What’s wrong with buying your way onto the bestseller list?

March 14, 2014 | Written by Chip MacGregor

Last week I made a point of saying that I think a guy who buys his way onto the bestseller lists is a weasel, and I had a bunch of people write to ask me why. This is a worthwhile topic for everyone in publishing, so let me offer some background…

Mark Driscoll pastors a large church in Seattle. Last fall he was accused of plagiarizing the words of another author, Peter Jones, in his latest book, and in addition there were other examples given of him plagiarizing, including pages of text recreated  word-for-word from a Bible commentary and stuck into one of the church’s publications. The people at Driscoll’s church made the situation worse, first claiming it was okay because one of the obviously plagiarized documents had never been sold, then changing their story when it turns out it had indeed been sold, but saying they hadn’t made much, then blaming it all on un unnamed research assistant (even though it had Mark Driscoll’s name on it), then taking pains to criticize the “haters” instead of owning up to their own ignorance and laziness. The whole thing was a mess. Driscoll clearly plagiarized (whether you want to cut him slack and call it something else), and his publisher examined the book and released a statement that admitted there were “inadequate citations,” but defending him for handling the situation well. In the end, the entire mess faded away. I was a bit surprised, since I’ve seen books get cancelled and editorial careers get ruined over less than this. Still, we all moved on.

Until last week, when it was revealed that Rev. Driscoll had paid a marketing firm, ResultSource, more than $200,000 to get his book onto the New York Time bestseller list. The scheme included hiring people to purchase 6000 copies of the book in bookstores, then ordering another 5000 copies in bulk. They even made sure to use more than 1000 different payment methods, so BookScan couldn’t track all the purchases back to a single source. In other words, they cheated to manipulate the system, got the book onto the list (for that one week), and did it so that Driscoll can refer to himself as “a New York Times bestselling author.”

I was critical of him for doing it, since I don’t think gaming the system is the right thing to do. It’s unfair. It’s lazy. It’s dishonest. And it’s basically nothing more than rampant egotism. But I had several people write to me, or post on Facebook, that this is common practice. A couple people said “everybody is doing it,” and some claimed “publishers are doing that all the time.” My response: Bullshit. Sorry if that offends, but we need to call it what it is. This is NOT standard practice. Everybody is NOT doing it. I used to be an associate publisher with Time-Warner, and this is not something we ever did, nor could I conceive of us doing it. I’ve also worked with every one of the Big Six publishers, as well as dozens of smaller publishers and every CBA publishing house, and I’ve never known one of the respectable legacy publishers to pull this sort of schtick.

Are the bestseller lists rigged? Perhaps, to a small degree — certainly Amazon seems to include an inordinate number of their own titles on the Amazon bestseller lists, and occasionally we’ll all be surprised at how a book with modest sales somehow wound up on a bestseller list because of the strange (and secret) way some of them account for the books. But for the most part, the books showing up on the lists are there because of sales. Honest, straightforward sales. Sometimes we get shocked when a crappy book (say, for example, Fifty Shades of Gray) suddenly starts showing up everywhere — but it showed up because, in spite of the boring story and fourth-grade writing ability, the book SOLD. Like it or not, that book wasn’t snuck onto a list dishonestly. Um… do we really want a PASTOR cheating his way onto the NYT list? And, matched with the fact that his name was on books that he now claims he didn’t actually write, what does that say about the guy? 

I find the whole thing incredibly lazy, and was shocked to discover the church itself admitted they didn’t know if church funds had been used to pay the bill. (Really? They spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars to stroke the author’s ego, and they don’t know where the money came from? Let’s just say that stretches the bounds of credulity.) This is the sort of news that is bound to come out, and will hurt you, since it demonstrates your laziness and need for attention. So no, I’m not one of those in the “he’s just spreading the Good News camp.” That’s baloney. If Mark Driscoll just wanted to spread the good news, he could have purchased $200,000 worth of books and given them away. This was done to make himself feel important, and in doing so, he does potential damage to honest authors, who work to write and market their books.

