NewSpring contracted with Result Source to “market” Perry Noble’s first book, a New York Times best seller, a spokesperson for NewSpring church confirmed today. According to NewSpring’s public relations director, Susanne Swift, the church paid $30,000 for the service and purchased 11,000 copies of Unleash! “for use in our Resource Centers and for other uses.”
Result Source markets itself as a tool guaranteeing authors a listing on the New York Times best seller list. Noble’s book was indeed listed in the #2 position of the Advice, How-To, & Miscellaneous list on October 7, 2012, for sales in the week after it was released. It did not appear on the list again.
Swift, who was responding to questions I had sent to her yesterday, said that Noble’s literary agent had recommended Result Source and that the church treated it as a marketing expense.
“Authors and publishers have a wide range of opinions about how money should be allocated between book marketing and promotion vs book advertising—all with the goal of getting a book into as many hands as possible,” she said.
Swift noted that all of the profits from subsequent sales of those 11,000 books were kept by the church, and that Noble had “given 100% of all money made on Unleash!, including advances and future royalties to NewSpring.”
The 11,000 is exactly the same number of purchases required by Mark Driscoll’s Result Source contract, and those books were purchased at a discount of 14 percent off the full retail price. Assuming the same discount rate for Noble’s hardcover book, which initially sold at $16.49, purchasing the 11,000 copies cost the church $156,000, for a total campaign cost of $186,000.
Swift said that NewSpring decided not to use Result Source for Noble’s forthcoming book, Overwhelmed, and was relying on social media and word of mouth to market the books.
NewSpring has already purchased 5,000 copies of Overwhelmed at Noble’s author’s discount, with the profits from those sales going to the church, Swift said. “NewSpring has benefitted many tens of thousands of dollars as a result of this arrangement—money that Perry Noble would otherwise be entitled to earn,” she said.
First, I am grateful to Ms. Swift for her prompt and detailed answers to my questions about Perry Noble’s book sales. She surely knows that this news will embroil Noble in the same controversy that Mark Driscoll and Steven Furtick have found themselves in lately, yet she was forthright in her answers even though she had no obligation to respond to my query. I am impressed and thankful for her, Noble’s and NewSpring’s transparency on this issue.
Ms. Swift’s response to my inquiry was generous, which makes it more difficult for me to criticize Noble and NewSpring for what we learn from this news. Nevertheless, this does make them a party to the same kind of manipulations that we have been seeing and criticizing in Driscoll and Furtick. So, briefly, here are a few things to think about:
Inurement. NewSpring church used money that was donated to it as a charitable entity with tax exempt status to purchase a commercial product created by its senior pastor. In the instance of Unleash!, even though money went to the church, Noble still benefitted from the enhanced reputation that comes with NYT bestseller status. He becames a more attractive and valuable conference speaker, for which he will earn speaking fees for the rest of his public life. He has also used the bestseller status to market his second book, the proceeds of which are going to Noble personally, by proclaiming Noble as a New York Times bestselling author above the book’s title. Noble benefitted personally from the church’s spending on his behalf, constituting inurement, which is illegal and places the church’s tax exempt status at risk.
Ethics. Mark Driscoll and his church have been removing references to him being a NYT bestseller because we have all discovered that such a claim is deceptive. Noble’s conference bios, his Facebook profile, and the marketing site for his new book advertise him as a NYT bestselling author. Just as with Driscoll, this would not have been true without extraordinary manipulation of the market at the church’s expense. As Throckmorton is reporting, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has declared such manipulation to be unethical and deceptive. NewSpring is not a member of ECFA.
Independent manipulation. Although NewSpring is not using Result Source for his second book, they appear to be following the same script to achieve the same ends without having to pay the $30,000 fee. Of the 11,000 books that Result Source required Driscoll to purchase, 5,000 were to be purchased by the church in bulk. It seems more than just coincidence that NewSpring has already purchased 5,000 copies of Overwhelmed, just weeks before its release. Perhaps they also know they can generate 6,000 individual sales on their own to reach the critical mass necessary for a NYT listing for his second book.
Elevation Church has also stated that it did not use a service like Result Source for Chatterbox, even though the result — a fleeting NYT appearance (it appeared at #19 out of 20 for one week only) — was the same as Driscoll’s and Noble’s books.
Wastefulness. NewSpring purchased those 11,000 for its Resource Centers and “other uses.” If resource center is another name for a book store, it is not well promoted. A Google search for “newspring resource center” turned up no results. The Unleash! marketing site and the Overwhelmed site only offer purchasing options through commercial outlets like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The church’s annual report for 2012 also does not indicate either expenses or income related to the purchase and sale of the book.
With 11,000 books waiting to be profited from, shouldn’t we see an online opportunity to purchase books directly from the church? If you’re a NewSpring member, wouldn’t you prefer to buy from the church so that your profit went to God, not to Jeff Bezos of Amazon? I have no record of Noble telling his NewSpring members to wait to purchase his books only from the church. (If he has done this, please point us to it in the comments.)
What are the “other uses”? It seems almost certain that NewSpring, Elevation, Mars Hill and who knows how many other churches have storerooms full of unread books by their pastor authors. For NewSpring to have actually sold these books, every single family at the church would have had to purchase at least one directly from the church. That is unlikely, especially when they are still being encouraged to buy from other retailers.
The statement from NewSpring
For context and completeness, here is the unedited text of NewSpring’s statement regarding Result Source and its book marketing:
NewSpring did purchase copies of Unleash!, approximately 11,000 for use in our Resource Centers and for other uses – though some of these would not count toward any best seller list calculations since they were purchased in bulk. As with any book of his, the church keeps any profit from books sold at the church. Perry enables the church to make more money than it otherwise would because the church can purchase using Perry’s author discount. In addition to this, Perry decided to give 100% of all money made on Unleash!, including advances and future royalties to NewSpring.
We (NewSpring) have also purchased about 5,000 copies of Overwhelmed, also using Perry’s author discount, with NewSpring retaining all profits from these sales. NewSpring has benefitted many tens of thousands of dollars as a result of this arrangement—money that Perry Noble would otherwise be entitled to earn.
We did, at the recommendation of Perry’s literary agent, hire Result Source to help market Unleash. We viewed the $30,000 we paid this company as part of the marketing budget for the book, though we chose not to use this service (from Result Source or any other outside company) for the upcoming book, Overwhelmed. Authors and publishers have a wide range of opinions about how money should be allocated between book marketing and promotion vs book advertising—all with the goal of getting a book into as many hands as possible. We are probably relying more on word-of-mouth and social media now than anything else to market books.