When the story broke about David Petraeus cheating with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, the news coverage was relentless. After a week of it, I doubted seriously there would be anything of interest that I cared about or needed to know. That is, until one blurb on a newscast had me pausing the broadcast and backing it up to hear it again.
The comment was that the biography, titled “All In, The Education of David Petraeus” had been “languishing around number 126,000 on Amazon’s listing,” and this was after Ms. Broadwell had done the circuit on her book tour, hitting all of the major news media outlets. Now, it had suddenly rocketed up the list to number 83. I have to admit, I wasn’t surprised. Nothing like a good old fashioned scandal and sex to crank up the odds that anything related to that high profile person will suddenly gain lots more attention and sell tons more books.
How about when good ole Arnie, (you know, Arnold Schwarzenegger) cheated with his housekeeper, had a son by her, and hid it for years? What better way to make a comeback after all that than to write a book, (with the very creative title, “Total Recall, My Unbelievably True Life Story.”) Yet, it only sold 21,000 copies in the first week compared to the 254,000 copies of “No Easy Day,” the story of killing Osama Bin Laden.
Then there’s Monica Lewinsky, who was reported to have been given over half a million for her memoir and she did well. St. Martin’s Press issued over 400,000 copies in print. Yet, Rielle Hunter was given only $12,000 for her story about her affair with John Edwards, and her book barely sold 6,000.
In Petraues’ case, “we” like him given his stellar military career and his high ranking role as CIA director. Hey, even a hero can’t always be perfect. Arnold? Something about him seems smarmy – to me. Monica versus Rielle? Well, poor Monica seemed like such an ingenue, didn’t she? And there was Clinton, good president, horrible husband. And Rielle, well, what can we say about someone who cheats with a man whose wife has terminal cancer. I don’t know which of those two were the worst. The do’ee or the do’er.
It just goes to show no one can know with any certainty what will sell and what won’t, as in the saying “sex sells.” I’d have to say, no, not always.