So today Mark Driscoll admits, in an interview in Charisma, the scheme was cooked up and a bad idea… but, of course, he’s not to blame. Nope. He explained that “outside counsel advised us to use ResultSource.” So those pesky outside counselors are to blame, like that pesky unnamed research assistant who plagiarized is to blame. Not Mark. Not the guy with his name all over stuff. Huh-uh. Instead, his board made a statement that they appreciate his “endurance through false accusation.” Um… excuse me, but what exactly was the FALSE part? His book contains the un-cited work of another writer, which his own publisher acknowledged was inappropriate  He had clearly plagiarized materials with his name on it. A company was paid a pile of money to pump his book and dishonestly get it onto bestseller lists. Those are all facts. What exactly is the “false” part? Well, except for the part where Mark claims he actually wrote any of this, I mean. I’m fairly certain that part is false. 

What’s wrong with buying your way onto the bestseller list? It’s an expensive, short-term ego stroke for the lazy and dishonest, and it excludes real writers from actually making the list. My two cents.

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You can find out more information on Mark Driscoll, plagiarism, and buying your way onto a bestseller list by going to World Magazine, Slate, the blaze.com, and the writings of Warren Throckmorton. You could probably also go to Mark Driscoll’s site, but be aware that, even though it has his name on it, he probably didn’t write it, and if there are errors it’s somebody else’s fault. 

 

Posted in Author News, Deals, Books, CBA, Collaborating and Ghosting, Current Affairs, Deep Thoughts, Publishing, Questions from Beginners, Religion, The Business of Writing, Trends

113 Comments to “What’s wrong with buying your way onto the bestseller list?”

  1. Dale S. Rogers:

    I’m sorry to hear those reports about a pastor, and I can’t believe anyone would think for a moment that it’s all right to plagiarize or to buy onto a bestseller list.

  2. Lisa Samson:

    Aww, poor guy . . .

  3. Chip, although I might have moderated my tone a bit, I agree with your assessment of this situation and your opinion on the practice. Thanks for sharing.

    • chipmacgregor:

      You’re a much nicer person than I am, Richard.

    • Louis Grizzle:

      Moderated?
      That’s the problem – everyone is pussyfooting around while this stuff just ends up getting “swept under the rug” and folks forget about it. “Let’s move on, shall we?”

      • chipmacgregor:

        Yeah, I think there’s been quite a bit of that with Mr Driscoll, Louis. The stories coming out now (about changing his history, and firing other people, and taking control of things) show his in a different light. Maybe people aren’t as willing to sweep it under the rug.

  4. Marion Laird:

    It kind of reminds me of an old episode of “Fantasy Island,” where the guy’s fantasy was to be a bestselling author without having actually written anything. (And the resultant mess, because he didn’t specify what kind of book he wanted to have “authored.”) Only this is no fantasy, and I think perhaps certain people (naming no names) need prayer from those who wouldn’t stoop to those tactics.

    • chipmacgregor:

      I’m way too young to remember Fantasy Island, Marion. Especially the part where Hector Villachez raced around shouting, “De plane! De plane!”

  5. katdish:

    I don’t care if “everyone is doing it” or not, gaming the system is never okay to me. It’s one of those non-negotiables when it comes to my kids. It’s why my son doesn’t use “performance enhancers” even though many of the football players he knows (high school age!) use them regularly. I wish the old adage that “Cheaters never win” was true. Sadly, that’s not the case anymore. But if character counts for nothing anymore, then neither does winning. For me, anyway.

  6. Guest:

    I heard that argument too, “everyone’s doing it.” I thought, Hmmm, I don’t know of ONE author who has ever done that. Besides who would have the money to do such a thing?

