It turns out that people are far less interested in financial regulation than prostitution. Eliot Spitzer has only managed to sell about 70 print copies of his latest book, according to Bookscan figures, despite universal name recognition and unrivaled media attention, not to mention praise from Al Gore.
Granted, the book, Protecting Capitalism Case by Case, is not on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. It was published by Rosetta Books, a high-end print-on-demand company that has also released works by Aldous Huxley and Kurt Vonnegut. Spitzer's book was made available as both an e-book and a paperback. Neither Rosetta nor Amazon would comment on ebook figures for Protecting Capitalism, though Sandi Mendelson, an outside publicist working on the book, estimated that "the ebook had over 1,000 downloads in the first few days."
Nevertheless, given the intense media coverage of his return to politics (see the spike in Google Trends) and changing digital reading habits, the numbers are a bit of a surprise, especially for someone as media-savvy as Spitzer. Two days after he announced that he would seek redemption from New York's voters by seeking the office of city controller, former governor Spitzer published a book called Protecting Capitalism, the "first account of the high-profile cases he prosecuted, initially as an assistant district attorney and later as Attorney General."
It included a blurb by former Vice President Gore, who said Protecting Capitalism "illuminates some of the greatest threats to sustainable capitalism and prescribes solutions to help to mark a clear-headed path forward."
As Spitzer campaigned against Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer for the office of New York's chief financial office, the so-called "Luv Guv" was thrust back into the headlines — and his book followed.
- Reuters reviewed Protecting Capitalism a week after publication, praising its "insightful anecdotes and intelligent arguments," while gently complaining about a lack of organization.
- The Wall Street Journal — read by the very bankers who despite Spitzer — ran an article on the book in its Greater New York section, noting how it "describes some of his best-known cases and lays out what he says is wrong with American capitalism and how to fix it."
- Metro covered the publication of the book, noting incorrectly that it was only an e-book, whereas it is quite obviously available as a paperback, albeit only online.
- USA Today covered the book by noting that "Spitzer is offering life advice in a new book released as he campaigns for city comptroller," though that's only part of the mission of Protecting Capitalism.
That's all just to say that the book benefit from strong early press — the kind of press extremely few books enjoy. Which makes all the more surprising the book's weak sales: only 70 paperback copies sold, according to BookScan, which accounts for about 85% of the print market and does not include library copies.
Protecting Capitalism currently has six Amazon ratings, all but one of the giving the book five stars. It is the 168,208th most purchased book on the site as of this writing.
This seems to be a bad summer for books by New York politicians, with Christine Quinn's memoir posting low numbers back in June. The irony is that Spitzer's book is actually probably worth reading, tackling as it does the cases that made him the feared "Sheriff of Wall Street." Maybe he should have written instead about the prostitution scandal that had him leave the governorship. People would surely read that.