What the Book Business Still Does Best

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

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