    • chipmacgregor:

      Who would have money? Apparently the pastor of a megachurch, my friend. So here’s our new plan… First, you go start a megachurch. Second, I’ll call the publishers…

    • charlesmhamm:

      Who would have the money? CBS (S&S). Bertelsmann (Random Penguin). Lagardère (Hachette). Holtzbrinck (Macmillan). News Corp (HarperCollins).

      No, not everybody does it. But the fact that there is more than one firm offering this service indicates that it is regularly used.

  7. A much-needed reality check for Christian publishing. Thanks Chip!

  8. Ann Shorey:

    Thanks for this, Chip. The whole mess saddens me. A pastor. His church defending him. Mysterious funding. And him refusing to accept a particle of responsibility.

    • chipmacgregor:

      Yeah… to be fair, the publisher at Tyndale (whom I like and trust) says that Mark Driscoll has accepted responsibility. I was, uh, disappointed in their response. When I was at Time-Warner, we had an author get caught lifting big chunks of text for her novel. The book was pulled. The contract was cancelled. The editor, who should have caught it, was axed. (That just happened again with another line.) So I was surprised at nothing coming of this besides a statement that acknowledged there were citation errors. If you’re interested in this, check out http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/11/flunking-mark-driscoll-for-plagiarism/
      which blows the lid off of Mark’s work.

  9. Jenny Blake:

    As a reader thanks for bringing this to light. my mind can not fathom a church having any part of this and maybe spending that amount of money to stroke a ministers ego. If our church had that sort of money or even a tenth of it about what we need to function we would not be using it for that sort of thing but for out reach and supporting mission work, but the think that gets me the most is they blame others and don’t take responsibility and even the publisher really doesn’t take responsibility, could he be paying the publisher to publish his books?

    • chipmacgregor:

      Yeah… nobody is really talking about the money, Jenny. In fact, Mr Driscoll’s church basically pooh-poohed it, saying they were going to spend money to promote their pastor’s book. But, um, they still haven’t said where the money came from, or why they felt they needed to spent $200,000. I don’t know ANYBODY spending that kind of money on marketing.

      • Rebecca Lynn:

        This man has done so much damage to my faith. I was a member at one his Acts 29 churches. After questioning alot of nonsense that was going on my husband and my children and I were all walked out with a police escort. We are still healing from this. Acts 29 pastors are taught to do this to anyone that speaks out, all of our materials came from Mars Hill including the ones they now say were taken from that bible commentary. I am sincerely hoping he continues to implode until he is forced to step down. About three months after we left our Mark Driscoll fanboy pastor threw the church into bancruptcy and now the building sits empty. But if you go to the Mars Hill website we are still listed as a successful church plant! sigh.

        • chipmacgregor:

          Gosh, Rebecca, I’m so sorry. You were walked out of church by a police escort? Um… really? That sounds like a story.

          • Rebecca Lynn:

            Our story is out there on the web. We even saved the letters our church sent out warning folks NOT to speak to us. And the letter they sent to us telling us we were no longer allowed to attend. There are many,many, more stories out there like ours. These churches in the network have a standard procedure for dealing with anyone who have any questions. I live in a small town and four years later I still see people from our old church that turn around and walk away. Over six hundred letters sent out with a list of our sins is out there making our lives hell to this day, they were sent out to all members even those who had stopped going. The Wartburg Watch is a blog with my story is detailed. I hope one day this kind of behavior will be illegal.

          • chipmacgregor:

            Wow. I would agree — that sort of behavior should be illegal, Rebecca. I’m really sorry to read this.

          • Ronald Pant:

            Mrs. Lynn do you have a link? I would be very interested in seeing those letters. I am currently having a discussion with some of my fellow Christians whom seem to adore this man. I am saying that I have always felt something is off with him and that time will reveal his true nature.

          • Rebecca Lynn:

            If you go to the Wartburg Watch site and look up my story it is in their archives. There are three or four stories about my situation there, the closing of my church and copies of the letters sent out to us and the church. I don’t know how to post links sorry. It is all there however along with some stories from others at that church.

