McWilliams: fewer than 2,000 books sold after €100,000 advance

He got the biggest advance ever paid to a non-fiction writer by an Irish publisher and enough controversy to sell four books. But two weeks after it went on sale, David McWilliams' latest tome on the economy has sold fewer than 2,000 copies.

After the release of Follow The Money on 30 October, its publishers Gill & Macmillan could have been forgiven for thinking they had hit gold as a war of words erupted between McWilliams and finance minister Brian Lenihan over claims in the book that the economist was called on for advice during the banking crisis of autumn 2008.

Even more column inches were generated by passages in which McWilliams likened RTE presenter Miriam O'Callaghan's interview technique to a seduction. The author later admitted that he had misjudged his comments.

Yet it seems readers really aren't that interested. According to Nielsen BookScan, which draws up the official book chart for sales in Ireland, in the week to 7 November, the book sold 1,913 copies.

This is a long way from the 90,000 sales Gill & Macmillan needs to recoup a €100,000 advance it paid McWilliams for a two-book deal in 2006.

"We do expect it to be one of the big sellers at Christmas. It's selling very well already," said a hopeful spokeswoman for Gill & Macmillan. The publisher is hoping to generate more sales from talks McWilliams is giving in major bookshops in Dublin, Limerick and Cork in the coming weeks.

Outselling McWilliams in the non-fiction current affairs and issues category, with a fraction of the publicity, is Shane Ross's book The Bankers: How the Banks Brought Ireland to Its Knees, which sold 3,061 copies in the same two-week period.

Former Sunday Tribune editor Matt Cooper's book Who Really Runs Ireland? is also ahead of McWilliams' with sales of 5,279. Showtime: The Inside Story of Fianna Fáil in Power, by Pat Leahy, has sold 3,250 copies since it was published on 27 August.

Other political books more popular with the public include the two by former taoisigh. Bertie Ahern's autobiography, published in October, has sold 6,658, ahead of Albert Reynolds' memoirs, published a month earlier with sales of 2,407. Commentator Fintan O'Toole's book, Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger, has sold 1,671 copies since its release on 5 November.