How to sell a book and not commit a crime

Posted: August 10, 2010 in Scientology ~ before the RTC

First off, a short bit of recent history.

For close to 28 years, or perhaps more, I have had a small cash balance at Flag. Depending on the year and who was calling me the actual amount ranged between $20 and $2000 credit. I’d vote for the $20 because it’s hard to believe even I would have overlooked two thousand bucks.

Okay. Now that you’re up to date – until about the year 2001 I got phone calls pretty much every few months from Flag. The credit balance was the proverbial ‘foot in the door’ to open a dialog directed at recovering me, getting me to pony up more money and come back to Flag to get repaired, renewed and reviewed. Then I bought a small horse property in another county, disconnected the land line and all but disappeared off the Scientology radar. It was pretty strange, not opening a mailbox and having 30 or 40 pieces of Scientology promo fall out. And since I was now totally cell phone the only way for Flag reg teams to get that number was for someone currently on lines to give it to them.

Guess what? Someone did.

It was actually my nephew Sam. He was at Flag training on something-or-the-other for the Org he works for and ended up in the call center. That’s what I term it, the call center. The guy he was talking to happened to be a person I have untold quantities of affinity for. My former roommate, a guy I audited back almost 40 years ago and who also worked for me on staff at my Mission. Bob Goodwin is his name and if you know him you know he’s wonderful. But Bob is also in the Sea org and has targets to meet. Isn’t that what most relationships between Sea Org members and their non SO friends eventually boil down to? Targets? Now I know Bob likes me. At the same time, he wasn’t calling to discuss old times. He was on Miscavige’s dime and he was all about informing me about the new revision in the Scientology library. That and this awesome DVD introducing the Golden Age of Technology.

Half of Bob. All of me. Late 1970s. Booze was flowing.

My apologies for the truncated image of Bob. When I scan in a full image of him I’ll replace it. The funniest part of this picture is me though… I crack up every time I see the size of those lapels on my suit. Sweet huh?

Anyway, Bob is nothing if not persistent. I agreed to let him send me the DVD. He did. I put it in the player, watched maybe 3 minutes of it and ejected it. You all probably know why. I’m not a fan of slasher/horror flicks.

Bob didn’t give up though. He called me every couple of weeks for well over a year. I told him how much I like him and suggested he was wasting valuable time with me. But then he had an idea! Why not let him send me some of the new books in exchange for the credit I had on account? Sounded okay to me. I agreed and quickly forgot about it.

Then, about 3 weeks later, I was at the post office and the guy behind the counter said some packages arrived for me. Huh? I didn’t order anything. He instructed me to wait by a door and about 5 minutes later came out with a hand truck loaded with 7 heavy boxes. It was the complete flippin’ library! Not only that, but there were full sets of CD lectures, about a dozen of them. I was flabbergasted. What the fuck?! Oh well, I loaded them in my truck and dropped them off at my storage unit.

Bob eventually gave up on me. Cut his losses I reckon. Hopefully Bob is doing well. But I was stuck with a couple hundred pounds of books and CD’s and began to wonder how they afforded to do that. So I did some scouting around on the Internet and discovered that the GAT and the revision (re-structuring?) of the basic library was nothing more than a huge reg cycle being done on current Scientologists. The best I could figure out is that one of you guys actually bought the books for me. You got regged for $10K or maybe $50K and that cash was applied, as a stat, to book sales. People like me were selected out, sent the books and viola! The Golden Age of Tech is born and stats are up. See? Look at all the books we sold!

In other parts of society this is known as money laundering. You, the target of an IAS reg team, pays $25K. Bob and his team send maybe $5K hard money worth of books out. The books and lectures are ‘valued’ at $25K. And an extra $20K is banked by the CofS… or whatever the organization is called these days.

I don’t know about you, but that whole scenario feels like some sort of continuing criminal enterprise. Maybe I’m wrong . Maybe not. I’d prefer to ask the person who bought my 7 boxes of books what they think.

You know what though? Before I left the church we also sold Scientology books. The main difference was that we sold them to people who hadn’t read them yet. Or if they had, they bought back-ups or gift copies. In fact, I always felt the basic books were key to getting people into Scientology. You know, they delivered new knowledge, cognitions were had and need of change was arrived at. But there is also a checkered history of manipulation of numbers by the church in order to have bragging rights on sales numbers. Wikipedia references this here:

Various sources allege that the book’s continued sales have been manipulated by the Church of Scientology and its related organizations ordering followers to buy up new editions to boost sales figures. According to a Los Angeles Times exposé published in 1990, “sales of Hubbard’s books apparently got an extra boost from Scientology followers and employees of the publishing firm [Bridge Publications]. Showing up at major book outlets like B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, they purchased armloads of Hubbard’s works, according to former employees.” Members are asked to contribute by placing Dianetics in public libraries.