  10. Great stuff as always, Chip. To me what’s most telling about this whole train wreck is Mr. Driscoll, who’s supposedly one of the manliest men in the world (go ahead and ask him; he’ll tell you), simply cannot own what he did. If this guy’s a pastor, I’m a tater tot.

    • chipmacgregor:

      There’s a bunch more stuff coming out today, John. He’s now saying he won’t use “New York Times Bestselling author” in his bio. (Whoopie.) But he still won’t take responsibility. It’s always someone else’s fault.

  11. Did you read their statement of “governance changes” and the establishment of a “Board of Advisors & Accountability?” It seems, since all their church elders are also paid staff, that they needed more objective perspectives to keep them all in check. The whole thing is weird. More than that, it’s disappointing.

    • chipmacgregor:

      It is weird, Tanya. A bunch of other stuff is being brought to light now — problems from past years. Apparently there are a LOT of folks in Seattle unhappy with Mr Driscoll. (You can put me on the list, but it’s for something that has not been reported anywhere.)

  12. Jane Gaugler Daly:

    Appalling. I can’t think of anything else to say.

  13. Elaine Marie Cooper:

    Pride and power seem to be frequent companions. I hope Pastor Driscoll is wearing a parachute before he dives off a cliff of conceit. I must remember to pray for him and his congregation. I’ve sat in the seats in such churches before and it is an unsettling and wounding experience to be led down such paths in the name of serving Christ.

  14. Louis Grizzle:

    Over $200,000 ?!!!!!

    • chipmacgregor:

      Yes. That’s a lot of money, Louis. In case you’re interested you could burnish MY ego for, oh, maybe $20,000. A ninety percent savings over Pastor Mark!

  15. Bryan Davis:

    Chip, this is a bit of a tangent. What do you think about the practice
    of trying to get a temporarily high Amazon ranking by asking people to
    buy a book from Amazon on a set day? Some call it an Amazon blitz. It seems to me to be somewhat deceptive, since such a ranking inflates the real popularity of a book.

    An Amazon blitz might not be on the same level of Mr. Driscoll’s escapade, especially with regard to financial misappropriation, but is it the same principle, that is, to inflate public perception of popularity?

    • Chip may reply to this, Bryan, but in my opinion it is different because those are actual individuals buying a book with their own money, compared to one individual pretending to be thousands of different people buying the book. It’s no different that setting a low introductory price on a book to encourage sales at release date for the same reason.

      Coming from a marketing background, we would have considered an Amazon blitz to be good marketing while what Driscoll did is flat out fraud. Just my $0.02.

    • chipmacgregor:

      Asking people to go to Amazon and pre-order a copy, or to all go on the same day (usually the release day) to buy the book is a legit practice, in my view. Why? Because all of those folks are actually going and buying the book, Bryan. Hiring people to go buy it? Um… taking it too far. And all you have to know is that they purposefully tried to hide what they were doing — so it’s clear they knew this was unethical.

      • Bryan Davis:

        I realize that an Amazon blitz differs from what Mr. Driscoll did in a number of ways. I am not claiming that they are the same level.

        My point is that a blitz is an effort to manipulate a best-seller ranking in a way that inflates the number beyond what it would normally be. This seems to me to be an effort to make the sales look like they are higher than they really are normally, which would be deceptive.

        • chipmacgregor:

          Again, I see them as totally different things, Bryan. Asking everybody you know, or everybody who is likely to buy your book, to go to Amazon or B&N the first day and purchase a copy seems legit. I don’t think that’s “inflating,” so much as “selling copies.” But contracting a firm to hire people (people who don’t know about you and would not normally have purchased your book) to go out and buy a copy with funds from the firm, is simply dishonest. Again, there’s a difference between legit marketing and gaming the system, in my view.

