The Slatest

No One Is Buying Wendy Davis’ Book

Wendy Davis speaks about a recent Supreme Court ruling on HB2, a Texas state abortion law, on Oct. 16, 2014, in Houston
Wendy Davis speaks about a recent Supreme Court ruling on HB2, a Texas state abortion law, on Oct. 16, 2014, in Houston.

Photo by Eric Kayne/Getty Images

Wendy Davis’ book is having a tough time of it. Despite enormous levels of media buzz, Nielsen BookScan numbers provided to Slate by a publishing source show only 4,317 copies of the memoir, called Forgetting to Be Afraid, have been sold since its Sept. 9 publication.

Nielsen BookScan doesn’t include all book sales, notably sales at many independent retailers, so the actual number of copies sold is probably higher, although still likely below 6,000. As a point of comparison, Elizabeth Warren’s memoir, A Fighting Chance, sold more than 70,000 copies in its first few months on shelves. And David Limbaugh’s book Jesus on Trial, which was published the day before Davis’, has sold about 65,000 copies, including 6,778 just last week, according to BookScan.

Since filibustering a new round of abortion regulations in the Texas senate last summer, the Democrats’ long-shot Texas gubernatorial candidate has become a near household name and a hero for pro-choice activists. She appeared on the Daily Show Monday night—which probably will give her book sales a little bump—starred in fawning Vogue and New York Times Magazine profiles, and has become an MSNBC favorite.

Her book’s anemic sales aren’t due to any dearth of coverage. Just about every major media outlet—including the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, Huffington Post, and many others—covered the book’s revelation that Davis has had two abortions, both for medical reasons. But that buzz hasn’t translated into sales. The book’s publisher, Penguin imprint Blue Rider Press, didn’t respond to an email about the lackluster numbers.

Even if Barnes & Noble customers aren’t paying attention, Davis’ gubernatorial opponent is. Greg Abbott, the Texas Republican attorney general who Davis faces in that race, railed against her decision to release the book during her candidacy. He filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission, charging that Davis is using campaign funds to promote the memoir. The complaint didn’t do much beside generate another round of news coverage for the book.

Like her book sales, Davis’ gubernatorial bid hasn’t been going so well. The RealClearPolitics polling average shows Abbott leading her by more than 14 percentage points. And, as the Washington Examiner noted this morning, a recent NYT/CBS/YouGov poll shows her losing female voters by 12 points. Despite what you may be hearing, Texas isn’t purple yet.

Davis’ book and campaign are telling reminders that hype only takes you so far.