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Hillary Inevitable? Fading Book Sales Say No

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HILLARY CLINTON
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WASHINGTON -- If books can make presidencies -- and Barack Obama proved they can-- then hold the talk about the inevitability of Hillary Clinton.

The Huffington Post has learned that new survey figures show sales of her foreign policy memoir, Hard Choices, are falling fast.

According to authoritative numbers from Bookscan, which monitors sales at 80 percent of bookstores nationwide, retail sales of Hard Choices plummeted another 50 percent in the third week -- down to 26,190 from 48,200 the week before and 85,900 the first week of publication.

Books whose sales drop off by half in successive weeks generally don't become blockbusters, which could be a problem -- a big one -- for Clinton's publisher, Simon & Schuster.

S&S reportedly shipped 1 million copies of the book to stores and is said to have paid Clinton an advance approaching $14 million. At the current rate, it would take many months to sell the million copies -- an unlikely prospect according to industry sources.

"It looks like they are going to be pulping a lot of paper," said a top industry source, who declined to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the matter in the industry. A Simon & Schuster spokesman declined immediate comment.

By comparison, Clinton's 2003 book, Living History, sold six times as many volumes in its first week and eventually 1.4 million worldwide in hardback. Obama's Dreams From My Father had sold 4.65 million in hardback, paperback and ebook as of 2010.

Bookscan figures do not count ebooks, but industry sources suggest that most sales of Clinton's book are likely to be hard copies because of the keepsake, for-the-fans nature of such memoirs.

Explanations for the rapidly weakening sales range from the antiseptic cover picture to the edge-of-summer timing. Clinton supporters in the publishing industry say that times have changed for all authors and that nonfiction books of the kind she (and Obama) wrote are not as popular as they once were. They also note that Hard Choices is doing well on a comparative basis, outselling most other nonfiction titles.

But the more urgent question is political.

The sales figures come out amid a war of competing conventional wisdoms, fervently held by pundits and pols.

One says that Hillary is inevitable, that Obama-like lightning can’t strike twice, and that she has sewn up the allegiance of the left with no significant figures on the horizon to challenge her for the nomination -- or even the presidency in the 2016 general election. The New Republic, for example, put her on the cover with the word "Inevitable" just this week.

The other conventional wisdom is just as sure that Clinton is now, as she was in 2008, a heavier-than-air craft. She will never achieve lift-off because she is too establishment, too controlled, too weighed down by her years of association with the rich and powerful -- and too lacking in a clear message of change for younger generations. The rocky rollout of her book tour is evidence of the latter, they say.

At the very least, the book sales seem to confirm the observations of Bill Maher, who advised Clinton to "just go away."

"People say Hillary being out there on her book tour, talking about this stuff, it's going to inoculate her," said Maher, the host of HBO's "Real Time." "You know there's a fine line between inoculate and we're sick of you. So my advice to Hillary is, just go away. Go away for a while. We're going to see each other. In a couple of years, a lot. Just go away. Because otherwise you're going to blow this."

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