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Books, Music, & Video

While “Fire and Fury” Trumps the tell-alls, “Fear” is building amid tales about the presidency

by Arye Zucker - October 02, 2018

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With the political climate the way it is, there is a constant stream of rhetoric coming from all angles. This has lead to numerous, salacious stories from every publication imaginable, and a 25 percent increase in sales of political books, some of which we have covered here. As the political schadenfreude continues, the release of seemingly any “tell-all” or “behind-the-scenes” look into the White House drums up a ton of fanfare, but does the fanfare translate into book sales?


According to Rakuten Intelligence, the answer, at least initially, is yes. 91.2 percent of the copies of Bob Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House” were sold in the weeks surrounding its release (one week before and one week after). That percentage only grows for James Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” which saw 68 percent of its sales in the lead-up and immediate aftermath of its release, and Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” which saw 81.3 percent of sales in that time.

Sales for books about the Trump White House burn hot around release

Can Woodward's "Fear" succeed long-term where others haven't?

“With the election of Donald Trump, we have seen the politicization of commerce. Patagonia sales spiked when the company sued the Trump administration, Nike sales soared when its Colin Kaepernick campaign dropped, and Ivanka Trump dresses spiked in sales when Kellyanne Conway implored Trump voters to buy her products” said Rakuten Intelligence’s principal analyst, Ken Cassar. “It should be no surprise that book publishing, the most political of products, would see the most exaggerated form of this trend.”

“Fire and Fury” reigns supreme, but “Fear” is chomping at the bit

“Fire and Fury” is the most successful of the political books so far, but part of that can be attributed to the fact that it was released on January 5, 2018, months before the others. “Fear”, which was released September 11th, nine full months after “Fire and Fury”, has already sold 42.2 percent of the total copies of “Fire and Fury” to date, which also means it has sold 16 percent more copies (pre-release included) than “A Higher Loyalty” has in its entire run so far.

Do readers buy based on the credibility of the author?

There is not a shortage of books about the current President and his administration, and that includes books from former members of the administration. Comey is not the only former staffer to release a book, but he was the first. Both Sean Spicer and Omarosa Marigault-Newman released books about their time in the White House, but, buyers seemed to have been more open to the “juicy” gossip from within the administration than that from sideline players. According to Rakuten Intelligence’s data, simply working in President Trump’s White House isn’t enough to drive sales as both Newman’s and Spicer’s books have failed to leave any lasting mark while both Wolff’s and Comey’s books have sold well. The strong numbers for Woodward’s “Fear” lend to the belief that readers are showing a preference for more “traditional” journalism as time goes on.

"Fear" is hot on the heals of "Fire & Fury"

While sales of other political books fail to gain prolonged traction

For most buyers, one tell-all is enough

Even with the sales increase for political books, the vast majority, 80.5 percent, of those who purchased one of these books are buying only one of these political books, with about half of all political book buyers taking home “Fire and Fury”. Among those who purchased more than one book, 36 percent bought just Wolff’s and Woodward’s offerings, 26.9 percent bought just Comey’s and Wolff’s, and 16.8 percent bought just Comey’s, Wolff’s, and Woodward’s books. A miniscule .4 percent of buyers bought four or five of the releases.

Political books drum up widespread buzz

But most buyers are one-and-done

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