Did you know that Valerie Jarrett, the former top advisor to Barack Obama, has a new book out? Even though we’ve been bombarded with promotions and news stories about Michelle Obama’s memoir, there hasn’t been a lot of hype about the new memoir published this month by one of Obama’s closest friends and confidants, who had a tremendous impact on his administration.
The hardcover edition currently ranks at #1,346 overall on Amazon. Last year my book, The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama, reach #485 on Amazon on July 25, 2018. Guess which book ended up on the New York Times bestsellers list, and which one didn’t? That’s right, Valerie Jarrett’s book Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward, is a New York Times bestseller, and my book outperformed hers on Amazon. My book, the Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama also hit #624 on Amazon… and it never made the New York Times bestseller list.
For sure, Amazon is only one retailer, but they have a huge share of the book market, and you can get a good sense of how well a book is doing overall by looking at its Amazon rankings. In particular, Amazon is crushing the digital book market. How is the Kindle edition of Jarrett’s book doing? At the time I wrote this, it is at #11,940. How about my book? The Kindle edition of my book is currently at #10,383 on Amazon. So, the Kindle edition of my book appears to be doing better than Jarrett’s right now, too.
Jarrett reportedly received a million-dollar advance for her book. That kind of advance usually means high expectations for sales, but, based on its performance on Amazon, its sales don’t translate to New York Times bestseller status. So, what’s going?
According to Bookscan, Jarrett’s book has sold 12,600 copies so far. The Daily Caller notes that that is “enough to rank it highly on the Publishers Weekly chart, but Publishers Weekly did not put it on its list at all.” Why not? According to an industry insider, a big chunk of the book’s sales was suspect, and there was likely an effort to game the system. This insider believes that a single company was likely hired to buy as many as 11,000 copies of the book in such a manner that makes it appear like legitimate sales. One company known for doing this was called ResultSource. It reportedly shut down following a 2013 exposé in the Wall Street Journal, but other companies have risen up to take its place. Considering Jarrett was paid a million dollars for her book, she certainly had a reputation to maintain, and the means to ensure a spot on the New York Times bestseller list.
The sales of Jarrett’s book are clearly suspicious, but Jarrett still gets to claim herself as a New York Times bestselling author and the listing for her book has even been updated to indicate the book’s prestigious status as a bestseller.
Memoirs of politicians and political figures are often disappointing. Nancy Pelosi’s 2008 memoir sold only 2,737 copies in its first week—despite her status as the first female Speaker of the House. After two and a half years, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s memoir only sold 3,200 copies, despite a $783,000 advance. Despite being a top Obama advisor, it actually would have been reasonable to assume Jarrett’s sales would be similar. Legitimate sales of her book clearly appear to be in line with the duds of Pelosi and Cuomo, but it appears that Jarrett was the only one who invested in some book sale manipulation in order to boost her profile by adding bestselling author to her list of accomplishments. After years of being a part of the Obama administration, its easy to understand why she thought she could get away with it.
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis