Voters seem to be embracing negativity this year. So do readers.
"Crippled America," Donald Trump’s diagnosis of the nation’s woes, is the undisputed bestseller this year among books penned by presidential candidates. Consumers have bought more than 36,000 copies of the hardcover title so far in 2016, according to Nielsen, with total sales of 199,000 since the book went on sale last year. Overall, Trump has sold 240,000 copies of four books published or republished since last year.
Nielsen, which captures about 85% of all book sales, periodically releases figures for the presidential candidates, and the story this year seems to be much the same as in 2015. Republican Ben Carson, who has withdrawn from the race, is the top-selling candidate-author, with sales of at least 1.7 million on five different titles, according to Nielsen. But Carson couldn’t translate his literary popularity into votes.
Trump doesn’t have that problem, with his blunt assessment of a broken country resonating far and wide. Trump’s celebrity obviously helps with book sales, as does the entertainment factor inherent in the entire Trump spectacle. Trump's books blend populist political views with insights from the business world and the implied promise that readers can get rich like the Donald, if only they follow his advice. Trump has also capitalized on his newfound notoriety by republishing older titles, such as "The Art of the Deal," from 2004. Here’s a summary of book sales for each remaining presidential candidate, plus Carson:
Among Republicans, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have both written memoirs within the last few years, but neither has come close to Trumpian popularity. John Kasich has written three books, but his last was in 2011 and none have been updated to coincide with the presidential race.
Democrat Hillary Clinton has sold more than 500,000 copies of her two books—"Living History" (2004) and "Hard Choices" (2014). But readers don’t seem interested this year, perhaps because Clinton has been a public figure for years and isn’t really saying anything new as a presidential candidate. A broad lack of interest in her personal story could presage trouble getting voters energized about her campaign, should she end up the Democratic nominee, as seems likely.
Bernie Sanders has Trump-like appeal among liberal voters, but hasn’t yet capitalized on it in print. One Sanders title, "Outsider in the White House," is a rehash of his 1997 book, "Outsider in the House," which Sanders wrote when he was a senator most Americans had never heard of. Total sales this year: 2,900. His only other book, "The Speech," is a transcript of a filibuster Sanders conducted in 2010, which has sold 700 copies this year. But Sanders could hit the bestseller list yet, since his insurgent run for president has become an improbable and colorful tale -- and it's a good bet he’ll write about it someday.
Rick Newman’s latest book is Liberty for All: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Financial and Political Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.