Let’s stipulate up front that most authors with contracts at major publishers would love to see their book sales fall to 48,000 in the second week, but Hillary Clinton is not most authors. She has global name recognition and was assumed to have a story to tell in Hard Choices, and got nearly $14 million from Simon & Schuster for publication rights. After the relatively inauspicious debut or what turned out to be a dull campaign tome on the charts of 85,721 in first-week hard-copy sales, the book fell to 48,227 in its second week, signifying a sharp decline in interest:
Hillary Clinton’s new memoir “Hard Choice” experienced a 43% drop in sales in its second week on bookshelves, according to numbers from Nielsen BookScan.
After 85,721 copies of “Hard Choices” were purchased in the book’s first week, 48,227 copies of the memoir sold in the second week, according to Nielsen numbers, which make up roughly 85% of all retail book sales and were provided to CNN by a publishing source. …
Jason Pinter, founder and publisher of Polis Books, said the decline is “not at all” surprising.
“Publicity-driven books like this are always front-loaded,” Pinter said. “Which is why the first week numbers were likely a cause for concern-they were only going to go down from there.” …
But Pinter said no matter how much Clinton sells the book, the “reviews were tepid enough to squelch interest from everyone but hardcore Hillary devotees.”
That’s the problem that the book sales expose. There aren’t really a lot of “hardcore Hillary devotees,” or even enough political junkies who ordered the book as reference material for the next two years. The first memoirs from Bill and Hillary Clinton sold like hotcakes because they were the first, and the public was still eaten up by curiosity over the Clintons and their era in the White House. By now, few retain either the curiosity or the enthusiasm for either Clinton in sufficient quantity to slap down $30 (or less, since Hard Choices is already being heavily discounted) to read an anodyne account of Hillary’s exploits since Living History.
Simon & Schuster are putting a brave public face, but the New York Times isn’t buying it. Internally, it’s a different story:
First-week sales typically account for about 30 percent of the total, thanks to the publicity blitzes that accompany publishers’ biggest releases. That means “Hard Choices” could fall far short of the one million copies that Simon & Schuster shipped to bookstores, industry executives said. (Publishers sell books on consignment and must take back copies that do not sell in the stores.)
The second-week figures also increase the likelihood that Simon & Schuster will not sell enough books to make up for Mrs. Clinton’s advance, said a publishing executive who did not want to speak on the record about a competitor’s book. …
Sales of the book have been strong compared with similar nonfiction titles — diet and self-help books notwithstanding. It will be No. 1 on The New York Times’s list of hardcover nonfiction best sellers on Sunday. On Wednesday, “Hard Choices” was No. 21 among Amazon’s best-sellers. (“Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas” by Edward Klein is No. 3.)
Mrs. Clinton’s book has sold better than memoirs by other former members of the Obama administration, including recent releases by former Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner (“Stress Test”) and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates (“Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War”).
Talk about damning with faint praise. She’s outselling former Cabinet colleagues who don’t have anywhere near her name recognition, and her book is outselling other nonfiction, but not “diet and self-help books.” Yikes.
What does that say about Hillary’s chances in 2016? Nothing good, and that would be true even if she hadn’t spent two weeks repeatedly shooting herself in the foot while promoting the book, especially over a topic on which she should have prepared — her wealth. It’s as if she didn’t anticipate that Democrats would make income inequality an issue in this year’s midterm elections, despite the fact that they’ve been talking about it since September 2011 and spent all last summer hammering Mitt Romney over it.
Ralston called the fee “obscene”, “grotesque” and “revolting”, adding: “Hillary Clinton, who advocates for affordable education, should be ashamed.” And then, for good measure, Ralston asked incredulously: “Is anyone worth that much money?”
Um, wow. …
Now, one rant — even by someone with a following in a swing state and nationally like Ralston — isn’t all that big a deal for Clinton. Particularly since it’s happening in June 2014 not June 2016. But, Ralston’s reaction coupled with the ongoing problems Clinton has displayed in talking about her family’s wealth should be warning signs for the campaign in waiting.
If Hillary and her allies really want to cast her as either a) an average person or b) the voice of average people, they might want to cut back on taking six figure speech fees sometime relatively soon.
I agree with almost everything Jon says except where he says that Hillary should “be ashamed” to take the fee. I don’t begrudge Hillary Clinton or anyone else earning a living on the speaking circuit. UNLV and the foundation can and should be criticized for paying it, but that’s Hillary’s vocation these days. Chis Cillizza’s correct in warning about the optics of taking that payday, but it’s not an ethical problem to accept a fee for a market-based service at the going rate, which in this case is exactly what Hillary did. Besides, after the last two-plus weeks, the optics here pale in comparison to the “dead broke” and “not truly well off” claims.
Update: Joe Klein calls the wealth fumble a “disaster”:
So’s the book, relative to its advance and its political purpose.