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Here’s What Book Sales Tell Us About Which Presidential Candidates People Care About, And Which They Don’t

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Luke Rosiak Investigative Reporter
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If book sales are a metric for how interested voters are in presidential candidates, then Cory Booker and Julian Castro could have a hard time gaining traction.

Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg could be more than just a flash in the pan, and coffee magnate Howard Schultz shouldn’t be written off, either.

Book sales compiled by Publishers Marketplace, and based on NPD BookScan figures, have former Vice President Joe Biden in the lead, selling 300,000 copies of his 2017 book “Promise Me, Dad.” (RELATED: Obama Adviser’s Book Is Ranked #1,030 on Amazon. How Did It Make NYT Bestseller List?)

But progressive candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren combined outpaced him at 407,000 books. The two wrote books both before and after the 2016 election, and Sanders’ 2018 book did far worse than his first one, losing out to Warren’s 2017 book 26,000 to 82,000. (RELATED: Fueled By Book Sales, Sanders Joins The 1 Percent)

Booker and Kamala Harris are often put in the same class by pundits as young, black senators, but book sales suggest Booker doesn’t have the same star power. Booker’s 2016 book sold only 14,000 copies, compared to Harris selling 43,000 of her 2019 tome.

Andrew Yang, an out-of-nowhere political outsider running for the Democratic nomination for president, has sold 17,000 copies of his 2014 and 2018 books, besting the entire second tier of Democratic candidates who have dedicated years to public service, including Booker, Amy Klobuchar, John Hickenlooper, Julian Castro and Jay Inslee.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks during a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, U.S., April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg’s 2019 book “Shortest Way Home” has sold 27,000 copies, suggesting he is more than just a media creation. By comparison, Castro is running for president despite his book released in 2018, “An Unlikely Journey,” selling only 5,000 copies. Klobuchar’s 2015 book sold only 7,000 copies.

Beto O’Rourke has not written a major political book, but is on the chart because of a 2011 paperback, “Dealing Death and Drugs,” an argument to legalize marijuana by highlighting the dangerous conduct of underground cartels.

When Starbucks co-founder Howard Schultz launched his presidential bid — launching his book at the same time — it was widely painted in the media as a flop, with Democrats saying he could play the role of spoiler. But book sales suggest voters have an appetite for what he was selling. Publishers Marketplace said Schultz sold an impressive 70,000 books in the short time it’s been out.

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