How politicians’ books become best sellers

Prominent politicians write books and, despite the fact that the books may not contain a a single interesting or original thought, or indeed may not have been even written by them at all but instead by a ghostwriter, they usually end up on a best seller list. It is an open secret that politicians and their parties are the ones who buy many books in bulk and then give them away as gifts to party faithful, thus boosting their sales numbers. But who exactly ends up footing the bill for the purchases? It is the suckers who donate to their political campaigns.

Ted Cruz is just the latest politician who has seems to have taken advantage of this practice

In a 2020 Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing, Cruz’s campaign spent $153,000 at retailer Books-a-Million. It is not clear what books were purchased — the filing simply listed the purchase as “books.” 

But the money was spent in the two months following the release of his book “One Vote Away: How A Single Supreme Court Seat Can Change History” on September 29, 2020. 

According to the filing, the campaign spent $40,000 on October 15, two weeks after his book was published. In early November, it spent another $11,900. The biggest spend came on December 1, when his campaign spent $111,900 on books.

His book retailed for about $30, enabling him to buy over 5,000 copies. That is enough to make it a ‘best seller’ in some non-fiction category, since the average number of copies a non-fiction book sells over its lifetime is only about 3,000. The median number could be less, possibly quite a bit less, since a very few books will become blockbuster sellers and badly skew the distribution.

Incidentally, this level of guaranteed sales is also why publishers are willing to publish this kind of dreck. Most real authors know how hard it is to get publishers to take a risk on their books, books that they have actually personally written, because the potential for sales is unknown. But these publishers know they have a guaranteed return on investment. Cruz’s publisher is Regnery, which is a right-wing outfit, which makes it even easier to get them to agree to it.


  1. bugfolder says

    It’s also a nice way to launder campaign funds to go into the author’s pockets via royalties. Way more efficient that holding campaign events at your own hotel.

  2. Matt G says

    I think what we can conclude from this is that Ted Cruz’s book is very popular with…Ted Cruz! Take note, New York Times Bestseller List!

  3. consciousness razor says

    This is like somebody be scammed into believing that they’re buying a concert ticket, that they’ll get to hear some of the band’s greatest hits; but instead of all that, they’re purchasing a shoddily made t-shirt from the merch table which will then be sold to someone else.

    I am not a lawyer; but I’m pretty sure that, if we weren’t talking about politicians and the FEC, then legally audience members are required to throw rotten produce at them whenever they come on stage. (But not under any circumstances while transporting a walrus. There must be limits, after all, or else our whole system might collapse.)

    However, since we are talking about politicians and the FEC, we’re entitled to know that the crime has occurred. And that’s it. Nothing else happens.

  4. Who Cares says

    Which makes it all the more remarkable (the guaranteed income for publishers that is) and containing quite a bit of schadenfreude towards the ‘victim’ (a grifter that sees a grift, knows how to play it but can’t and everyone can see that is funny) that Trump cannot find a publisher for his book. That is how bad the guy screwed up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *