Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


How Scientology manufactured New York Times bestsellers for L. Ron Hubbard

We’ve received another account from a former Scientology manager who previously told us about the development of contracts in the church after the death of Lisa McPherson. This time, they gave us another timely look into Scientology’s past.

The release of Mike Rinder’s book this week reminded me of some of the insanity that surrounded trying to get L. Ron Hubbard’s books onto the New York Times Bestsellers List.

There were unusual methods for getting a book on the list, which spread around because much of the staff “enhancement” — correction, confessionals, auditing — was done in a centralized section of management. The information I am giving here is from the people directly involved. A number of them gave up the information in sec checks (confessionals), correction interviews, “debugs” or overt-and-withhold write-ups, all considered not confidential and so “actionable.”

Those Scientology staff and managers would talk about the Dianetics boom in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The main component was the question-and-answer ads designed by Jefferson Hawkins that were so popular on cable television, and another component was making sure a lot of copies of Dianetics had flooded the market and were available at any point of sale possible. The book hit the New York Times Bestsellers List multiple times as well as many other bestsellers lists around the US.


The Dianetics story here is relevant because it “proved” a couple of things that became the model of what was to be done after that. One, if a book could get on the New York Times list it would, as a result, sell in big numbers because of that alone. Two, a huge volume of books in circulation gives the appearance of a “book so in demand that it was everywhere,” and that created word of mouth, the best way to get sales.

By around 1993, the advertising budget had been cut and sales of Dianetics were struggling. There was constant conflict between the Publications Org and the Planetary Dissem Org/Central Marketing Unit (a division of Gold) over whose fault the lack of “sell-through” was. There were literally screaming matches between these people at times. “Pubs” was blamed for poor distribution into the bookstores, and PDO/CMU was faulted for a lack of marketing. As it goes with the Sea Org, the poor performance just meant an increase in ethics and justice procedures and “correction” of those involved.

Meanwhile, Scientology was also trying to elevate Hubbard’s reputation by keeping his old pulp fiction in print. Fiction did not have the marketing budget that a Dianetics or Scientology book would have, but it was just as important to get the books on the New York Times list and to get tons of books in circulation to create the word of mouth and thus sales.

This may not be the first time this happened but it was the first I heard of it: When a new edition of Ole Doc Methuselah, a 1970 science fiction short story collection, was released about 1992, Pubs staff were sent on “projects” to select Scientology organizations, including the Flag Land Base in Florida. Because the book was fiction it was decided this couldn’t be promoted “on church lines by church people,” so there would be a short little announcement at a graduation and a display set up so people could buy the book. The registrars (sales people) and org staff would help sell the books on the side. The publics (non-employee members) would be persuaded to also buy extra copies for family, friends, or acquaintances as gifts. The idea was to “disseminate” L. Ron Hubbard as an author, thus raising interest and curiosity for his other works and leading to them getting on The Bridge.

The people on these projects had to report in multiple times a day so that Author Services Inc. (Hubbard’s literary agency, another Scientology subsidiary) could be updated on the regular. Pressure was on for quotas to be met.

Someone in Author Services (I was told it was Hugh Wilhere) had acquired the list of the stores whose sales were what the New York Times would base their list on. At the time it was a variety of big bookstore chains, small independent stores, and big-box stores. This list was not publicly known so that it could not be manipulated and so the list would be based truly on public demand for books.

Once sales quotas were met, Pubs staff would target locations where there was a concentration of New York Times-reporting stores, and they would use the money from the cash sales to buy back the books from these particular stores, literally buying back thousands of books. Now the number of books being bought back were being reported to ASI throughout the day (how many bought and from which stores). The pressure to get it done and in the right volume to get the book on the list was very high.

The book-buying procedures were this: Books for the pre-release were taken out of stock on “consignment” by a staff member (the project person), sold at the orgs, bought back from the stores from the cash sales and then returned back to stock by that person along with the check and credit card sales. Assets remained the same (from a profit & loss perspective) and it appeared that the Pubs org was not involved in the buying of books back – there was no paper trail.

The other way was for the people not taking the books with them at the time of sale or sold over the phone. They needed the book shipped, and the order would be placed with one of the New York Times-reporting stores on their behalf (without telling them) and then was shipped to them from the store.

