Evan Horowitz

How books help a presidential candidate

Hillary Clinton attended a book signing at a Barnes & Noble in New York City.

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Hillary Clinton attended a book signing at a Barnes & Noble in New York City.

For Hillary Clinton, and any politician considering a run for political office, the benefits of writing a book extend well beyond the world of book publishing. A book, and the national book tour that often comes with it, offer several key advantages that have nothing to do with book sales.

- Free publicity. Book tours can generate a tremendous amount of media attention. When Elizabeth Warren published “A Fighting Chance” in April, there was a substantial spike in the number of times her name appeared in news outlets and on blogs.


Hillary Clinton’s spike is likely just beginning, since her book was just released, but there are other ways to think about the free publicity she’s getting. Last night, Clinton did a one-hour interview with Diane Sawyer, or about 40 minutes of TV time (without commercials). That’s not cheap. According to AdWeek, a 30-second spot during “Dancing with the Stars,” which usually runs at 9 p.m. on Mondays, costs just under $94,645. Buying up 40 minutes at that rate would have cost $7.6 million. With a book in hand, though, Hillary Clinton doesn’t pay a cent.

- Book tours and big data. When Hillary’s likely run for president does begin in earnest, she’s going to need to raise money and build a “ground game.” That means connecting with potential supporters all over the country and finding volunteers to knock on doors. A nationwide book tour provides a good vehicle to start identifying these people. As she moves through events in New York, Chicago, Austin, San Francisco, and Washington, she can collect sign-in lists and keep track of sales data. She can use that information later to expand her social media reach, recruit supporters, and boost fundraising.

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- Honing a message. A book tour can also provide good practice for aspiring candidates. It gives them a chance to speak with supporters, to try out slogans and arguments, and to work towards a winning message for a future campaign--all without the pressure of an opponent eager to exploit any and all missteps.

While book tours do help candidates with publicity and infrastructure, they can’t make or break elections. Often, they don’t even increase the popularity of the candidate. When Sarah Palin published “Going Rogue” in November of 2009, her poll numbers ticked up slightly, only to quickly fall back. Likewise, despite the increased publicity around “A Fighting Chance” earlier this year, Elizabeth Warren’s favorability remained fairly steady.

Hillary Clinton has been through this before. She wrote “Living History” in 2003, when she was a US Senator from New York eyeing an eventual presidential run. Now, more than 10 years later, she’s doing it again, and trying to do it better.

Andrew Tran of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Evan Horowitz digs through data to find information that illuminates the policy issues facing Massachusetts and the U.S. He can be reached at evan.horowitz@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHorowitz
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