Some books are born to greatness, some achieve greatness, and apparently others have greatness thrust upon them in the form of an Amazon gift card.
This hasn’t gotten much play yet outside of California news blogs, but it should. When GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner’s memoir (Mount Pleasant: What Happened When I Traded a Silicon Valley Board Room for an Inner City Classroom) hit the NY Times bestseller list last month, not a few people were puzzled; as a new posting on the San Jose Mercury news blog puts it, “No. 5 on the Times’ best-seller list? According to local bookstores, it wasn’t even selling well in the Bay Area.”
They weren’t the only ones surprised. As early as April 9th, Chris Reed of the San Diego Union Tribune wondered out loud if Poizner lackeys were buying and dumping books to pump up sales figures. Sure enough, this curious comment turned up at the bottom of the column:
Unfortunately for Poizner, one of those “lucky” recipients — maybe even that very one — put on their deerstalker cap and started sleuthing. Let’s go to Capitol Weekly of Sacramento, shall we?
In early April, Matthew Donnellan received a copy of Steve Poizner’s new memoir, “Mount Pleasant,” in the mail from Amazon.com. But the San Diego area college student, who is active in local Republican clubs, said he never ordered the book… The Amazon representative he reached told him the book was purchased with a gift card — and that card had also been used to buy copies of “Mount Pleasant” for 249 other people, all of whom had first names that began with “M.”…
The actual card was paid for by one Mat Miller, of the San Diego-based firm Pink Moon Media. The same person told Donnellan that Miller bought “a number” of other gift cards. The name “Mat Miller” also pops up on Google as a contact for ResultSource, Inc. This Carlsbad-based company bills itself as “The leader in book marketing and thought-leadership promotion.” The company’s website offers to “Let ResultSource launch your next book as a New York Times Bestseller…”
Interestingly, if Poizner or the campaign had bought “author’s copies” directly from the publisher, they would not have shown up on sales figures. But by buying them from Amazon, the copies would register on the Times’ figures.
According to the Secretary of State’s CalAccess website, there have been no payments by the Poizner campaign to Pink Moon or ResultSource. However, if payments came after April 1, they won’t appear until the Q2 campaign results are posted in July. If they were paid for by Poizner personally or some private party not officially affiliated with the campaign, they wouldn’t show up at all.
Ah-ha. That would appear to be these gentlemen here.
Not only do the sales figures look suspicious, so does what’s inside the book. Poizner’s a billionaire who ventures into a bad-ass neighborhood that seems to exist primarily inside his skull — right down to some basic factual errors about what’s even in the neighborhood itself.
Ira Glass called bullshit on Poizner last week in a This American Life segment:
Ira Glass: So I ran all of this by Steve Poizner – the tidy houses, the golf course, what I did not smell in the parking lot.
Ira Glass: Are you overplaying the desperate poverty of this neighborhood?
Steve Poizner: No, I don’t think so. I mean, it’s definitely not like some inner city areas. And I don’t know, what you described doesn’t strike me as the neighborhood I was at. I mean, at least in 2002 and 2003, the neighborhood is rough-and-tumble. In that there’s definitely a lot of crime, and no question lower income. And there’s a lot of, you know, signs that people were struggling economically. That’s why the crime statistics for surrounding the school – you know you can get those from the San Jose Police Department, like I did – and we definitely documented that not only did it appear to be a rough up and coming area, but the police will tell you that too.
Ira Glass: So we went to the police, and they informed us that no, the neighborhood around Mt. Pleasant high school is NOT especially dangerous or crime ridden. It’s average for San Jose. And while San Jose might have a reputation in the richer suburbs around it for being sketchy, and definitely was more dangerous in the ‘70s and ‘80s, a police spokesman told us that view is out of date, an urban myth. According to FBI statistics, San Jose is one of the safest cities in the country. There were 371 violent crimes per 100,000 people in San Jose in 2003, the year Poizner was there. You’d be more likely to be a victim of violent crime in Austin, Texas, or Seattle or Phoenix or Columbus, Ohio or San Francisco. When it came to property crime that year, you were more than twice as likely to have something stolen from you in Honolulu, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco or nearly any big city you can name.
Well, without any more dummies to buy Poizner’s book — I mean that figuratively, of course — just one month after hitting #5 on the Times bestseller list, Mount Pleasant is now slumbering at #12,494 on Amazon.