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 of sales, according to BookScan, a data service that tracks U.S. print book sales. 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 just 27,687 hard 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, whose 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, 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 week one. “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love” by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sold nearly as well — 34,600 print sales — in its first week on shelves.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley sold just 7,900 print copies of her book “If You Want Something Done: Leadership Lessons from Bold Women,” in 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 that 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 of sales.
Publishing a strategically timed memoir can often be a precursor to a political run. The books can help introduce a would-be candidate to a new audience.
They are also lucrative for politicians, and often yield 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 New York Times Best Sellers list.
DeSantis in 2011 released “Dreams From Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama.” It was published through 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.
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.
The book, Trump’s second photo book since he left the White House in 2021, is set for release on April 25.