Turns out, readers consider Arnold Schwarzenegger’s memoir Total Recall expendable. Despite an aggressive publicity tour, the book has sold only 27,000 copies since its Oct. 1 release, 21,000 of them in the first week. It’s not terrible—Alec Baldwin’s A Promise to Ourselves has sold only 13,000 hardcover copies since its September 2008 release, proving that even a hit TV show doesn’t guarantee literary success—but it’s far below the benchmark set by recent blockbusters like a Navy SEAL’s account of the Bin Laden mission in No Easy Day, which sold 253,000 copies in its first week, and J.K. Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy, which moved 375,000 in its first six days. And it’s probably not worth the advance which the former governator got, reported to be in the millions.
As they do almost every year, publishers have released a slew of celebrity memoirs of late, but sales have been underwhelming (with the exception of the likes of Tina Fey and Keith Richards). Of course, some of these books may catch on in paperback or find a second life, but the general rule in publishing is that if you haven’t sold big in your first few weeks, you’re doomed. (Only 1,000 paperbacks of Baldwin’s book have been sold since October 2009.) From Snooki to Rielle Hunter, here are the biggest recent flops, with book sales data provided by Nielsen BookScan (Note: BookScan covers approximately 75 percent of the print book market and continues to grow. BookScan does not track sales from Wal-Mart.)