of topics, can say unchallenged that he doesn’t “know all of the ramifications of it.” Dr. Jeremiah, fellow Cedarville University alum, let me ask you to read Justin Taylor’s statement about the ramifications. Let me hasten to add that I don’t know exactly how Jeremiah worked with ResultSource. However, given the direct question about manipulation of sales asked by Olasky, it is disappointing that Jeremiah did not answer it directly.
If he is really unsure of the implications of Olasky’s question, then Dr. Jeremiah should also read Jared Wilson’s article, “What’s Wrong with Buying Your Way onto the Bestseller List. Wilson provided five reasons the practice is wrong:

  • It’s dishonest
  • It’s egocentric and lazy
  • It may eventually harm your reputation and will bug you in the long run
  • It’s poor stewardship and bad strategy
  • It disadvantages those actually gifted.

See also the comments of the Director of Communications for the New York Times.
At the end of the day, it should not be hard for Christian leaders to understand why fooling the public with a purchased persona is wrong. When Mark Driscoll’s deal with ResultSource came to light, the church initially called it an opportunity, then unwise, then wrong. Eventually Driscoll removed the designation of NYTs best selling author from his bio. What should other authors do who have used this scheme? What should publishers do? At Crossway, there doesn’t seem to be any problem with understanding the ramifications.
 
Excerpt from the contract between Mars Hill Church and ResultSource. The entire contract is here.
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For another inside look at ResultSource in the context of business publishing, see Jeffrey Trachtenberg’s article.

Did David Jeremiah Use ResultSource to Make the New York Times Bestseller List?

During the week of October 21, 2012, David Jeremiah’s book God Loves You debuted at #5 on the New York Times Hardcover and Advice Bestseller List. It remained on the list for four weeks falling off the list during the week of November 18. In the Acknowledgments section of the book, Jeremiah credited ResultSource CEO, Kevin Small, for being the genius behind the plan to get the book “before as many readers as possible.”
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As we now know, in the case of former Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll, working with Small to market his book meant buying his way on to the bestseller list. Mars Hill’s contract with ResultSource called for the purchase of thousands of books in ways that made it appear that the books were being purchased by individuals. Did David Jeremiah, his church, or his Turning Point ministry make a similar arrangement? I asked Turning Point three times about this beginning early last week but received no answer.
According to an internal Mars Hill Church memo on ResultSource I have obtained, ResultSource CEO Kevin Small outlined the details of the preparation for a New York Times Bestseller campaign to Mars Hill Church’s executive elders in June 2011. One part of the strategy was to set up a website to solicit donations in exchange for a book. The pitch in the case of Real Marriage was that the Mars Hill Church member could donate over $25 to get a free book with any profits going to the church. However, since the books had to be purchased at retail, not much actual profit went to the church. Mark Driscoll’s staff warned about how it would look if the ResultSource deal was ever discovered.
According to the same memo, Kevin Small told Mars Hill executive elders that he would contact Turning Point’s* Paul Joiner to “provide the insight into constructing a donor campaign that will result in a higher donation than book cost.” Mars Hill constructed such a donor campaign, even though, according to insiders, very few donations were made which meant that many books had to be purchased by Mars Hill at retail cost via ResultSource. Since Kevin Small called on Joiner to help Driscoll with a bestseller campaign, Joiner apparently has experience doing it. David Jeremiah credited Joiner with “incredible creativity” to drive the process, and Small, who Jeremiah has worked with since at least 2006, with the “genius behind the plan.”
An unanswered question is: What was the plan? We know what Driscoll did; did Jeremiah do the same thing? He hasn’t answered.
I have obtained information which indicates that other Christian authors have used ResultSource to crack the NYT list. I will post more on this topic throughout the week. I also have reaction from a Christian publisher and the New York Times.
*Turning Point is David Jeremiah’s broadcast ministry.
(An earlier version of this post was published by mistake. I regret the confusion)