DeSantis First-Week Memoir Sales Far Outpace Books by Trump, Pence, Clinton and Obama

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' new book sold 94,300 U.S. print copies in its first week, according to BookScan.
  • That far outpaces the book former President Donald Trump released during his successful 2016 presidential bid, as well as similar books by former President Barack Obama and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
  • DeSantis is in the midst of a book tour that took him to Iowa, the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus state.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to announce his likely 2024 presidential campaign, but he's already leading the political field by one metric: political memoir sales.

The Republican's book, "The Courage to Be Free: Florida's Blueprint for America's Survival," sold 94,300 copies in its first week, according to BookScan, a U.S. print book data service. It was the top-selling book for the week it came out, BookScan found. The memoir was released on Feb. 28.

That figure trumps the first-week sales of other major politicians' memoirs — including a 2015 effort by former President Donald Trump, who is currently seen as a leading candidate in the prospective 2024 Republican primary field.

That book, "Crippled America," sold 27,687 copies in its first week, according to BookScan.

The data service, owned by market research giant NPD Group, told CNBC it covers approximately 85% of trade print books sold in the U.S. Its data is based on weekly reporting from major retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target and independent bookstores, among other sources.

DeSantis' conservative culture warfare on issues ranging from Covid-19 safety measures to classroom discussion of LGBTQ issues has made him a top figure in the GOP. The Florida governor is in the midst of a book tour that on Friday took him to Iowa, the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus state.

DeSantis' book sales also appeared to far outpace recently published memoirs by a handful of other Republicans who have either launched 2024 presidential campaigns or are considering it, according to BookScan.

Former Vice President Mike Pence's "So Help Me God," released last November, sold 37,600 print copies in the first week, while "Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love" by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sold 34,600.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley sold just 7,900 copies of her book "If You Want Something Done: Leadership Lessons from Bold Women," the first week after its publication last October. Haley became Trump's first major primary challenger when she threw her hat in the ring last month.

Of course, book sales alone don't guarantee a politician's future success. Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton sold 86,200 print copies of her 2014 book "Hard Choices" in the first week, BookScan data showed. But Clinton would go on to lose to Trump in the 2016 election.

Meanwhile, BookScan said former President Barack Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope," which preceded his history-making 2008 White House run, sold 67,500 print copies in its first week.

Publishing a strategically timed memoir can often be a precursor to a political run, with the books helping introduce a would-be candidate to a new audience.

They also can be lucrative for politicians, yielding significantly more money than their salaries.

But the books are often derided for presenting a sanitized version of a politician, revealing little about their past or personal life and offering a self-serving primer on their record and policy views. The New York Times' searing review of DeSantis' new book, for instance, said it made the governor seem like a "mechanical try-hard" exuding a "bullying sense of superiority."

On Friday, DeSantis' book was listed No. 1 in the hardcover nonfiction category of the Times bestsellers' list.

In 2011, DeSantis published "Dreams From Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama" with High-Pitched Hum Publishing, reportedly a Jacksonville, Florida-based company that authors pay to print their books.

"The Courage to Be Free" was published by Broadside Books, a conservative imprint of HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Meanwhile, DeSantis' potential rival, Trump, is about to go back into the book market. This week, he announced "Letters to Trump," a photo book compiling his correspondence with a wide range of celebrities over several decades.

Trump's second photo book since he left the White House in 2021 is set for release on April 25.

In a social media post Friday evening, Trump accused DeSantis, without providing evidence, of having "groups buying his book in order to inflate sales."

DeSantis' political team did not reply to CNBC's request for comment on the sales figures.

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