Some of this is true. But it’s also true that in the later half of the 70’s Dianetics did hit the NYT best seller list legitimately. I know this for a fact because my center in Fresno and my teams of booksellers were #1 in the world for selling copies of Dianetics to non-Scientologists. The new cover was published in paperback form… you know, the BT-laden volcano one… and the game to get DMSMH back to the #1 spot was announced. I can’t recall any Mission not getting behind the game. Any that didn’t were dumb asses because selling books to public in large numbers usually ended up with people coming in to buy services. And I wanted our Fresno Mission to be #1… to win the game.

We did win. And somewhere in my storage unit I have the plaque to prove it. Diana Hubbard handed it to me at a Mission Holder conference in Mazatlan, Mexico at the end of the game. In the Fresno area we sold in excess of 25,000 individual copies of the DMSMH paperback book. And we did old school. Door-to-door. I organized teams of booksellers, trained them up myself on how to actually knock on a door. Then on how to parley the ‘script’ into a sale. I taught them simple things like to actually get the $5 from the customer and to always, say thank you. In addition I provided them with data cards where they could record the address and name of the buyer if the buyer agreed.

It was insanely successful. Think about it… 25,000 copies sold over a 6 month period to complete non-Scientologists in one city alone. If every Mission had done that there really might have been a massive effect instead of just a positive one. I’ll also admit I had a few tricks that helped. One of them was a brace of very, very cool looking Dianetics vans.

See?

Are these great? Or what? Not the Porsche dummy! Although, it was pretty cool as well.

The sales team hit the streets in these vans. I had the gal who painted them also spell out DIANETICS in backward ambulance style on the front of each so people could read it in their mirror. That VW went through about 3 motors during the campaign, but everyone liked driving it. Probably because a lot of them were former Hippies.

The guy in charge was one of my top staffers. His name was Pat McCabe and he ran a great team. He organized each day, set up the grids they worked and kept meticulous logs of sales, expenses and all the other little crap that needed to be done. Pat was also the mentor and moral support for the book sellers. This was door-to-door and unless you’ve done it then you cannot possibly know the confront required to get out there and do it every day. Another thing that helped was that I not only paid the book sellers whatever the weekly salary was but they earned commission on each book. My memory is a bit sketchy but as I recall we bought the $5 books for $2.50 total. Pat and I worked out that we needed about $1 from each book for expenses and so each sale meant $1.50 into the staff’s pocket. May not seem like much but realize that there were probably never more than about 8 sellers total and they sold 25,000 books in 6 months. So they made their salary plus about $30K between them.

The unacknowledged Super Star of the Dianetics book campaign though is a quiet little gal named LeeAnn Smith. She really was quiet. Shy even. Cute and very mellow, but not aggressive at all. The type of young lady who put her hand over her mouth politely when she laughed or smiled. LeeAnn was a total fucking animal out in the field. She was like the Navy SEAL of selling books. She overwhelmingly beat the numbers of any other seller on the teams. In short, she was a Goddess. I hope to hell I gave her a cash bonus. I’m certain I did. I do know she got a plaque every bit as grand as the one I received for being the Mission Holder who “won”.

LeeAnn getting her plaque at our winning celebration in Fresno. Notice how shy and meek she looks? Trust me, it's a trap!!!!

When I started this blog I stated I wanted to tell stories about what it was like being a Scientology staff member before the RTC, Financial Police and the rise of Miscavige.  The message I hope to pass on with this story about book selling is that we had fun. Yeah, stats mattered. But when we aimed for numbers the numbers had integrity. We didn’t sell books to launder money or to create a false impression to the media. Our team In Fresno sold a ton or two of books to people who might actually read them and walk in the door. It was the most basic concept of marketing… get out a huge quantity of material. And the fact that people paid for the book attached a value to it.

Speaking of value. I suppose I ought to thank someone for all those books and CD’s. I’ve done pretty good on eBay with them.

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Comments
  1. Yes!! Yes!! “Books Make Booms”
    Your writeup is great!
    I remember this late 70’s door-to-door bookselling era very well.
    In Dallas, I knew one fellow who (during his tenure) personally sold well over 10,000 books to new public out on the streets. He became a local legend. His partner sold over 8,000 books during his staff stint.
    The Mission boomed, growing from less than 12 staff to about 70 within about an 18 month period. This is full full time, open to close, 7 day a week, live-in staff.
    If I remember correctly, the DMSMH paperback at that time was $2 retail. We got a quarter for each book sold (which actually ended up providing a nice surplus income by comparable standards to staff pay of $15 week). There also was a tiered bonus structure.
    The adventures of book street sales and door-to-door actions are loaded with fantastic anecdotes and stories and fun. For example: Where does one go at 1am to sell books in order to meet the quota? There are well known people today who were first introduced to Scientology via these raw public book sales.
    You sure are right about the “confront” needed to approach a person on the street and sell a book. It was like running objectives. It became almost magical when a person busted through the self-imposed limitations.

    Thanks for bringing up bookselling.

