If you can’t judge a book by its cover, can you judge a candidate by his or her book sales?
Hillary Clinton’s supporters would say so. The former first lady already has outsold all potential 2016 presidential candidates from both parties, according to Nielsen BookScan data. And that doesn’t count future figures from her much anticipated “Hard Choices” due in book stores on June 10.
To stay on top of the pile, Clinton needs to keep an eye over her left shoulder. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat and leading driver of the debate over income inequality, is a prolific author who also has a new book out. While a wing of the Democratic Party is encouraging her, Warren denies any intention of seeking the party’s nomination.
The senator’s “A Fighting Chance,” which chronicles her battles with entrenched Washington interests, sold 50,000 copies in eight weeks and boosted Warren’s lifetime sales to 160,300. Clinton’s four books have sold 1,517,900 copies.
U.S. politicians seeking higher office are practically required to write a book, even though the tomes, as the data show, rarely reach a mass audience. The books are more typically glorified press releases that generate a bevy of appearances on talk shows designed to inject the author’s perspective into the national conversation -- until the next candidate book comes out and takes over.
Clinton, current leader of the so-called book primary, already is scheduled for interviews by ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and Fox News and has dates to hawk her book at stores in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. She has strategically leaked bits and pieces to Politico and Vogue to stir the appetite for sales.
Clinton hasn’t announced plans for 2016 yet is the party’s prohibitive frontrunner in public opinion polls.
Buoying Clinton’s lifetime sales numbers are the 1,438,000 copies sold of “Living History,” her 2003 autobiography. The clear loser in Hillaryland was the 1998 “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets” which sold 1,000 copies, according to Nielsen.
Rounding out the potential Democratic 2016 field: Vice President Joe Biden peddled almost 50,000 copies of “Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics.” Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who has presidential ambitions, hasn’t written a book. His Celtic rock band, O’Malley’s March, has released four albums that have sold a total of 2,300. The most popular, according to Nielsen, was the 2000 disc “Wait for Me.”
Nielsen’s BookScan data isn’t a complete picture. It includes hard-copy sales from online vendors like Amazon.com and book stores yet excludes electronic downloads. The New York-based company estimates it tracks about 85 percent of the print market. The figures in this story are through May 25.
On the Republican side, Texas Governor Rick Perry wins with 45,800 copies sold of his two books, “Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington” and “On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For.”
Next comes Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whose “An American Son” sold 37,000 copies, far better than his “100 Innovative Ideas for Florida” which was snatched up by just 500 buyers.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is third, with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum rounding out the bottom with fewer than 24,000 in sales apiece. Santorum penned several titles, including one of the least popular political books from the 2016 potential contenders -- it’s called “Rick Santorum: A Senator Speaks Out on Life, Freedom and Responsibility” and sold 300 copies.
Last place in the party’s field is held, oddly, by the most buzz-worthy Republican maybe-candidate: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. His 2013 book with lawyer Clint Bolick is called “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution.” It has sold a mere 5,300 copies.
(An earlier version of this story was corrected because Clinton book sales data from Nielsen were incomplete.)