Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to announce his likely 2024 presidential campaign, but he’s already leading the political field by one metric: sales of political memoirs.
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 US data service for printed books. It was the best-selling book in the week it was out, BookScan found. The memoir was released on February 28.
That number trumps first-week sales of other major politicians’ memoirs — including a 2015 effort by former President Donald Trump, currently the leading candidate in the likely field of the 2024 Republican primary.
According to BookScan, the book “Crippled America” sold 27,687 copies in its first week.
The data service, owned by market research giant NPD Group, told CNBC it covers about 85% of trade print books sold in the US. Its data is based on weekly reports from major retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Goal and independent bookstores, among other sources.
DeSantis’ conservative culture clash on issues ranging from Covid-19 safety measures to classroom discussions of LGBTQ issues has propelled him to a top figure in the GOP. The Florida governor is in the middle of a book tour that took him to Iowa, the nation’s first state in the presidential election, on Friday.
DeSantis’ book sales also appeared to far outpace the recently released memoirs of a handful of other Republicans who have either launched or are considering 2024 presidential campaigns, according to BookScan.
Former Vice President Mike Pence’s “So Help Me God,” which was released last November, sold 37,600 copies in print in its first week, while former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love” 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, in the first week after it was published last October. Haley became Trump’s first major challenger when she threw her hat in the ring last month.
Of course, book sales alone do not guarantee a politician’s future success. Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton sold 86,200 print copies of her 2014 book, Hard Choices, in its first week, data from BookScan showed. But Clinton would 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 White House run in 2008, sold 67,500 copies in print in its first week.
The release of a strategically timed memoir can often be a precursor to a political campaign, with the books helping to introduce a potential candidate to new audiences.
They can also be lucrative for politicians as they bring in significantly more money than their salaries.
But the books are often derided for presenting a sanitized version of a politician, revealing little about her past or personal life, and offering a self-serving introduction to her record and political views. The New York Times’ searing review of DeSantis’ new book, for example, said it made The Governor seem like a “mechanical attempt” that exuded a “bullying sense of superiority.”
On Friday, DeSantis ranked the book #1 on The Times Best Seller list in the hardcover nonfiction category.
In 2011, DeSantis published Dreams From Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama with High-Pitched Hum Publishing, ostensibly a Jacksonville, Fla.-based company that authors pay to have their books printed.
The Courage to Be Free was published by Broadside Books, a conservative imprint of HarperCollins owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
Meanwhile, DeSantis’ potential rival, Trump, is about to re-enter the book market. This week he announced Letters to Trump, a photo book compiling his correspondence with a variety of celebrities spanning several decades.
Trump’s second photo book since leaving the White House in 2021 is slated for release on April 25.
In a social media post Friday night, Trump, without providing evidence, accused DeSantis of “having groups buying his book to boost sales.”
The DeSantis policy team did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the sales numbers.