Media Produce Literary Leftovers

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Americans may consume a lot of media, but not many want to actually read books about it. CBS producer Mary Mapes, along with her role in the 60 Minutes Wednesday Memogate fiasco, was covered by nearly every media outlet, from Vanity Fair to Good Morning America, not to mention getting plenty of news and blog coverage. All that exposure doesn’t seem to have helped sales of her book.

Mapes’ Truth or Duty is already being marked down 50% to clear retailers’ shelves. The book has moved a mere 7,000 copies at stores measured by Nielsen Media’s BookScan, which counts approximately 75% of book sales around the country.

Mapes isn’t the only media author being marked down. While picking over the remainder table at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble, we were struck by the prominence of recent books by TV personalities. Martha Stewart, Mike Wallace and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell—all are half off.

Some of these books didn’t necessarily sell badly, but higher expectations led publishers to print too many copies.

Barnes & Noble merchandising VP Bob Wietrak says that, for some of the media books, "We had pretty good sales with them," particularly Wallace’s Between You and Me: A Memoir, which BookScan says sold 60,000 copies through Jan. 1.

Even the Mapes book wasn’t a bomb, says Wietrak: "It did OK. It wasn’t a major bestseller for us, but it wasn’t a book we would have said, ‘Just return it.’"

BookScan says Mitchell’s Talking Back: Presidents, Dictators, and Other Scoundrels recorded 26,000 sales; Stewart’s The Martha Rules moved 50,000 copies.

But some are much weaker. Michael Jackson’s near-stalker Diane Diamond’s stomach-churning title Be Careful Who You Love hit the checkout scanner just 5,000 times.

Readers had plenty of doubts about CNBC host Donny Deutsch’s Often Wrong, Never in Doubt. BookScan recorded 8,000 sales.

And we checked on a book by Deutsch’s new CNBC colleague Michael Eisner, Camp, about the ex-Disney chairman’s boyhood days at summer camp. It wasn’t on the remainder table, but when it came out last June, we couldn’t conceive of anyone other than Eisner’s mother (and maybe his ghostwriter’s mother) wanting to read it.

We were close: It moved 11,000 copies.