By Edward Nawotka
Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Having helped trash the candidacy of John Kerry, Jerome Corsi hopes to do it again with ``The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality.''
Published on Aug. 1, ``The Obama Nation'' serves up a ludicrous portrait of the Democratic presidential candidate as a likely communist and possible Muslim, ``endorsed by Hamas,'' who ``has yet to answer questions whether he ever dealt drugs, or if he stopped using marijuana and cocaine.''
``Did Obama ever use drugs in his days as a community organizer in Chicago, or when he was a state senator from Illinois,'' Corsi wonders baselessly. ``How about in the U.S. Senate?''
The 364-page polemic has gone back to print five times and now has 475,000 copies in stores.
Even 2004's ``Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry,'' which Corsi co-wrote with John O'Neill, didn't find so many eager fans. That book blithely, wrongly claimed that the Vietnam veteran exaggerated his heroism during combat (which, of course, his rival never saw at all). ``Unfit'' sold 814,015 copies in 2004 and was the 11th-best-selling book of the year, according to Publishers Weekly.
On Aug. 10, ``The Obama Nation'' debuted at the top of the New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-seller list, prompting suspicions that the book is being bought in large quantities by people or organizations for the express purpose of putting the book on the list. The book is still No. 1, and the questions remain.
Such accusations aren't new. In 2003, Al Franken suggested that Ann Coulter owed her best-seller status to bulk buys, provoking a media catfight between the two.
The perception of multiple bulk purchases has been reinforced by the Times, which has placed a dagger next to ``The Obama Nation'' signifying that ``some bookstores report receiving bulk orders.''
The dagger came into being following the 1995 revelation that authors Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema spent $250,000 to buy 10,000 copies of their book, ``The Discipline of Market Leaders,'' and arranged the purchase of another 30,000 to 40,000 copies, to land it on the list.
While the dagger may appear to be pejorative, the Times said that is not the intent.
``It does not characterize a sale but simply notes that the title has been a popular bulk buy,'' Abbe Serphos, a Times spokeswoman, said.
Chief among those alleging bulk buying is Paul Waldman, a senior fellow at progressive media watchdog group Media Matters for America. He's accused a ``conservative machine'' of orchestrating the purchases.
``I don't have any evidence about this specific book,'' Waldman said, ``but in the past, organizations like the Conservative Book Club bought books in bulk for cheap and sold them for nothing.''
Anthony Ziccardi, vice president and deputy publisher of Pocket Books and Threshold Editions, scoffed at the suggestion that orchestrated bulk sales put ``The Obama Nation'' on the best-seller list.
``We are only aware of a single bulk buy,'' he said. ``It was done by a chain retailer in the South, and that constituted less than 2 percent of our overall sales.''
Nor can the Conservative Book Club claim credit.
``We're not selling the book, and even if we did, we do not report our sales to the New York Times,'' said Elizabeth Kantor, the club's editor.
What Is Bulk?
Still, mystery surrounds what exactly constitutes a bulk buy.
Todd Sattersten is vice president of 800-CEO-READ , a specialist business bookseller that reports sales to the Times. He said that though his company gets numerous bulk orders, often from corporations looking to distribute a book to its employees, he has never been told by the Times how many book constitute a bulk sale.
``Twenty-five is a lot of books and would likely constitute a bulk sale for us,'' Sattersten said.
Ziccardi said Simon & Schuster, parent company of Threshold Editions, only considers purchases in the hundreds of copies as bulk.
``The Obama Nation'' is currently No. 2 on the Publishers Weekly best-seller list.
``Based on the reports I got, there was nothing in the unit sales that indicated something unusual about `The Obama Nation,''' said Daisy Maryles, executive editor of Publishers Weekly.
She said sales strongly favored chain booksellers, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders. Ziccardi concurred, adding that sales were also at ``best-seller levels'' at big-box retailers such as Costco and Wal-Mart.
``It's sold quite well for us and is currently one of our best-selling nonfiction hardcovers,'' said Matthew Gildea, a senior director of Hastings Entertainment, a chain retailer based in Amarillo, Texas, with 152 stores across the South and West.
Independent bookstores, in red and blue states alike, report modest demand: Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City has sold five copies; Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington has sold four; the Boulder Book Store in Colorado has sold only two; Brazos Bookstore in Houston doesn't even stock the book.
``We will order it if anyone asks for it,'' Brazos manager Jane Moser said. ``No one has so far.''
Frazer Dobson, co-owner of Park Road Books in Charlotte, North Carolina, wonders if the ambiguity of the title is causing people to mistake it for a pro-Obama book.
Either way, he isn't confident it will sustain buyers' interest for long.
``My customers are just really sick of politics,'' Dobson said.
``The Obama Nation'' is published by Threshold Editions (364 pages, $28).