Who's Buying Christine O'Donnell's Book?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 18 2011 8:57 AM

Who's Buying Christine O'Donnell's Book?

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Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On Google News, I count more than 300 articles about 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell's new memoir, and more than 200 just about an incident from last night -- her walking out of an interview with America's Got Talent host Piers Morgan. I see a serious mismatch of media attention to public interest.

What do I mean? O'Donnell was, sort of infamously, the most-covered political candidate of 2010. Having been a frequent conservative guest on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect, there was a lot of tape of her saying stupid things, and she became an irresistable "News of the Weird" kind of story. But there's no evidence that actual humans still care about her story. Today, after the Piers Morgan stunt, her memoir is only the 2,300th best-selling book on Amazon.com. By comparison, George W. Bush's memoir -- which has been out for nine months -- is the 797th best-selling book on Amazon. O'Donnell's book isn't selling.

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And that shouldn't surprise anyone. A month ago, I asked Nielsen's Bookscan what its own sales figures were for a series of recent Tea Party books. Their numbers aren't comprehensive, but they give us a sense of whether books are becoming best-sellers. According to Nielsen, Rand Paul's memoir, "The Tea Party Comes to Washington," had sold 6,000 copies. "Boiling Mad," a highly-touted study of the Tea Party by New York Times reporter Kate Zernike, had sold around 2,000. The best-selling Tea Party book I could find was "Give Us Liberty," by FreedomWorks's Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe. That had moved more than 20,000 units. None of these books, though, was becoming a "Going Rogue"-sized hit.

Will Michele Bachmann's upcoming memoir fly off the shelves? I'm guessing it'll do well in the heat of a presidential campaign, even if she's fading by then. (The post-Ames, post-Perry polls showing Bachmann failing to build momentum don't auger well for her.) A memoir by a 2010 candidate who attracted some tabloid gawks, though? One whose biggets revelation is that the candidate regrets saying "I'm not a witch" in a TV ad? There's no evidence that actual humans want to read this as much as political geeks and TV bookers want to make fun of it.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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