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From the Desk of Judith Regan

Here’s What Would Happen if Book Sales Determined the Presidency

Think about it. The candidate who sells the most books wins.

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We all know elections are rigged. Voting machines can be hacked, ballot boxes are easily stuffed, Supreme Court justices hand down decisions willy-nilly that negate the popular vote. And don’t even get me started on the Electoral College.

That’s why I’m calling for a new system that will more accurately reflect the will of the American people: Election by book sales.

Think about it. The candidate who sells the most books wins. By extension, booksellers, agents, and of course publishers would cash in as well. But it’s the public that really stands to gain. Books are vehicles for ideas. They require a certain discipline, not only to have a few coherent thoughts (imagine!)—and if you want to get fancy, maybe a meaningful narrative—but to commit it all to paper in a way that can be understood, evaluated, pored over, debated, and perhaps ridiculed. Most politicians will opt to work with ghostwriters, naturally, but with the fate of the free world depending on the output of these nameless scribes, the candidates might take the time to actually read the words that are published under their names, rather than simply vetting their author photos. Which means the books might actually get better.

In essence, it’s the exact opposite of our current system, under which most presidential candidates seem to jump into the race not to assume higher office but to juice sales, a highly dubious PR strategy, to judge by the results.

A look at sales numbers for the recent crop of candidates is instructive. If my proposal had been adopted in time to cancel the 2016 primaries (another benefit), we’d be singing “Hail to the Chief” to President Ben Carson this January. According to BookScan, the low-key former neurosurgeon sold a whopping 370,905 copies of his 2014 tome, One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future, for Penguin. His follow-up, A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties, added another 202,544 to his tally.

Coming in second—and thereby nabbing the vice presidential slot, under my proposed system—is Hillary Clinton, who moved 269,386 units of her memoir Hard Choices (Simon & Schuster) and another 27,341 in paper.

Donald Trump came in third, with 236,132 copies of Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again, also for S&S. But given the inflated expectations (the publisher is said to have printed more than 600,000 copies, which means that nearly two thirds are on their way back to the warehouse) the Donald’s book can only be judged a massive fail.

A few other candidates published books in the last two years as well, none of which, alas, would get them within spitting distance of the Oval: Ted Cruz (67,717), Mike Huckabee (68,581), Rand Paul (12,506), Marco Rubio (9,726), and Carly Fiorina (9,466).

I know—it’s a radical notion. And there are some problems with the idea, not least of which is that wealthy donors could simply send their minions scurrying to every bookstore in the country with wads of cash, looking to buy up every available copy of a favored candidate’s book.

Then again, that would suit us publishers just fine. We can always print more….

––Judith Regan

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