  16. Vincent zandri:

    Great post Chip.If you recall I was approached by one of these “publicity firms” this past October when The Remains was really hitting it in the charts. The rep told me that with just a “slight nudge” he could get placed on the NYTimes List. Of course, that nudge was going to cost me $14,000. As much as I wanted that moniker, “Vincent Zandri, NYTimes Bestselling Author,” I could never live with myself for cheating. I told him to buzz off.

    • chipmacgregor:

      Thanks, Vince. For those not in the know, this would be Vince Zandri, who IS A REAL BESTSELLING AUTHOR. Readers of thriller novels already know him, and you’ll all be seeing his name on the major bestseller lists again in a couple days. Vince goes about it the right way — writing good books, working hard at marketing, and connecting with readers and people in the industry. The guy has forged a good career, which is starting to take off. Appreciate you coming on to comment, Vince.

  17. Tim:

    Hey Chip, I see how unethical it is but here is my question; isn’t there a practical aspect to making the list? Like increased visibility for sales or future book deals? Or as a speaker being able to say NY Times bestseller? I’m not defending the action, just moving beyond ego to business as a question.

    • chipmacgregor:

      Sure there is, Tim. The biggest is what you mention: the ability to put “NYT bestselling author” on your bio. But do you really want to buy your way to it? Wouldn’t that always strike you as unfair? Wouldn’t you feel like a fraud?

      • Tim:

        Personally, I wouldn’t want to get my ‘win’ that way and I am saddened that Driscoll of all people would too. Unfortunately, unless it’s made to be a really big deal that lasts in people’s minds, NYT bestseller moniker stays and the stigma fades outside of your own personal hauntings. And if it is becoming more common, eventually it will cheapen the title to the point of being meaningless.
        People want success any way possible, its the Kardashian Effect.

  18. Cheryl Russell:

    What keeps going through my head is Jesus’s teaching you can’t serve both God and money-one must take precedence.

  19. Steve W:

    Great post! I agree and I was already planning a blog on the same topic – now I’ll just save time and fwd people here instead… oh wait, I have another idea… maybe I’ll just cut-and-paste your post into my blog, tell people I wrote it, and when I get called out for plagiarism I can say that it’s okay because you didn’t sell access to your page… yeah, that’s what I’ll do :P

  20. Ann Tatlock:

    I agree with you completely, Chip. Right down to your assessment that “everyone is doing it” is a bunch of bovine scatology. Good for you for telling it like it is.

    • chipmacgregor:

      Thanks, Ann. (And for those who don’t know, that would be two-time Christy winner Ann Tatlock — one of the best novelists in CBA today.)

  21. Excellent post – thanks Chip.
    The info coming out of Driscoll and that Mars Hill leadership is getting scarier and scarier.

  22. Lesa Engelthaler:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. For telling the truth. “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” – Flannery O’Connor.

  23. Matt Conner:

    Chip, your advice in the industry has been a go-to for me for some time and it’s always helpful. In this case, more than ever. This is disgusting. Thanks for handling in a straightforward, realistic manner.

  24. Tim:

    The excuse “everyone else is doing it” was something Jesus confronted as well. He responded that “everyone” was wrong about the real nature of the kingdom of God, and then he’d tell them a parable or two. I’ll say one thing for Mr. Driscoll, though; he inspired me to write a parable of my own – The Mega-Pastor and the Best Seller List.

    • chipmacgregor:

      Ha! That’s great, Tim. For those who haven’t, I urge you to take a look at Tim’s link to his parable. Good of you to come on and share. Thanks.

  25. Agreed. Very misleading. Very dishonest. Very sad. Very unrepentant. Extremely unChrist-like. I’m still praying for Mark Driscoll’s full repentance; as this is best.

    • chipmacgregor:

      A good attitude to have, Sunny. I don’t see Mark reprinting — in stead, I see him blaming others. But sometimes I get too negative, so I need people like you coming on the blog and reminding me to be nice. Thanks very much.

