In case you missed him on CNN, Fox News Channel, Good Morning America, The View, The Joy Behar Show, The Rachael Ray Show, Dr. Phil, and The Gayle King Show, Dan Abrams has written a new book about how people who don't have penises wash their hands more than people who do have them. As of last week, it had sold 6,169 copies, according to BookScan.
Which is not nothing! And we're very impressed with how industriously Dan has leveraged his status as a guy on television and web proto-mogul to promote the hell out the book, Man Down. Since he's a legal analyst for ABC News, for instance, he managed to swing not one but two Good Morning America slots to hawk it.
But it doesn't seem to have taken Man Down over the top, does it? BookScan primarily tracks sales at major retailers and chains, and is generally regarded as representing 75% or so of a book's total sales. But we're going to make an arbitrary executive decision that it's highly unlikely that Man Down sold well at the independent bookstores that BookScan skips, and say for the purposes of argument that it sold 6,500. Amazon is selling the hardcover for $12.21. At that price—assuming for the purposes of our back-of-the-envelope calculation that all sales have been hardcover—it's netted something like $80,000. Which means it probably hasn't earned back Abrams' advance yet.
It was just published six weeks ago, of course, and Mother's Day is coming up, so things could pick up yet. But the trend isn't good—two weeks ago, Man Down sold 735 copies according to BookScan. Last week it sold 331. We asked Abrams how he felt about sales so far:
On BookScan (which apparently reflect about 70% of all book sales), our goal was always to top 5,000, which fewer than 5% of all books achieve in their lifetime. We just missed the New York Times Bestseller List in weeks one and two and had I done all the press in one week, I am told we would have easily hit the list (there was almost a zero dollar marketing budget). Sales have been consistent in its first six and half weeks and for a point of reference, Gawker's well publicized Guide to Conquering All Media sold a total of 499 copies in its lifetime. But totally apart from sales numbers, I loved working on it, promoting it and I believe in it.
Wow, that Gawker book tanked! But no matter: I'm told it would have easily been a New York Times bestseller if Gawker had promoted it better. So there's that.
But Abrams makes a good point: These things have to be judged in context. He beat Gawker. His television contemporaries Hoda Kotb and Willie Geist have sold about 4,400 and 10,000 copies, respectively, according to BookScan—and Geist's book has been out for seven months.
But what about television legal analysts, specifically? How do their books tend to do? Well, there's CNN's Jeffrey Toobin—six weeks after his Supreme Court book The Nine came out, he'd sold more than 90,000 copies on the way to a total of nearly a quarter-million. And he didn't even do Dr. Phil.