On Friday Mars Hill posted an announcement where they assured us that Mark Driscoll “did not profit from the Real Marriage books sold … through the Result Source marketing campaign.” At the time, I found the statement difficult to believe, because the whole point of the $210,000 “investment” was surely to profit from it.
Even if Driscoll gave back every penny from sales and commissions purchased with the $210k, he still profited from the buzz and increased sales that a #1 ranking on the Times generated. Publishers understand the sales boost that can come from such a listing and sometimes offer authors bonuses if their books appear on important bestseller lists.
By tracking the Amazon sales rank of Real Marriage, we can actually see the effects of the bestseller listing. Using archives of Amazon’s Real Marriage page, I tracked the book’s overall Amazon sales rank over the first six months after it was officially published (Jan 3, 2012). Given Amazon’s massive market share of books sold in the United States, it’s a good analog for overall sales in all retail outlets.
We can see that after about a month and a half, sales started to decline rather rapidly, though are temporarily reversed by Mark and Grace Driscoll’s appearances on The View, CNN and Fox & Friends on March 5, 62 days into the book’s release. We can also see how various Real Marriage conferences over the summer helped drive sales in the third and fourth months. (This isn’t a criticism, it’s just to help explain why the chart changes over time.)
If we zoom in on the first six weeks, we see how the Times’ listing halted the overall downward sales trend.
The book starts at #5, driven mainly by the pent-up orders that had been arranged by Result Source, though starts to fall precipitously in the first week. On Day 6, it is ranked 84, though recovers to #53 on Day 11. Not coincidentally, the Times published the previous week’s rankings on its website on Day 10 (Jan 13) on which Real Marriage is #1 on the Hardcover Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous list. The buzz from that designation drew attention and sales to the book, bringing its ranking back up. (One remarkable aspect of the listing is that Result Source so effectively masked the sales effort that the book doesn’t earn the dagger symbol, as we’ve seen on some of Furtick’s books, to warn us that the result might be from bulk sales.)
Over the course of the next week, the book again starts to lose traction, but gets a second bump from the book’s appearance at the top of the list when it’s actually printed in the paper on Jan 22. We can see the effect on Amazon, where the book vaults back up to at least #32 (it may have been higher, but the archive doesn’t capture every day), and we also see the effect on the Times’ list itself, where the book reappears on the web-only listing in the #12 position for Feb 12, covering sales in the week after the printed list appeared. The book stayed in the #12 position for one more week before falling away permanently.
After the two NYT bumps, the book starts to lose its ranking rapidly. If we take a snapshot of the sales that are generated immediately after the #1 listing, we can see there’s a window of sales activity where the Times list has temporarily suspended the gravitation pull that started in week 1. I’ve indicated that window with a green box in the chart above.
We can say, then, that the Times list sustained the book at an Amazon sales rank of about 50 for 16 days. Using the same calculations that I used when estimating Steven Furtick’s book income, we can assume that he is selling about 1,500 books per day on Amazon. Assuming that Amazon represents a quarter of all books sold, that means that Driscoll sold 96,000 books inside that 16-day window that he would not have sold without the Result Source campaign.
Assuming that Driscoll’s holding company makes the standard 15 percent author’s commission on the cover price of $22.99, those extra 16 days of sales netted him $330,000. (See update below for an alternative formula.)
If we take those calculations just a little bit further and assume that ABC, CNN and Fox News would not have invited the Driscolls on their shows if his book had not been a bestseller, we can also roughly calculate the value of the bump we see between Days 64 and 90. The interview on The View was on March 5, and on March 6 the book ranked 348, but by March 8 it had jumped back to 100. By April 4 it was back to 397. Assuming an average sales rank of 200 for those 26 days gives us 13,000 additional sales, netting the Driscolls $180,000 more.
The $210,000 that the church spent had the immediate and direct effect of boosting Mark Driscoll’s earnings by $330,000, with an indirect effect of earning $180,000 more based on the buzz that led to the media interviews, for a total of just over a half million dollars.
By my calculations, Mark Driscoll used $210,000 of other people’s money to earn $510,000 for himself. That is why the Result Source campaign was initially considered an “investment,” but didn’t became “unwise” until just last week.
UPDATE (3/11/14): A credible publishing professional has suggested an alternate formula for calculating royalties based on 25 percent of net receipts, which is essentially the same as the wholesale price. So if the book were sold to a retailer for $12, Driscoll would earn $3 on the sale. My calculations were based on a lower percentage of a higher sales price (15 percent of retail, creating a commission of $3.45 per book), so the alternate calculation — assuming the same volume calculated above — would yield earnings of $444,000.