      • You’re welcome brother. I see Mark shifting blame rather than repenting as well, but there’s always hope in Christ and prayer for His will…that we should all repent. So I look for the best in Christ while expecting and not being surprised by the worst of men/women. It’ll all be better when we get Home. :o)

  26. This, “If Mark Driscoll just wanted to spread the good news, he could have purchased $200,000 worth of books and given them away.” was one of my first thoughts when I heard about this ordeal. Thanks.

  27. Scoti Springfield Domeij:

    A 40-year veteran in the publishing industry told me that David Jeremiah does the same thing. On a certain week people in his church are told to go and buy his books and the church pays them back for buying the books.

    • chipmacgregor:

      Um… hmm. Okay, I don’t know that that’s correct, Scoti. I used to write for David (albeit years ago), and I have a lot of respect for him. Asking people in the church to go buy is fine. Paying them back? Uh, I’d need to see evidence that it’s actually happening, and not just a rumor someone is spreading. I don’t know what David would get out of that, so it’s hard to see him doing it.

      So you know, I had several people write and say to me, “This goes on all the time.” But I’ve been in the industry for years, and I’m telling you this does NOT go on all the time. Sometimes, obviously. But it’s unethical, and certainly not the normal course of business.

      • Scoti Springfield Domeij:

        I was pretty disappointed when I was told this by someone that’s solid. When I heard Mark Driscoll did it, I thought, so that’s how mega-church pastors land on the bestseller lists. And it made me wonder, how many books on the bestseller lists are manipulated or actually best sellers. So do you think it’s ethical for the pastor of a mega-church to ask attendees to go to a bookstore during a certain time period so the surge of sales may put you on the New York Times bestseller list? http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2013/02/22/heres-how-you-buy-your-way-onto-the-new-york-times-bestsellers-list/

        • chipmacgregor:

          Again, I would say this has NOT been the norm, at least with authors I’ve worked with. I’m not saying it never happens — ResultSource lists several authors on their website, and they apparently are a marketing firm that does more than hire people to buy books, so they could very well have legit marketing avenues. But most authors (whether pastors or anyone else) simply couldn’t afford to do this.

          To answer your question: Sure, I think it’s fine for an author to ask people to go purchase a copy. Doesn’t every author do that? They speak at a conference, or do a radio show, or have a launch on Facebook, and they say, “Hey, my book releases tomorrow… please go to B&N.com and buy a copy!” To me, that’s just marketing. I don’t see an ethical problem with encouraging people to buy a book. But THAT’S NOT WHAT MARK DRISCOLL DID. He contracted with a firm that hired people who did not know Mark, nor have any intention of buying his book, and gave them instructions and payment information to purchase a copy. Then they tried to hide that fact, which in itself suggests they knew it was unethical. 6000 copies purchased, on more than 1000 credit cards. And they bought 5000 in bulk. Without those sales, there’s no way the book winds up on a bestseller list, Scoti.

          • Scoti Springfield Domeij:

            “6000 copies purchased, on more than 1000 credit cards.” Wowsers! Thank you, Chip, for the clarification of what Driscoll did. I thought the New York Times screens out bulk sales. I know a rich Christian lawyer who talked about buying his way onto the New York Times best seller list, because it’s legal and he can afford to do it. Wonder if the rationale is: the message trumps the ethics. I reviewed one of Driscoll’s books for a publisher and was so incensed, I gave it a scathing review and never wanted to read anything by him ever again. Frankly, it disappoints me when publishers continue to publish books by authors with cracked character and nothing really fresh to say because the author’s platform guarantees to generate money for the publishers.

  28. Theresa Johnson:

    This is horrible. I am so appalled by this type of behavior in the church that I wrote a book about it. http://www.amazon.com/The-Sin-Spiritual-Plagiarism-Unauthorized/dp/1304046486

  29. Robin Patchen:

    Buying your way onto the NYT Bestseller List is completely unethical, but it’s the plagiarism that gets me. No publisher should let that go with a hand slap. The writer’s contracts should be cancelled, the editor fired, the writer shamed. Back when I lived in Boston, Mike Barnicle, Globe columnist, was accused to fabricating stories and plagiarizing, but it took multiple instances–and national exposure–before he was finally forced to resign. I was studying journalism at the time, and I remember my professors’ shock at the lack of…well, shock. And now the guilty party is a pastor. How shameful.

