Is Hard Choices a "bomb"?

It depends on the definition of “bomb.” First-week sales for Hillary Clinton’s memoir/campaign book Hard Choices would not embarrass most authors; 60,000 hard-bound and 24,000 electronic outsells most other titles offered even by major publishers in a first printing. However, most authors don’t get $14 million advances, and most authors don’t plan to use their book as a springboard into a presidential campaign either.

In those circumstances, Daniel Halper argues, the sales have been, er, brutal:

“Between us, they are nervous at S&S [Simon & Schuster],” says the source, who gave permission for his email to be published. “Sales were well below expectations and the media was a disaster.”

According to this source, a Simon & Schuster insider, “They sold 60,000 hard covers first week and 24,000 ebooks.” The publishing house was “hoping and praying for 150,000 print first week.”

“The 60k represents a less than 10% sell thru based on what they shipped,” says the source.

It’s been reported that one million copies of Clinton’s book were shipped weeks before the June 10 publication date. “They will be lucky to sell 150,000 total lifetime,” the source writes in the email.

Barnes & Noble sold 24,000 of the hard copies in their chain the first week, making it the top seller in their inventory:

Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, Hard Choices, topped the Barnes & Noble best-seller list in its first week, according to the company’s Nielsen BookScan sales numbers released to publishers on Monday and obtained by BuzzFeed.

Barnes & Noble, the country’s largest retail bookseller, has sold just over 24,000 copies of the book since its release on June 10. Hard Choices debuted at No. 1 on the bookseller’s hardcover best-seller list, which includes fiction and nonfiction.

That’s not bad news, but the comparison to #2 isn’t exactly complimentary:

Clinton’s memoir edged out the new Diana Gabaldon book, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, for the top spot, selling just 319 more copies, according to the sales list. (The Gabaldon book, released on the same day as Clinton’s, is the eighth installment in her long-running historical sci-fi romance Outlander series.)

As of this morning, Clinton’s memoir topped Amazon’s lists for women’s studies, US history, and political memoirs — not exactly the stuff of mass-marketing success. It only ranked 70th in the paid Kindle section, though, where Gabaldon’s book is ranked 12th. It’s marked with a down arrow this morning, which doesn’t exactly suggest big momentum gathering for the tome. Still, Amazon does not share its actual book sales figures, so it’s difficult to tell without a subscription to one of the sales-measuring services just how many units they’ve moved.

These would be respectable and even thrilling numbers for most authors, but as noted above, Simon & Schuster spent nearly $14 million to get the publishing rights to the book. Even assuming that they get $10 profit from each copy (hard or Kindle), they’ve only recouped 6% of the cost of that bonus on the first week. Perhaps this is more a measure of how insane it was to spend $14 million up front to publish what turned out to be a milquetoast campaign book more than a commentary on the book itself, but either way S&S is going to take a bath on it.

That’s Simon & Schuster’s problem, of course, but Hillary has bigger problems. The real sales job wasn’t the book itself but Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate. The lack of enthusiasm for the book in its sales figures hurts the perception of Hillary, but nowhere nearly as badly as Hillary herself has damaged it over the past eight days. She has made gaffe after gaffe, underscored her lack of accomplishment at State, and provided no real answers on how she would govern. Indeed, her book and her testimony on the tour the past week has raised a lot more questions about her leadership and her honesty than it answered.

So the book sales may be a flop, but the bigger flop is Candidate Hillary. Even a boost in book sales wouldn’t fix that.