Michael Brass, BCSE Chairman: "Published Archaeologist" ?
(Inflating Your Credentials - Part 6)
Previous parts in this series:
Part one: Introduction Part two: The BCSE's chairman, Mr. Michael Brass Part three: Mr. Brass/the BCSE's misrepresentation of Mr. Brass's vocation Part four: Mr. Brass/the BCSE's misleading description of Brass as "published" Part five: Who "published" Michael Brass? Answer: Michael Brass did!
In our last article, we looked at Michael Brass (the BCSE's chairman)'s, book "The Antiquity of Man". This is the cornerstone of the description of Brass as "a published archaeologist". We revealed that in fact this book is self-published, through PublishAmerica, a notorious vanity publisher.
Since that time, the BCSE has altered its description of Brass... by making the word "published" a hyperlink to Brass's own website. I'm not sure what this is meant to achieve... possibly it's meant to rebut the idea that they're pulling the wool over your eyes by hiding from you just what "published" means. (In a later update in mid-2007, the BCSE deleted the description of Brass altogether).
As promised last time, the results of my investigation into the question: "How many copies of his book has 'published archaelogist' Michael Brass sold?" Remember that this part of the investigation has little overall significance; whether Brass sold 1 copy or 1 million, it does not do much to touch the wider picture of the BCSE's mis-description of Brass.
PublishAmerica, as a print-on-demand self-publisher, doesn't have its books available in bookshops - unless the author personally persuades a bookshop to take them. Otherwise, you have to order them specially.
As such, the only places where you can get such books is either to ask for them by title, or to order them sellers which have a policy of trying to make available every book in existence, such as Amazon or equivalent. Brass's own website lists four sources:
Amazon and Barnes and Noble publish sales ranks for their titles So let's take a look at the page for Brass's book:
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #1,285,419
OK - so with a sales rank past 1 million it's not a best-seller. But just how many copies sold does that number translate to? How do we turn rank into copies? Well, it turns out that a number of researches have already done the hard work for us...
1. Witness 1 : Rampant Techpress
The gloriously named "Rampant Techpress" have authored an article titled "Inside the Amazon Sales Rank", available at http://www.rampant-books.com/mgt_amazon_sales_rank.htm. They tell us that a major publisher kept tabs on its Amazon ranking for 25 titles over a 6 month period, and came up with this table translating sales rank into weekly sales:
Well, that table doesn't go beyond "10,000+" - we need another couple of zeroes on the end! But it does tell us that we're not talking about the "sales every week" category. The article then points us to another source, researcher Morris Rosenthal...
2. Witness 2 : Morris Rosenthal
Rosenthal's article is online at http://www.fonerbooks.com/surfing.htm. Rosenthal tells us that a book that has sold a lifetime total of one copy will likely get a rank in the three-millions, and that Amazon probably has four million titles it can obtain in all. He then gives us a graph of sales rank against copies sold per week - going up to ranks of 1 million.
Some of the quotes from Rampant Techpress don't appear in Rosenthal's article, and appear to be based on an older version of that article, from 2001. The Rampant article goes on to say that a sales rank of 1,000,000 translates to about 3 copies every 500 days, whilst 2,000,000 means about 1 copy every 1,000 days. Another tit-bit from Rosenthal is that if your sales rank is in the 1,000,000 region, you only really need to check it twice a year to compute an average position.
3. Witness 3: fluff.info
I was pleased to come across this third witness, because it contains a clear, recent date at the top: August 2006. He gives us this useful tongue-in-cheek table which he compiled:
This puts Brass firmly in the "we can get it, but nobody at all is actually buying it" category.
4. Witness 4: Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal has a freely available article, at http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB117459402867645874-eZqZTRCwfaC1qjChzgaWpjSb1m8_20080321.html
This article is low on data as far as sales ranks below 50,000 go - but supplies this tit-bit: "Outside the top 1% or so of books, few sell multiple copies a day, so little separates books with rankings tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, apart. Morris Rosenthal, an author and publisher based in Springfield, Mass., who has studied the Amazon charts, says a day without a sale can send a book ranked 10,000 to as low as 50,000."