  2. ensifer says:

    Thanks TL.

    Based on what little I have read here and over at Marty’s place it seems Dean created a much more harsh environment than I did… for the staff that is. Oh well, regardless of how much a staffer got paid the fact is that Scientology doesn’t have a ready-made public like a commodity does. To be successful in the field you had to “create” a market. And as we both know very well, books are the main tool used to create interest.

    Yep. It was fun.

  3. Thank you for the excellent writing. I usually don’t read long stories like this, since I spend most of my time writing myself, but this was very good. I believe in the missions rising up from the ashes and I certainly believe in how things were done back then. Great story.

    • ensifer says:

      I appreciate your kind words Stefan. Thanks right back at ya! I’d even read the web site you linked but I don’t speak that alien language it’s written in. 🙂

  4. Ha! It’s swedish. You know much of english derives from the old swedish language as they spoke it here around year 800-1200. Many vikings settled in the UK.

    We discuss what to do here in Sweden, how to get delivery going, and I strongly believe in the old mission pioneering idea. Reading your article was just right.

  5. Kingair350 says:

    David

    I think you have the makings of an effective blogsite for this reason; too much time and words and just general angst is being spent on describing the outpoints we all know are there. It’s become like reading Nazi atrocity stories – a good analogy – but I just go numb after awhile and lose interest. We all know, with absolute certainty, the horror that has befallen our church

    But the real bitch is, as us old guys and gals die off, and our voices become echoes on the Internet, our era, the real golden era of Scientology, becomes less and less real to those coming after us because there’s so little info, stories, etc available to read.

    Why are these ol’ fuckers so bitter, one of up and coming ‘bright sparks’ may ask. They read the Internet and after awhile (God help us) this stuff becomes stale. They’ve become used to the status quo or at least endure it.

    BUT…when these bright liitle sparks read a story about Scn life that has absolutely ceased to exist, and compare it to their own lifeless existence we get cognitive dissonance of a different order of magnitude. Major fuckin’ theta just got thrown into the mix. That should stir it up. “Hey, WTF is this?” Then they read something else by you or another contributor and the dots begin to appear and then start to join. A time when this shit was FUN gets more and more real.

    I think we Indies are taking our selves way too serious. Nothing is more devastating to the enemy than a big fucking laugh and a shit-eating grin.

    More stories, big guy and the rest of your readers too. Let’s start mocking OUR time.

    • ensifer says:

      Kingair ~

      Gee. That was nice.

      You’re right. With more stories and history of Scientology that don’t revolve around whether Miscavige is a jerk or LRH was a madman all along, those of us who were there might be able to effectively communicate how things went from shitty, to good, to great, to fantastic and then — Sonofabitch! – back to shitty again. Only shitty with lots of money instead of shitty while being broke.

      You got me thinking. And that’s not easy to do.

      David

      • Kingair350 says:

        Well you got me writing and that’s a bitch too.

        But since I’m doing that right now, I’d like to say that Marty, Jeff and Steve really helped me (and I’d guess 1000s of others) when I first decided to confront the beast and his works.

        The other thought that’s been really hounding me though is this: I don’t know a single thing that would attract more visitors than having your own “Thursday 2pm” display of the stats we all care about – auditors made and new releases and clears – per LOCAL org; forget flag.

        It would be hard to start up but I bet there’s a lot of possible Gonzo Stat Reporters out there ready to get stealthy.

  6. Alex says:

    Glad to see you blogging! I had heard your name back in the day…

    Stories from the times when scientology worked are much appreciated!

    I got in from a Dianetics book…although not one of yours…And I recently re-read it and was amazed at what was in it. The big ideas, the OT processes, fundamental concepts all were there complete in the ’50’s.

    Good to see you have popped up on ESMB too! It can be sort of like doing TR’s in the middle of a freeway at rush hour, but there is a definite need for viewpoints such as yours there.

    As for Stefans blog….try pasting the url into the box at:

    http://translate.google.com/#sv|en| (works pretty well)

    Best

    alex (banned on esmb)

    • ensifer says:

      Alex ~

      Thanks for the translation hint. I’ll definitely give it a shot. I’m glad you stopped by. As for ESMB, I’ve lurked there for a few years and decided just this morning to register so I could more easily contact a few old friends I recognized.

      Come back any time. I’ll add more as time allows.

      David

  7. Tara says:

    Ah, I’m late here. I was due back here but didn’t have a chance. No more sleep time for me.
    I think we must’ve used your book selling hat in Baton Rouge in the late ’80s. Successful actions get around in missions. Our book seller (sometimes all of us went out) was Mike Andre’ and he was amazing and LOVED it! I loved it too since we always had people coming in for Book One.
    Somewhere in Marty’s blog I wrote about auditing Book One and what a joy it was.
    Anyhow, I so like hearing stories about the good times. I quit those other sites a long time ago over too much bad news. I need all the theta I can get!
    Smiles

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