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Election year slow for political books

Ashley Milne-Tyte Feb 5, 2008

Election year slow for political books

Ashley Milne-Tyte Feb 5, 2008


Scott Jagow: Have you gotten your fill of election coverage yet? I hope not. There’s a long way to go after today’s Super Tuesday voting. Last presidential election, political books did well. Books from President Clinton, Bob Woodward and the Daily Show all hit the bestseller lists.

But recently, political book sales haven’t been so good. More now from Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.

Ashley Milne-Tyte: Last year was a let-down for political publishers. Valerie Plame’s book flopped. Ann Coulter’s latest anti-liberal critique hasn’t sold half as well as her last, published in 2004.

Doug Muzzio teaches public affairs at New York City’s Baruch College. He says during the last election season, politics was still dominated by one polarizing figure. And his policies stirred up a left-right loathing that got people reading.

Doug Muzzio: It was stimulated by George Bush, both pro and con. It’s four years later. George Bush is somewhat of an irrelevancy. He doesn’t generate the heat that he once did.

Still, the publishing cycle hasn’t slowed. There are a hundred political titles on publishers’ spring lists. There’s always the possibility of a surprise bestseller. In 2004, it was the anti-Kerry book, “Unfit for Command.”

But Jim Milliot of Publisher’s Weekly says an election year can pose a problem for publishers: the closer the election gets, books about politics have to compete for publicity with the real thing.

Jim Milliot: They’re not going to be publishing some of their high-profile books around the election, because there’s just no media time. You’re not gonna get on the Today Show, you’re not gonna get on Tim Russert.

Books have to compete for readers as well.

Doug Muzzio says political junkies like him are addicted to all forms of election coverage this time round. Whether it be newspapers, television, radio or blogs.

Muzzio: You know, every day you wake up and you read the news and you can get into it. Reading a book sort of diverts you from the immediacy of the fix.

Jim Milliot says publishers are hoping 2009 could be a potentially blockbuster year. He says as soon as the election is over, they’ll be busy pursuing potential authors who haven’t yet told all.

Milliot: And they’re going running around, signing up whoever hasn’t written a book in the cabinet. And of course, getting the president himself.

Readers may have to wait a few years for that one.

In New York, I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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