Unsafe at Any Speed was a blockbuster book by Ralph Nader, reforming an industry and selling hundreds of thousands of copies. But despite its shocking revelations, its potential was not seen early on by publishers:
About 1965, when he had a few chapters and an outline, he began sending them to publishers. Things did not go well. One publisher replied with a short note. The book, it said, would be “of interest primarily to insurance agents.” [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/news/industry-news/how-one-book-50-years-ago-completely-changed-the-auto-industry/article27506044/ source]
At issue — did people really want to know?
“The issue about marketing that book always was, even if every word in it is true and everything about it is as outrageous as he says, do people want to read about that?” Mr. Grossman said in “An Unreasonable Man,” a 2007 documentary about Mr. Nader. Mr. Grossman died in 2014. [http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/automobiles/50-years-ago-unsafe-at-any-speed-shook-the-auto-world.html?_r=0 source]
It is a good example of underestimating a market. By spring of 1966, Nader’s book would be a best-seller.[http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/automobiles/50-years-ago-unsafe-at-any-speed-shook-the-auto-world.html?_r=0 cite]
By the end of [March 1966], copies of Nader’s book were selling at 6,000 per week, and by the end of 1969, it had sold 55,000 hardback copies and more than 200,000 paperbacks. Nader’s indictment of General Motors’ technology and the company’s response were headline news. [https://books.google.com/books?id=Ax9ZoMomcCIC&pg=PA167&lpg=PA167&dq=unsafe+at+any+speed+copies+sold+best+seller&source=bl&ots=TuPIyxnz_U&sig=3ak-KMArZNP1ReV-lXJjFQs6FcQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjWw7mxqbnJAhUXUYgKHa25DEoQ6AEISTAH#v=onepage&q&f=false source]
The book was responsible for the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966.[http://bit.ly/1Ik3Hdg cite][http://nyti.ms/1ImV0cJ cite]