Dan Gross, of Slate and Newsweek, got interested in the curious wrinkle presented by the publishers of Sarah Palin’s forthcoming book and Ted Kennedy’s True Compass: both publishers didn’t want an ebook available during the first few weeks on sale.

In response, I wrote a piece for TheBigMoney.com because it dawned on me that we’ve all forgotten what book publishers are still really good at, the big personality. Palin’s book–which displaced Dan Brown from the number one spot at Amazon two days after it was announced and weeks before it would be available–is clearly going to be one of those books. And, if it is, her publisher might even make a dollar or two after it earns back the $7 million they paid her. To do that they’ll need a lot of sales velocity:

Velocity comes from ubiquity, and ubiquity is what the modern publishing business is best at. Most people won’t buy Palin’s book in a bookstore; most of her buyers probably don’t have a bookstore they visit regularly. Instead, the bulk of sales will be in Wal-Marts, Krogers, Costcos, and newsstand chains like Hudson News. The first week or two—when most of those sales will take place—it won’t be hard for consumers to come across a copy of Going Rogue, so there’s no reason to divert from the big show even the small percentage of sales that e-books represent.

If the Palin book works—and it is beginning to look like she can make herself the key anti-Obama rallying point—it will be a reminder of the political power books can wield. Each sale will be a vote for Palin—though without the consequences of actually electing her; each book will also become a little campaign poster stoking her base and impressing her skeptics. Politics is media, and the publicity tour as trial campaign looks to be the last best hope of the publishing business.


Why Big Books Still Matter
Sarah Palin’s Book Demonstrates the Power of the Book as Talisman


Category: Books

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5 Responses to “What the Book Business Still Does Best”

  1. thfiv says:

    Sarah Palin is awesome!

  2. thfiv says:

    Barry Ritholtz 2012

  3. blueoysterjoe says:

    “and it is beginning to look like she can make herself the key anti-Obama rallying point”

    Really? We have a raging debate about healthcare right now, and she is completely absent. After making some statements about death panels, she has disappeared. We are hearing a lot from pretty much everyone, from Limbaugh to Beck, from Huckabee to Romney, but nothing from Palin. Heck, Palin didn’t even win a recent straw poll of potential presidential nominees. She didn’t even come in second. I think this statement is demonstrably false.

    Also, when a person buys a book about Palin, they are not voting for her. They want to know what she has to say. And let’s face it, Palin says a lot of really loony stuff. I’m tempted to read it just to marvel at her wacky thinking, not to vote for her.

    Books can definitely be useful for people with political ambitions — especially those who don’t have official government jobs and therefore no daily claim to the camera — but I think Maneker is taking Palin’s attractiveness to the public a little too seriously. Some people think she is a deep thinker, most think she is a freak. And freaks sell books.

  4. donna says:

    I love when these books come out since they are great markers of People I Should Avoid at all costs… if they have one of these in their hands I know to run away…

  5. thfiv says:

    I want “Bailout Nation” to sell even more copies.