It’s Don’t Trust Anybody Day

I’ve written before about the publishing industry’s standard practice of, well, lying about print runs. Here’s an article on the subject:

But like New York private schools with an investment in getting their students into good colleges, virtually all publishers get caught up in massive grade inflation: Their survival depends on making sure their books get noticed by reviewers and reporters and booksellers who will then further the “buzz.” A large first printing can do that, and it also makes authors feel appreciated, as if the house is behind them. But by now, the savviest publishing watchers know to take one-third off the top of an announced print run. So what’s the point? Wouldn’t it make more sense for publishers to release real hard numbers — of print runs, and of actual sales, for that matter?

Just last week, Random House became the largest trade publisher to sign up for BookScan, the only service that tracks and reports nationwide book sales. (HarperCollins and Penguin are the only major holdouts left.) But will executives soon begin to pass along those hard numbers to authors, booksellers and the public? It’s one thing for everybody to recognize that publishing is, after all, a lot like Hollywood — nobody knows anything. It’s quite another to break the lifelong habit that has made you the bookish version of the State Department, where everybody lies.