Dear Politicians: We Don't Always Want to Read Your Boring Books

Matt Berman

Just about a week ago, New York City mayoral candidate Christine Quinn released her memoir. If you didn't know this, you're not alone. As of this writing, the book has no reviews on Amazon. It doesn't actually have any ratings on Amazon. So far, it looks like the City Council speaker isn't going to be joining the ranks of politicians who have made millions from their books. That's because, so far, the book has sold just 100 print copies.

Try not to feel too bad: Quinn has led in every mayoral primary poll in 2013 which, as FiveThirtyEight points out, gives her a serious historical advantage. But there is a real lesson here. Just because you're in a high-profile government position, or hope to be in one, doesn't mean you can write an automatic best seller.

It's not that Christine Quinn herself is particularly boring. Her memoir touches on her struggles with bulimia and alcohol, and details her uneasy route to accepting her sexuality. But in her careful attempt to skirt big political issues, her book seems to have come out flat. In a review, The New York Timeswrote that Quinn's "candor about her personal life is as notable about her vagueness about politics." Quinn seems to have misstepped: thinking that because people are interested in her politics, New York City's literati will be interested in her life.

Believing that because you're a politician, you can sell a book is definitely an easy logical mistake to make. Success abounds. Just look at Sonia Sotomayor, who has already received more than $3 million for her best-selling memoir My Beloved World, which was released in January. Or Sen. Al Franken, who got his political career off to a successful start with his best-selling books. Or, you know, this guy.

It's simple for any politician to think, well, if Rick Santorum can do it, why can't I? If Herman Cain can actually call a book This Is Herman Cain! and get paid for it, shouldn't I give this a shot?

Now, finally, it's kinda nice to see evidence to the contrary.