ATLANTA - U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's juggernaut of a memoir, Living History, sold a million copies in its first month in stores and continues to sell at a clip of about 50,000 books a week. By next month, Clinton will have covered her nearly unprecedented advance of $8.1 million and will begin receiving royalties - a little over $4 per book sold.
When Simon & Schuster paid that advance for the former first lady's memoir, it seemed like a gamble. Political memoirs - even critically acclaimed ones - are not typically moneymakers. For some perspective, consider that Clinton's sales have already nearly doubled those of Barbara Bush: A Memoir (1994) and more than tripled the sales of Nancy Reagan's memoir, My Turn (1991).
Living History has far outpaced U.S. Sen. John McCain's memoir Faith of My Fathers (1999) and is closing in quickly on My American Journey by Gen. Colin Powell, which has 1.6 million hardback copies in print after eight years. Like the secretary of state's book, Clinton's has fueled speculation of a presidential run, either in 2004 or 2008.
Former President Bill Clinton's wife insists that's "not in the cards," but she does see something positively political in the crowds of up to 2,000 people who have given her rock-star receptions at book-signings across the country. By her own estimate, she's autographed more than 20,000 books.
"I think it's a reflection of how people are feeling not only about me and the book," she says, "but about the state of the country right now."
Does Clinton think her husband is getting nervous about whether his memoir (to be published next year) will do as well?
"Oh, I don't think so. I think he's just trying to get it finished. I'm very confident it will do extremely well."
As for what she is reading these days, Clinton mentioned A. Scott Berg's Kate Remembered (the book that bumped her from the No. 1 spot on The New York Times best-seller list), and said she's reading the Harry Potter series to her nephew.
"I hadn't read them yet," Clinton said. "But now that Harry and I have been together [on best seller lists and in store events], I figured I'd better know what's going on in his life."