So, with a sales rank of 1.2 million, it seems fairly certain that Brass's book is in the category of "not selling any copies at all". And in recent days, I came across one blogger whose mention of his own book seemed to confirm this analysis:
The WSJ article also gives us this significant fact:
"One major quirk: Used and new book sales are counted equally. So an author anxious about his sales ranking could put a few dozen of his books for sale for a penny apiece and ask a friend to buy them all."
5. Witness 5: David Field
This blogger has authored a book on a particular English Puritan, John Howe, who lived from 1630 to 1705. To mark his "birthday", Field wrote this short post:
There's far more about him than you'd ever want to know HERE and at Amazon sales ranking 700,787 (!) this is a book which could do with another couple of people looking at it - thereby doubling its readership.
Note what Field says:
I then kept an eye on the Amazon page linked, and saw the sales rank jump to around 50,000 before starting to drop down again - today it is at 271,214. It take this to mean that Field did indeed find another couple of readers!
Summing it up
Taking all the witnesses above together, we come up with the following: the book upon the back of which the BCSE present its chairman as a "published archaelogist" has likely sold 1 or 2 copies through Amazon.com in the past 2 years. We cannot be sure that this means new copies, though; according to the Wall Street Journal, this includes the trading of second hand copies too. So we may be talking about 2 copies; or about 1 copy, bought and then sold second hand... I guess it's probably not really worth investigating that one...
What About The Other Sites?
Amazon.com is the world's biggest book-seller; a sales figure there gives a pretty clear idea of how many copies a book is selling - especially when that book is only otherwise available by special order. But for completeness, I also consulted the sales ranks at amazon.co.uk and the Barnes and Noble website:
Amazon.co.uk : 840,288 (here) BarnesAndNoble.com : 713,156 (here)
As the Amazon UK and Barnes and Noble sites sell less than the main Amazon.com site, those sales rankings will translate into even worse sales figures.
This now is all three sellers with a public listing for this book: the only other place to obtain it is to order it direct from the publisher (or get a book shop to do it for you).
The only debate over Brass's book's sales appears to be this: More than 1 copy in the last year, or not? As many as 5 copies in the last 2 years, or less than that?
The BCSE chose Brass to represent it as its chairman, because he was the most qualified guy they could find. And in order to describe his credentials, they name him as a "published archaelogist", and bring forward his book "The Antiquity of Man" as his main literary achievement. A little research from "BCSE Revealed" has shown this:
The revelation of these sales figures reveals why, as we discussed in our last article, when accepting a book PublishAmerica strongly encourage its authors to buy 50 or 100 copies for his own friends and family - the authors that PA are getting it seems typically aren't going to sell any to anyone else.
As I toured the net, I found a few mentions of Michael's book by fellow campaigners against the allowing of criticisms of Darwinism - some of them had bought it and read it. In the light of the above research, it seems likely that these are the only people who have bought it and read it.
We are left, then, with the unavoidable conclusion: the book on the back of which Brass promotes himself, and the BCSE promote him, as a "published archaeologist", is a book whose only readers are - these people themselves.
And that's one more set of facts published for future researchers into the BCSE to know exactly what kind of group we're talking about. That's one more set of facts for readers of the BCSE's website to evaluate how honestly the BCSE can be trusted to present material, just how much fact-twisting they have to do in order to make themselves seem credible.
Postscript: Mr. Brass e-mailed me to dispute the facts in this item; he wishes to inform me that since 2002 he has sold between 140 and 150 copies, currently at a rate of 19-25 a year. Brass's explanation for the discrepancy between these figures and those in the article above appears to be that bulk purchases only have a small effect on the sales rank; this appears to imply that many of those purchases were bulk, but Brass did not actually say so to me. As the major thrust of this series is about Brass's reasons for calling himself a "published archaeologist" and as the main point in this examination of Brass's book is that it is self-published, I won't be pursuing this point as it has very little relevance to the wider picture. Granting Brass's figures (he refused to provide me a breakdown of how many he had purchased himself out of that 140-150), it's clear that self-publishing was the only viable way to get this book to the market.