Waterstones sold out of Michael Wolff's controversial exposé of Donald Trump's presidency Fire and Fury (Little, Brown) over the weekend following the media storm that prompted its early release on Friday (5th January).
Most shops won't have printed stock of the book until tomorrow (9th January) at the earliest and others won't get copies until Wednesday, retailers have said. While brick and mortar retailers await stock, Amazon is likely to have benefitted from e-book sales of the title in the meantime, although Blackwell's has also been selling the digital version. The book is currently number one in hardback and e-book on Amazon, while the audio edition of Fire and Fury, read by Holter Graham, is also the bestselling audio title on Audible this year.
Interest in the exposé has continued over the weekend, with Trump continuing to criticise it, both on social media and in press conferences. On Saturday (6th January), the president defended the book's suggestions that he is unstable by tweeting "actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.” He also said that becoming president on his “first try” would “qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!”
At a press conference on the same day, he described the book as “fiction”, referred to author Wolff as a “fraud” and said the three hours of interview time Wolff said he had with Trump “didn't exist, it's in his imagination”.
The effect has been to sustain public interest in the title, with booksellers inundated with requests for copies over the weekend and pre-orders reaching an all-time high.
Kate Skipper, buying director of Waterstones, said: “We are delighted with our sales of the book of the moment. Unsurprisingly we couldn’t keep up with demand and ran out nearly everywhere, but we have plenty more on its way out to our shops. It appears that customer interest has far from peaked so are looking forward to fulfilling customer demand as the stock continues to flow through over the next couple of days. Little, Brown is continuing to do a fantastic job keeping up with a title which is quite unprecedented.”
The chain's flagship Piccadilly branch also said it was forced to block a number of people online after receiving abuse from Trump supporters on Twitter. "All our advance copies of #fireandfurybook have now been sold," the shop tweeted on Saturday. "Official pub. date is 9th. An unexpected bonus is discovering how useful Twitter's 'block user' option is after fans of the 'very stable genius' got in touch to tell us how delighted they are about the book."
Kieron Smith, digital director at Blackwell’s, said the chain's bookshops hadn’t received any stock yet, but the title was its most pre-ordered physical book and its highest-selling digital book over the weekend. “I can’t remember the last time a political book like this was so sought after,” said Smith. “It is great fun for everyone in the bookselling world, to have a book come up like this which we were not really expecting. It’s a good time of year for it to happen.”
Nigel Wyman, head of business development for Gardners, meanwhile, added: “We still have no firm date but we are estimating Wednesday at the earliest before we get stock but hopefully we will get confirmation today. Sales-wise both the hardback and trade paperback have picked up some steady orders over the weekend."
Independent bookshops have also been left frustrated. "Fingers crossed it will be tomorrow but we’ve heard that before so it could be even later," reported Stoke Newington Bookshop, while Sheryl Shurville of Chorleywood Bookshop said: “It’s been really annoying not having any stock. It’s been in the press so much, it’s a great opportunity for us to actually sell a book but we don’t have any in stock yet. Bertrams are saying they’ll have it by the 9th so we’ll probably get it the day after."
The bombshell book has been contentious for its various claims about the US president, who tried to take legal action to stop the book from being published. Trump's lawyer, Charles J Harder, tried to quash publication by issuing the author and his US publishers at Henry Holt & Co a cease and desist letter on Thursday (4th January) but the US and UK publishers responded by bringing publication forward by four days.
According to the book, former chief strategist Steven Bannon alleged that Donald Trump Jr engaged in "treasonous" activity when he met with a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign. Bannon, who also received a cease and desist letter from the president, has since backtracked though. He said the remark was not directed at Trump Jr but a former aide, campaign chief Paul Manafort, who was also present: “My comments were aimed at [him], a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate," said Bannon in a statement. "He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends.”
Retailers have been making the most of the controversy, with bookshops including Foyles and Blackwells sending marketing newsletters highlighting other published claims (available at New York magazine), including that Trump never expected or wanted to become president. "Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father... looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears — and not of joy," reads an extract sent by Foyles on the day of publication.
Another, relating to Wolff's reports the president may not be intellectually or mentally up to the job, reads: "He didn’t process information in any conventional sense. He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-literate."
Wolff has said in interview that he is "comfortable" with "everything" he has reported in the book.
On Friday, Waterstones said it sold out of its first 20 copies of the title "within minutes".