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Candidates Seek Votes -- And Readers

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., shakes hands at a book signing in Portsmouth, N.H., Dec. 10, 2006. The latest crop of White House wannabes has taken the old academic stricture "publish or perish" to heart: at least eight potential 2008 candidates have books either already published or soon to hit the stores.
The top-tier presidential candidates have some personal finance numbers in common — six- or seven-figure book deals.

Writing a book has become a prerequisite to running for president — a means to explain views in depth, to set the record straight and to add a bit of gravitas. But while nearly all the candidates put pen to paper, it is mainly those ranked high in the polls who make any real money out of it.

Hillary Rodham Clinton made an $8 million book deal for "Living History," published in 2003. In the last two years, the New York senator chalked up about $1.2 million in book royalties.

Though his campaign may be in a financial rut, Sen. John McCain's book sales are consistently profitable. The Republican from Arizona, whose campaign has suffered recent setbacks, made $80,390 in 2006 from Random House book royalties and about $255,000 in book profits the year before.

Also finding literary success was Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who received a $425,000 advance against royalties for "The Audacity of Hope," published last October. Listed as a best-seller for dozens of weeks, the book has sold 1 million copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of book sales.

HarperCollins paid former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., a $500,000 advance for "Home: The Blueprints of Our Lives," a collection of mini-memoirs he edited.

Edwards donated his royalties to charity — something politicians sometimes do with a portion of their book proceeds.

And big book profits are not a reality for many White House hopefuls, even if they're well-known.

"I think it's a losing proposition for most candidates in that they're not looking at those books for instant wealth," said publisher Jonathan Karp of Twelve, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group that released McCain's "Hard Call" this month. "Because most of them are not natural writers or natural storytellers. Most of them fall back on boilerplate and cliche."

Karp says Sen. John Kerry's "A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America," published in October 2003, was considered a snooze. The 2004 Democrat nominee made about $89,000 in book royalties during his run-up to the election in 2003, but didn't report any for 2004. Compare that with Clinton's 2004 royalties totaling about $2.3 million for "Living History."

A used copy of Kerry's book can now be found on for 1 cent.

Although he leads the GOP field in most polls in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's "Turnaround," published in 2004, has sold only about 11,000 copies.