    Thanks for telling it like it is.

    • chipmacgregor:

      Yeah, author Kaavya Viswanathan got caught plagiarizing her novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life at Time Warner. Her book was pulled, the contract canceled. Author Quinten Rowan, writing under the pen name Q.R. Markham, got caught plagiarizing nearly his entire novel, Assassin of Secrets. The book was withdrawn, the contract canceled, and editor quickly decided he wanted to, um, move to the movie business. There has been plenty of evidence of Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism (see, for example, what college professor Collin Garbarino found while comparing Driscoll passages to other sources here: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/11/flunking-mark-driscoll-for-plagiarism/ ). I’m surprised people in CBA didn’t take this more seriously at the time.

      • Robin Patchen:

        Yes, we should hold ourselves to the highest standards, not let things like this slide for the sake of . . . what? Spreading the gospel at the expense of the people whose words were stolen?

  30. Bill Worth:

    I stumbled across this post, and I appreciate it. As an author of two metaphysical novels, I know that writing is hard enough — and legitimate marketing is harder still. I’ve published on Amazon (and Kindle), and saw one of my books rise to the top of a very small niche — metaphysical fiction. That did not translate to a best-selling book, but both the novels are still selling, even though they were published in 2011. So somebody is reading them.

    • chipmacgregor:

      Good for you, Bill. Writing is hard work. Marketing it is harder still. None of us who write enjoy hearing about somebody gaming the system.

  31. Thanks for your voice in this. I read your blog regularly as reference, but I loved seeing your personality shine through here. (Probably because I believe with all you say.) You called it like it is. I appreciate it.

    • chipmacgregor:

      Nice of you to come on and comment, Andee. I don’t mean to be the one stirring the pot, but I’ve been surprised people in CBA haven’t had more to say about this.

  32. westcoasthawk:

    Driscoll has publicly repented of everything Chip Wrote about. I’m not defending what he did but now neither is he.

    • Louis Grizzle:

      You mean he made some sort of statement on his organization’s internal, member’s only social media website that was leaked? That is not repentance.

    • chipmacgregor:

      Um… I don’t mean to pile on Mark Driscoll, westcoasthawk, but I’ve not found that to be the case. When the plagiarism stuff happened, he first denied it, then blamed it on a research assistant. When the dishonest marketing charge came up, he first defended it, then blamed it on bad advice from outside counsel. Yesterday he said he was going to stay off of social media and not travel this year — sort of keeping a low profile until this all blows over. He did not address the plagiarism controversy, nor did I hear him admit he’d cheated the system. Maybe I’m being too tough here, but my personal dealings with him (which no doubt color my perspective) is that the guy won’t take responsibility, and can’t admit he’s wrong. My two cents.

  33. Ron Estrada:

    Of course, we’re Christians, so we look at his from two points of view. First, from a writer’s perspective, it sickens me when anyone uses money or status to move their book up the best-seller list. It makes me wonder what fantastic unknown author was bumped out of a spot so that guys like this can have his moment in the sun.

    From the Christian perspective, I absolutely cringe. Nothing will turn more people away from the salvation offered through Christ than high-visibility church leaders who flaunt their money and come off as vain as any Hollywood celebrity. I happen to be listing to Bonhoeffer on audio book. He said (I’m paraphrasing) that a praying thief and prostitute was more effective than the prayers of a vain man. Vanity has no place in the church.

