“Decision Points,” George Bush’s presidential memoir, hit stores Tuesday. The hoopla has been huge – an NBC special, with Mr. Bush interviewed by Matt Lauer; reviews in all major media outlets; and a book tour that kicked off with hundreds waiting in line at a Dallas Borders minutes from Bush’s home.
That’s publicity that most authors can only dream about. (And they do dream about it – that’s why they’re authors.) So how many books will former President Bush sell?
Time will tell. But we can guess by the number of books publisher Crown has produced with the first printing, which is 1.5 million. By the standards of current big political books that is fairly modest. Bush should sell at least that many.
After all, “True Compass,” the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s memoir, sold just short of 900,000 copies in the last three months of 2009 alone, according to Nielsen BookScan figures. Bill Clinton’s post-presidential work “My Life” has sold some 2.2 million copies since its 2004 publication. Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue,” which was the number-one non-fiction title of 2009, sold about 2.7 million copies last year. Can Bush match the nation’s chief Mama Grizzly? We’ll see.
“Decision Points” is already atop Amazon’s bestseller list. Number two is “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth,” by Jeff Kinney. If you think we’re going to mine that for cheap humor, you’re wrong – anyone with pre-teen children knows that Mr. Kinney is a hugely successful author. Kinney is ahead of Glenn Beck, whose “Broke” is third on the list, so he’s doing something right.
As far as the Bush book, first week sales might be an indication if it is really flying off the shelves. When Clinton’s book was released in 2004, it sold 606,000 copies in seven days, the most ever for a US political book in that amount of time. Palin’s “Going Rogue”, in contrast, had first week sales of 469,000.
And how did Joe Biden’s “Promises to Keep,” his 2007 pre-presidential campaign book, rank? One week sales of ... 5,000. Good thing he landed that vice-presidential gig.
Ex-president Bush’s book advance reportedly was in the area of $7 million. Bill Clinton, in contrast, got $15 million for his book, according to tax returns made public when Hillary Clinton ran for president.
But if the Matt Lauer interview boosts sales into the stratosphere, Bush could still stand to make a lot of money. Let’s look at Sarah Palin as an example.
Authors typically get about fifteen percent of a book’s list price as a royalty, according to author agents. “Going Rogue” hardcover sold for $28.99, before discounts. If you do the math, that means she made about $11 million on last year’s hardback sales alone, not to mention this year’s sales, including e-book and paperback rights and the advance for her next book, and speaking fees. No wonder she resigned the Alaska governorship.
By the way, the Monitor will be running its full review of “Decision Points” later this week. Until then, you can read about some of its highlights.