It was just over one month ago when we were treated to a new rash of David Hogg sightings. The media outlets flung their doors open and ushered the teen activist to their now-familiar news sets in order to discuss the release of his new book, written with his 14-year-old sister Lauren — “#Never Again: A New Generation Draws a Line.”
It chronicles the Valentine’s Day shooting deaths of 14 students and three teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, and how the pair — along with other students — aimed to start a revolution to stop gun violence.
The hype began in April, when the press dutifully reported the announcement the Hoggs had signed a book deal with Random House. The ensuing media blitz was part of the larger promotional circuit, which itself generated news.
The main launch of the book tour began with a visit to “The Tonight Show.” Host Jimmy Fallon is a particular partner for the Hoggs. He has been a supporter of the March For Our Lives movement, and made a surprise appearance at the Douglas High School graduation ceremony.
Proceeds from the sales would be used “to heal the community,” David Hogg said, but did not elaborate. The physical release date for the paperback was set for June 5, but the publisher apparently set it back to June 19. Nevertheless, following the weeks of initial hype, there has been little in the way of news, or lingering talk of the book.
A look into the book’s sales is a bit of a challenge. For one week the New York Times listed “#Never Again” on its top-10 non-fiction list, but this is a bit of a dubious source.
For one, the Times’ list is infamous for being more about editorial selections than it is for an accurate reflection of what’s popular with readers. Secondly, the paper of record does not provide actual sales figures. I combed through a few weeks of Amazon’s sellers in a few different categories, yet even on their larger top-20, the title does not appear. Likewise at Barnes & Noble.
It took the figures provided by Publishers Weekly to get a grip on this title’s fortunes. PW provides an even more expanded weekly list, as well as actual sales numbers. On its July 2 tabulation, “#Never Again made its debut on the tertiary Trade Paperback list — managing to reach the list at No. 25. By that date, the Hoggs’ book had sold a total of 3,741 copies. To offer some perspective, the top-selling book that week sold more than 60,000 copies; the top non-fiction paperback, more than 15,000 copies.
That chart result was a reflection of the Fallon appearance and other tour stops, but by the following week, the book had fallen from the list. It becomes apparent that when it came to buying into the Hogg message, few buyers have pulled the trigger.
Allowing for some additional weeks, we can probably peg the total by now to around 5,000 copies. The slender volume (it weighs in at 176 pages) retails for $9.95. At best, the book has grossed around $50,000, but that is not the net return for the publisher. The split with retailers, cost of production and shipping, as well as the expense of the book tour, makes the chances of seeing anything approaching a profit a small miracle.
Now understand, I am not applauding here. But it needs to be analyzed that with all the promotional hype afforded this book, it has landed on retail shelves with a thud, and largely remained there.
Adding up the early hype, reports of the deal, the high-profile media blitz, plus the favorable editorializing from all manner of news sources — there really has been little interest in what this particular Parkland survivor has to say.
I take the book sales as an indicator: As beloved a figure as David Hogg became in the media during the shooting’s aftermath, he actually is not the impactful messenger they hoped for, or insisted he was.
Brad Slager is a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer who wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.