    • chipmacgregor:

      I suppose I shouldn’t be criticizing anyone for being vain, since I’ve been known to have an ego myself, Ron. In these sorts of situations, I often get people (who are much nicer than me) coming on to say things like “we’re all sinners” and “where’s the forgiveness” and “why are you casting stones at the guy?” This same thing happened when I talked about the situation at WinePress a month or two ago. I want to be forthright, and I don’t want to be unfair. At the same time, I have a voice in publishing, particularly in CBA publishing, and I find there aren’t many in that realm who are willing to say, “This guy is full of it” or “We should all be wary of that guy.” So… I’m NOT just trying to stir the pot or be controversial. I was really bugged by Driscoll’s behavior and his response, and I’ve long felt he was destined to go up in flames because he was too full of himself (I have had personal dealings with him, in which he was a total jerk, and I’ve found his followers to be mindless robots who won’t brook ANY criticism, to be quite frank). So I want to tell the truth, and maybe offer a challenge where one needs to be made, but I am not in any way suggesting I’m better than anyone else. God knows I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself, sometimes publicly. But I seem to have a platform for saying some of these things, and a thick enough skin that I can say them and take the heat from those who don’t like it. That doesn’t make me a better human being — only someone with a big enough platform to be heard.

  34. I enjoyed your passionate summary of Driscoll’s bad behavior. This kind of behavior SHOULD bother us, especially those of us who are writers. While I am now an atheist, I was an Evangelical pastor for 25 years, so Driscoll’s behavior doesn’t surprise me. The cult of personality dominates Evangelicalism and I have no doubt other big name preachers have used the same practices to improve their status and public awareness.

    • chipmacgregor:

      I think the embracing of celebrity is a very real problem in contemporary evangelicalism, Bruce. It dominates the message of the church, and in instances like this, can ruin people’s faith. Very nice of you to come onto the site and comment. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  35. Thank you Chip for standing up for what is right and ethical. What’s wrong with buying your way onto a bestseller list? Everything.

  36. Steve Spillman:

    Chip, thanks for speaking out on this, and for not moderating your tone. It is what it is, B.S. You called out Driscoll, he deserves it.

    • chipmacgregor:

      Appreciate that, Steve. (And you don’t happen to be the magician Steve Spillman, are you? If so, we knew each other years ago.)

      • Steve Spillman:

        I sell Christian books in the 21st century. That’s kind of magic isn’t it? The only other magic I know is the disappearing pizza trick.

  37. Great post – I appreciate you calling him out like this. It’s not fair on other authors.

  38. TLK of Michigan:

    I am a pastor, and author. i don’t know the details about Mark Driscoll’s actions, but the idea of buying your way into a ‘best seller’ list and plagerizing other material is sad for anyone – especially a pastor. This negates the integrity of anything he releases. It also speaks to the the gullibility of the buying audience. Simply because a book is a ‘best seller’ it does not mean its content has any value to the reader. Thanks for posting this.

    • chipmacgregor:

      You’re welcome, TLK. Appreciate you coming on to comment. As a fellow author, I know you understand the problem this creates for everyone.

  39. Lisa K.:

    I’m just tired of “men of God” being so dishonest. My grandmother was a minister for over 70 years and was honest to a fault. I think what he did is disgusting and it makes me angry. I have many author friends who deserve to be NYT Bestsellers and some who are. They all want to earn being on that list. EARN it, not buy the right. His new name should Rev. Jerk.

  40. julesolder:

    Funny enough, the only person who’s plagiarized me was also a pastor.

  41. Someone espousing a particular faith that does not endorse lying and cheating doing these things and then trying to excuse it away with more lies makes this especially offensive to me. Between this , Author House, people paying for reviews, and poorly edited crap on the store shelves (want a name?), I am content with my few random sales, my few random reviews, and my few minute royalty checks, all earned with what must now be considered naivete, rather than honesty. This stuff just reeks, man.

  42. Kathryn Bain:

    I agree 100%, Mr. MacGregor. And any church that allows this makes me wonder exactly how Christ center it really is. If this were my pastor, I’d be appalled. He’d either be stepping down until he got his faith back in check or I’d be finding another church.

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