These days, you can’t run for president without writing a book.
But pretty much every other serious candidate has also written a book or two during election season, pitching their ideas and policies with a bit of autobiography and a few anecdotes from the campaign trail.
They’re usually … not so good. (That’s what you get with a ghostwriter and a lot of time spent on a campaign bus.)
And that’s OK. These books are rhetorical devices. They’re not meant to be critically acclaimed. But given the potential personal rewards, the candidates would surely like them to be commercially successful.
Unfortunately, according to numbers collected by Nielson BookScan, which covers print sales at 85 percent of booksellers (though not e-books), that doesn’t look likely for most.
While the pattern looks simple—release the book, get a bunch of sales—it appears candidates who publish while they’re riding high in the polls get an additional boost. Ben Carson’s chart-topping sales in October were likely helped by his chart-topping polling, and Huckabee’s debut in January came near the height of his favorability ratings.