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On Literary Impact, Ivanka Trump Is No Sheryl Sandberg

12/05/2017 5:00 AM AEST | Updated 12/05/2017 10:57 AM AEST
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Ivanka Trump is sometimes tossed in the same category as Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive who is an outspoken advocate for working women. On an extremely superficial level, both women seem to offer a polished, corporate version of feminism. But by almost every measure, the comparison is grossly unfair to Sandberg.

While Sandberg’s 2013 book Lean In drew criticism for focusing too much on a certain kind of privileged working woman, the book was a substantive, thoughtful and revealing exploration of why so few women reach the top in corporate America.

It was also a best-seller. Ivanka Trump’s latest book, which debuted last week, hasn’t come close to capturing the interest of, well ... women who read, according to new data provided to HuffPost. In the book’s first five days on the market, Trump sold 10,445 print copies, according to data from The NPD Group/NPD BookScan provided exclusively to HuffPost. Digital sales numbers were not yet available. 

That’s nowhere near Sandbergian levels. Sandberg sold 74,176 print copies of Lean In in its first week in March 2013, according to NPD. The book sold similarly well digitally. It went on to spend 213 weeks on the best-seller list, selling 1.02 million copies to date in all its various editions.

Plus, Lean In managed to at least crack what we can call the paper ceiling in business books, a category overwhelmingly dominated by male authors. Over the past 10 years, women authors represented on average just 2 percent of total sales for the top 100 business books on an annual basis, according to NPD. But in 2013, thanks to Lean In, women’s share rose to 14 percent.

The title of Trump’s book, Women Who Work, was inspired by Lean In, as the New York Times recently reported. And the covers of the two books are eerily similar. However, Trump’s book is essentially a book-length Instagram post ― a mashup of misapplied quotations and bland work-life advice ostensibly for women (but really for well-off white ladies) not worthy of your time. It has received scathing reviews. The book has “more fonts than original thoughts,” as Samantha Bee put it in her sendup on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Sandberg’s book launched a conversation about working women that led to more analysis and thought from a raft of others. It also inspired a lot of copycat books.

Lean In was a “category creator,” Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, the book agent who represented Sandberg in her publishing deal, told HuffPost. Since its successful debut, many successful, polished women have released their own versions of self-help/women’s empowerment memoirs. In 2014, Arianna Huffington published Thrive and Sophia Amoruso came out with Girl Boss, which is now a series on Netflix.

The new category of books also spawned a cottage industry of women who pitch themselves as mentors and try to monetize feminist empowerment for millennial career-types who seem to only exist in marketing materials and commercials and Dove body-wash bottles.

Trump, who works in the White House, is just the latest iteration to emerge.

Sandberg’s follow-up book, Option B, which came out earlier this month, is also selling like crazy ―102,815 copies in print in its first week, according to NPD, and a spot at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Walsh is on the board of Sandberg’s nonprofit, LeanIn.org. She used to be on the board but no longer is.

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