Will 'tabloid gawking' increase Christine O'Donnell's book sales?

Media controversy won't necessarily jumpstart sales of Christine O'Donnell's book.

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    As popular as the Tea Party is with the GOP – and the media – it’s not popular in publishing and books about or by party members haven’t sold well.
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She’s ba-ack!

That’s right, Christine O’Donnell is back in the spotlight, brewing up another cauldron of controversy, with witch – excuse us, which – to promote her new book.

Problem is, it probably won’t work.

The book is "Troublemaker: Let's Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again,” due out next week by St. Martin’s Press.

The controversy is her latest appearance on TV, with CNN’s Piers Morgan. He asked about her views on gay marriage, she stormed off.

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"'I'm promoting the policies that I laid out in the book that are mostly fiscal, that are mostly constitutional," she said on the show. "That's why I agreed to come on your show. That's what I want to talk about. I'm not being weird. You're being a little rude."

The thing is, after her circus act of a campaign last year, Ms. O’Donnell is no stranger to the virtues of weird and wacky – yes, it ultimately cost her in the polls during her Delaware Senate campaign, but the kooky ads and Bill Maher appearances (she was a frequent guest and often said stupid things that then went viral) also got her a lot farther than she ever would have gone otherwise.

Will it sell books? Her little CNN stunt alone earned O’Donnell more than 550 articles the morning after. And her book hasn’t even hit the shelves yet. If it’s anything like her political cousin Sarah Palin’s book, she’ll be cackling with delight. (Sorry.) Ms. Palin’s “Going Rogue” reached the top spot on the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com sales rankings, get this – more than a month and a half before it hit bookshelves in November 2009.

But it’ll take witchcraft for O’Donnell’s book to follow suit. Even after the Piers Morgan publicity prank and the hundreds of news items thereafter, “Troublemaker” is still only the 2,412th best-selling book on Amazon. George Bush’s memoir, “Decision Points,” which came out nine months ago, is the 772nd.

“O’Donnell’s book isn’t selling,” David Weigel of Slate pointed out.

No surprise. Mr. Weigel did some research and found that as popular as the Tea Party is with the GOP – and the media – it’s not popular in publishing. That is, the coven of Tea Party books Weigel researched haven’t sold well.

Rand Paul's memoir, "The Tea Party Comes to Washington," had sold 6,000 copies, according to Nielsan Bookscan. "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 Weigel could find was "Give Us Liberty," by FreedomWorks's Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe. “That had moved more than 20,000 units,” he wrote. “None of these books, though, was becoming a "Going Rogue"-sized hit.”

And based on early reviews, it’s not likely “Troublemaker” will be, either. The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire writes, “Washington Wire just read it, and recommends it only if you are eager for her side of the story on the infamous ad,” adding that it “at times reads like a guide on how not to make political campaign ad.”

The book deals mostly with O’Donnell’s regrets, including the infamous “I am not a witch” political ad, which O’Donnell calls a mistake and largely blames Republican media strategist Fred Davis for. “[I had] an uneasy feeling about hiring Fred to help craft our response,” she writes in the book. (Reached by the AP, Mr. Davis said only: "I wish her well with her book, and her future. That was a very unusual campaign."

O’Donnell also spills plenty of ink on another regret, comedian Bill Maher and the many appearances on his show. In the book she says she was blindsided when Mr. Maher aired an old clip of her admitting "I dabbled into witchcraft." She makes it clear she felt betrayed by Maher, who she thought was a friend.

“A memoir by a 2010 candidate who attracted some tabloid gawks..?,” asks Slate’s Weigel. “One whose biggest 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.”

And book bloggers.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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