This created a problem because some of the public reported this as being out-ethics, deceitful or just weird. Also, some bookstores charged shipping which the public were not told about, and they were unhappy about the additional charge on top of the fact that they didn’t understand why their book had come from a Walden Books or other such store that they hadn’t called.

If I remember correctly, Ole Doc Methuselah did make it on the New York Times list for a week or maybe two, but it didn’t maintain any significant level of sales and so off to ethics and correction the sales staff were sent.

This way of attempting to get on the NYT list happened with several books or books on tape over the years, and even some non-fiction books. Another big one I remember was years later. It was another fiction book called Ai! Pedrito! – When Intelligence Goes Wrong, an original story idea by Hubbard that was turned into a novel by writer Kevin J. Anderson in 1998. (“Dreadful preadolescent plotting in comic-strip prose,” was the verdict of Kirkus Reviews.) This time the new book was allowed to be released at a big church summer event. Books were sold by Sea Org members as well as staff in the area. Public were regged to buy for themselves but also to buy in bulk to donate to libraries.

Again, money from cash sales was used to send people out to go buy books back from the NYT-reporting stores to get the book on the newspaper’s list. After the initial boost of sales, it tanked and continued to go down. Sec checking as well as what they called “metered debugs” (looking into possible ways the sales could go down with an E-meter to un-bug the sales) and other handlings were being administered, but the Pubs sales staff were at a loss on what to do without a demand for the book.

This time there were some instances of public who paid cash that came in to get a copy of their invoice they never received. (Uh oh.) One salesperson said they had got some donations and used some of the money to put the sale on the accounts of the people so that the they could get their invoices. Not that the public knew this, they were told it was just an error and to them it was understandable since there were so many sales at the event. Problem solved, right? Sure, except for the salesperson who was now in ethics for doing something they felt was an overt of a financial irregularity.


There was also concern, what if somehow the NYT found out that it was them buying all of the books, not real sales, it could have bad repercussions. At one point it was not enough to go in and buy one or two copies so Pubs staff were told to buy 3 and 4 copies and apparently some got sarcastic comments like “You must really like that book.” or “Someone came in earlier buying several copies of the book.” or “Did you already lose your book?” clearly recognizing the person from earlier.

From the sales staff’s perspective there was insufficient marketing and PR to create a lasting demand. These staff would literally get stuck on the “debug” because they got the distribution and sales still did not happen. What else could they do? In Scientology “if the tech won’t go in then ethics is out.” With the debugs not working, correction not working, off to ethics they went.

Marketing and PR staff would do their rounds in correction and ethics as well but it wasn’t really to the same degree as sales staff. The sales staff were beat up on, the scapegoats for books that are really not in demand and not selling.

L. Ron Hubbard had a couple of lines in policies that were pounded in, to the effect that books in circulation create word of mouth and thus sales. In another policy he said that Marketing had to furnish their product, but the main sales channel is sales managers; otherwise, marketing goes nowhere.

Then the funny (or not so funny) thing was that many Pubs staff, later on, got in trouble for doing the whole book-buying thing as an out-ethics “off-the-rails” activity. If you know anything about the Sea Org, if you are given an order by higher up, especially the level of Author Services, you salute with both hands and get it done or you find yourself posted somewhere considered to be menial like a dishwasher or even put on the RPF. So damned if you don’t and damned if you do.


Technology Cocktail

“Auditing is a contest of maintaining rightnesses so that we can delete wrongnesses. If you keep on deleting wrongnesses, all the while maintaining and increasing the rightnesses you eventually wind up with a very right being. You are trying to get a right being, therefore if you continually encourage right beingness you never wind up with a right being.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1971


Now available: Bonus for our supporters

Episode 14 of the Underground Bunker podcast has been sent out to paid subscribers: We check in with Clearwater city councilman Mark Bunker about Scientology’s latest attempts to sabotage progress there. Meanwhile, we’ve made episodes 1 through 13 available to everyone, with such guests as Jesse Prince, Paulette Cooper, Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan, Jefferson Hawkins, Patty Moher, Geoff Levin, Pete Griffiths, Sunny Pereira, Bruce Hines, Jeffrey Augustine, and Claire Headley. Go here to get the episodes!



