Steven Furtick’s promotional efforts for his forthcoming Crash the Chatterbox book reveal one of his tricks for generating the important first-week sales to get the book on the New York Times bestseller list.
The details are described in a special-offer page on the book’s promotional website. If you purchase his book from an online retailer before it’s officially released, his publisher will send you a free copy a month or two later. If you purchase 100 from the retailer, they’ll send you another hundred for free. To take advantage of the offer, you must place your order by February 10, the day before the book’s official release.
On the book’s promotional site, the special offer is only mentioned on the page offering $49 study packs. If you go to the regular order page, the BOGO offer isn’t mentioned. Why not? Because customers for the packs are most likely to be churches, and some churches can be counted on to buy bucket loads of books, not just one or two at a time.
Fair enough, I suppose, to try to get as many books into the hands of church leaders as possible at half price. Steven Furtick wants to spread his spiritual insights to as many believers as he can, surely. What’s interesting is why you have to get the order in two allotments, one in mid-February from a brand-name store, and one in March or April from the publisher. Why not just offer 200 books for half price and ship them all from the publisher at once. If you want 200 books for a group to study, you can’t start until the second shipment arrives, so why bother with the two-step dance?
Because Mr. Furtick needs your big order for the New York Times.
As described in another post, the trick is to sell enough books in the first week to get onto one of the Times‘ bestseller lists, after which the book can fall off it, but you can market yourself and your book forever after as NYT bestsellers, as Perry Noble does, and as the cover of the Chatterbox book unabashedly does.
Here’s how it works:
Book retailers report their weekly sales to the Times by noon on Tuesdays. Well, noon is the absolute latest they can report, though most submit their reports on Monday night, as the newspaper encourages them to do. They can only report actual sales, though, not pre-orders, so any pre-orders must be included in the report after the book is actually available for physical sale and distribution.
February 10, the last day you can get Furtick’s BOGO offer, is a Monday. Because the book can’t be distributed until the next day, those sales cannot be included the retailers’ reports that evening. On Tuesday, once the reports have been sent to the Times, the stores start counting again for the report they’ll submit on Tuesday, Feb 18. That count will include all the Chatterbox sales that week PLUS all the preorders that are being generated now. By heavily promoting preorders, Steven Furtick can count a month or more of sales in a single week.
Such is the value of the bump that preorders provide in giving a book a leg-up onto the bestseller list, that the publisher and author are willing to take a loss on bulk orders so that they have the long-term leverage of being able to attach the bestseller list to Furtick’s new book.
I predict that the book will show up on the list for one week in February, after which we’ll never see it there again. All of his megapastor friends have helped the marketing effort by providing You-Must-Read-This-Amazing-Book blurbs, so you know that they also understand the need to boost the first-week sales for the Times, so many are likely also obliging by ordering bulk quantities of cheap books through the special two-step offer. Not surprisingly, all the members of Furtick’s out-of-town compensation committee (Noble, Graham, Weems, and Gerald) have provided quotes full of praise for the book. Lysa TerKeurst, who attends Elevation and whose Proverbs 31 organization was paid $55,000 from Elevation’s funds in 2012, is another featured promoter.
If any of these churches offer Chatterbox for sale to their members, this would be how it’s done. The church orders 100 from Amazon at full price, then gets another 100 from the publisher for free, meaning they have 100 copies at half price. Even if they sell them at a discount from the list price, the church/store still makes a profit of up to $2,000. (Here’s a cached example of Steven Gerald, a member of Furtick’s salary team, selling a Furtick DVD through his church’s store.)
It’s all very cozy, though one of the ironies of all this manipulation is that it contradicts the premise of the book, which is to help readers overcome their fear of failure and rejection. Pastor Furtick and his publisher are taking whatever steps they can to ensure that this book doesn’t fail.
When you’re supposed to be building multi-million dollar mansions with these books, failure isn’t an option.
UPDATE (2/6/13): A sharp-eyed PP commentator noticed that Furtick and his publisher have massaged the Buy-One, Get-One offer to load up even more sales in that first week. Instead of only offering BOGO for pre-sales, they’ll send you duplicates for anything ordered until February 14, the Friday immediately following the book’s release. The reason is to be found in the NYT instructions:
Please report between Friday after 5 pm or anytime over the weekend until Tuesday at noon EST.
Bookstores start reporting sales to the Times at the end of the day on Friday, so Furtick needs all his BOGO sales to be concluded by then to make sure they all count. Their original Monday deadline probably came from a misunderstanding of the process. So long as they don’t release the physical book until Tuesday so the pre-orders carry over into the release week, they can keep massaging sales with the free offer all the way through to Friday. Any sales after then will just be wasted on the second week, when they’re obviously anticipating a precipitous decline in sales.