Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I know a little bit about the business in question, and I can assure you that the folks at HarperCollins are moving up the publication date of Sarah Palin's memoir for a simple reason: because they can. Now that Palin and her writer have turned in the manuscript, the book can come out for Christmas, which means it will bring in serious revenue by the end of what's otherwise been a dismal year for the book business. That's the reason this is happening -- not (as Andrew Sullivan speculates) because Palin is "trying to beat any other account of her bizarre career and surreal private life," or (as a number of Steve Benen's commenters seem to believe) "out of fear that she will be irrelevant by the spring" (please, folks, she's worshipped on the right, and the deification of her increases every time one of us says something like that).

The book is going to be a big bestseller. And I know, I know: when I talk about a right-wing bestseller, nearly all of you start thinking: destined for the remainder tables. So let me try this again.

You know Fox News utterly dominates the cable news ratings, right? You know Limbaugh and other right-wing talkers win radio ratings wars, right? Do you think those numbers are fake? Do you think right-wing foundations are "bulk-buying" positive Nielsen and Arbitron figures? Do you think Limbaugh's bosses pay him $33 mil a year even though no one's really listening to him?

So why not books, too?

Look -- wingnuts constitute a third of the country, and a third of the country is still a hell of a lot of people, especially in a highly segmented media environment. And in fact, it takes only a small percentage of that third of the country to make someone a superstar -- Beck's average viewership is a bit over 2 million a day, which is less than 1% of the country. But that's a huge number on cable.

And in the book world, if you sell a million hardcovers -- i.e., if you sell a book to less than half of one percent of all Americans -- you're a mega-seller. (A million movie tickets, by contrast, means your film is a flop.)

I say Sarah will get to at least half a million, and I'd say a million is a serious possibility. (HarperCollins says it's printing 1.5 mil.) Will that include some bulk buys? Sure. But there'll be lines around the block for any personal appearances she makes, mark my words.

And really, so what? Fahrenheit 9/11 made nearly $120 million at the box office, and Bush still got elected; Palin's book will sell like hotcakes to her idiot cult, and still she'll never be president (though she may get to lose a presidential election, because her party may not be able to prevent that idiot cult from getting her nominated).

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