Now with no restrictions: Our podcast series on the Scientology docuseries that never aired

In five episodes, we recently looked at something we’ve been curious about for several years: The potentially explosive television show, produced by Sirens Media, that would have featured L. Ron Hubbard great-grandson Jamie DeWolf as its presenter, and that would have taken an active look at the families ripped apart by Scientology’s “disconnection” policy. Unfortunately, even though the series was ready to air on the A&E network in 2016, it never has. Our podcast series turned out even better than we were hoping, and we’ve made all five episodes available to everyone.


Source Code

“Somebody made a horrible mistake over at the FCDC the other day, by mentioning ‘between lives’ during the church service and learned immediately that he should have kept his mouth very shut.” — L. Ron Hubbard, September 25, 1963


Avast, Ye Mateys

“MIRACLE: In an org a man with fatal Hodkins Disease got a 25 minute touch assist, went back to the hospital and the disease was totally gone. They’d get many more if they just cut out the flubs!” — The Commodore, September 25, 1970


Overheard in the FreeZone


“The USA Democratic supporters have got the R6 implant keyed in. And to think that some people want to skip OT III.”


Past is Prologue

2000: Jeff Jacobsen reported a protest at the Clearwater Bank building this week. “Tonight we picketed the bank building on Cleveland and Ft. Harrison from about 6:30-7:30pm. There were 4 of us with 2 videocameras. Cleveland street was closed because of the arts festival from 9 to 5pm both Saturday and Sunday. Since Cleveland is closed Co$ can’t drive their buses up to the cafeteria doors, so it looked like what they were doing was dropping people off behind the Coachman Building and then they would either walk through the Coachman Building or go through the alley right next to it. They tried to time the troops to cross Cleveland street while none of us were near Watterson Street (where the cafeteria entrance is). Finally us picketers just stood near Watterson so the Scientologists had no choice but to walk past our signs. We did not talk to the Scientologists but just let our signs do the talking.”


Random Howdy

“I’m guessing the Urban Land Institute isn’t aware they’re dealing with a posse of lunatics.”


Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Trial scheduled for October 11.

‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Arraigned on August 29.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff scheduled to be sentenced on Oct 28.
Rizza Islam, Medi-Cal fraud: Trial scheduled for October 24 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for September 19.
Yanti Mike Greene, Scientology private eye accused of contempt of court: Found guilty of criminal and civil contempt.

Civil litigation:
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Complaint filed April 28 in Tampa federal court, Scientology moving to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs filed amended complaint on August 2.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Selection of arbitrators underway. Next court hearing: February 2, 2023.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Stay in place, next status hearing October 25. Scientology petitioning US Supreme Court over appellate ruling.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for December 6.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: New trial ordered after appeals court overturned prior ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.



We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links, including our four days in Los Angeles covering the preliminary hearing and its ruling, which has Danny facing trial and the potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison.


After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society. Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in a weekly series. How many have you read?


[ONE year ago] Oregonian newspaper names Scientology prep school best small employer in the state
[TWO years ago] Serve Miscavige in an ad? Scientology honcho: ‘But you haven’t tried hard enough to find me!’
[THREE years ago] Hiding in plain sight: how Scientology nearly got away with its 1970s espionage campaign
[FOUR years ago] Scientology rewards the celeb who bolted when her co-star went rogue
[FIVE years ago] Paul Haggis: Rathbun does what I feared, and outs ex-Scientologist we vowed to keep secret
[SIX years ago] Scientology in Ireland is nearly dead: Here’s how Tom Cruise & the gang plan to bring it back
[SEVEN years ago] Scientology’s showdown in Belgium: Here’s our plan to cover an epic battle
[EIGHT years ago] What the Boston Globe left out of its story on Scientology yesterday
[NINE years ago] Scientology Drug Rehab Shut Down in Georgia, Ordered to Turn Over Records in Oklahoma


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 2,798 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,303 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,853 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,843 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,734 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,039 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,909 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,014 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,487 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,803 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,369 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,288 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,456 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,036 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,298 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,334 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,049 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,614 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 929 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,104 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,655 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,786 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,124 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,979 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,098 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,454 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,757 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,863 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,261 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,137 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,720 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,215 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,469 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,578 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 25, 2022 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2021 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2021), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists | GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice | SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts | Shelly Miscavige, 15 years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email