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Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass, two young journalists notorious for fabricating stories, have something else in common: Both have written highly publicized books that few people are buying.
Blair, a former New York Times reporter, received a six-figure advance for “Burning Down My Master’s House.” Published March 6, the book had an announced first printing of 250,000 and plenty of media coverage, including author interviews with Katie Couric on NBC and Larry King on CNN.
But in its first nine days of publication, the book only sold about 1,400 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan. Figures from Nielsen usually represent about 70 percent of total sales.
“Jayson Blair’s book is currently not selling particularly well, but frankly I don’t think that comes as much of a surprise, given the amount of ink already spilled on this topic,” Daniel Blackman, vice president and general manager of Barnes & Noble.com, said.
“Keep in mind that the audience for this book, are for the most part, the very same readers who’ve already consumed the extensive Times coverage in the aftermath of the scandal. I think they already know all they need to on the subject.”
The book recounts Blair’s rise and fall at The New York Times, which he left last spring after being accused of plagiarism. A review by the newspaper uncovered errors and fabrications in three dozen stories.
Most critics panned “Burning,” with the Los Angeles Times labeling it “self-pitying and unreliable.” New York publishers expressed little interest in the book, which was released by the Los Angeles-based New Millennium Press.
Blair’s agent, David Vigliano, said “negative” press coverage had hurt the book. He said sales went up after Blair was “treated fairly” in interviews with King and Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly.
Nothing new to sayAs of Thursday afternoon, “Burning” ranked 2,188 on Amazon.com. The Hue-Man Bookstore, a Harlem-based bookseller where Blair made a personal appearance, reports little interest. Politics & Prose, a leading independent store based in Washington, D.C., has sold just two copies.
“People don’t seem to feel he has anything new to say,” Deb Morris, a buyer for the store who noted that many journalists shop there, said.
“I don’t think they feel an affinity for his side of the story.”
Glass’ “The Fabulist,” a fictionalized version of his downfall at The New Republic, flopped despite an interview on “60 Minutes” and other media coverage. Simon & Schuster, which published the hardcover last May and gave it a first printing of 75,000, has not set a date for the paperback.
“We knew there would be a lot of attention for the Blair book and we wanted to see what happened and then talk about when we would schedule the paperback,” Simon & Schuster spokesman Adam Rothberg said.
The New Republic fired Glass in 1998 after determining there were fabrications in 27 of the 41 articles he had written. His story was turned into an unauthorized film, “Shattered Glass,” which received extensive publicity but did little for sales of the novel.