UK booksellers are scrambling for stock of Michael Wolff’s sensational Fire and Fury exposé of Donald Trump’s presidency, with the title already out of stock at major retailers in the US.
Waterstones received a “surprise” delivery of 20 copies to its flagship London Piccadilly store on publication today (5th January) and “sold out within minutes”, its head of events and PR Sandra Taylor told The Bookseller. Other retailers, such as Foyles and Sainsbury’s, are not expecting to receive stock until Tuesday (9th January), they said, despite publisher Little, Brown moving official publication date forward to today. With retailers inundated with requests to buy it, Amazon is likely to benefit in the meantime through instant Kindle sales. That said, the overnight success of the book is a welcome boon for booksellers at a normally quiet time of year – most are selling the print version for £17.00 with just a £3 discount (the Kindle version is retailing at £13.99).
“Nothing about this is normal,” said Taylor, who is based in Waterstones’ head office at the Piccadilly store. “I can’t remember the last time a book had a cease and desist order, let alone from one of the most powerful men in the world. We were grateful for a surprise 20 copies delivered to our Piccadilly store this morning and they sold out within minutes. Other selected stores will get copies over the weekend but we are not expecting all our stores to have availability until Tuesday.”
The title was “by far” the most ordered on the company’s website on Friday, Taylor said, adding: “Our pre-orders have been huge and interest is intense. In the shop, people keep asking if we have it, they are coming in just to request it.”
The book took off practically overnight after the Guardian got hold of an early leaked copy from a bookseller in New England on Wednesday (3rd January) and published an explosive article based on its contents, followed by other press. Interest in the title has now reached fever pitch after Trump sought to have it banned by issuing a cease and desist letter to author Wolff and US publisher Henry Holt and Company. Public interest in the title has only increased as the US president continues to tweet about it, lately calling the work “phony” as well as “full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist” on the social media platform.
In response to Trump's legal threats and “unprecedented demand”, Holt released the book four days early in America, with Little, Brown following suit shortly afterwards in the UK.
"We're following the US and publishing as soon as we can, so our official publication date moves forward to today,” a spokesperson said on Friday morning. “Stock is in transit and will be available as soon as it reaches stores."
However, Foyles doesn’t expect to receive stock until Tuesday, the same as Sainsbury’s, with Amazon.co.uk also showing the book won't be in stock until Tuesday. Foyles' Simon Heafield said: “It is one of our biggest-selling pre-orders of the last few years. We have had reports from all of our (six) shops that customers are coming asking for it.”
Sainsbury’s said the title would be going live in stores next Thursday after receiving stock on Tuesday. “Little, Brown to their credit have done a great job in turning around stock for Tuesday – 48 hours ago we weren’t even taking the book, but then everything exploded," the supermarket’s buyer for books and music, Pete Selby, said.
Indies too have been inundated with requests from customers. Vivien Archer, owner of Newham Bookshop in East London, said: “We only ordered one or two before it took off, now we have increased our order because so many people have been coming in and asking for it.”
Booksellers in the US had stock early after 250,000 copies had already been shipped in anticipation of its publication, but Amazon.com and chain Barnes & Noble’s website are already out of stock, awaiting fresh deliveries, reported Publishers Weekly. Independent bookshop Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Washington D.C. sold out all of its 75 copies within 15 minutes after opening at midnight, reported the Daily Mail.
Waterstones’ buying director Kate Skipper said earlier on Friday she thought Little, Brown was doing “everything it could” to respond quickly to the demand. “It’s clearly a fast-moving situation in the US but Little, Brown are doing everything they can to respond and we’re very appreciative of their efforts,” she said. “We’re looking forward to selling it. It’s fantastic to see a book driving headlines on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Among the book's controversial claims are that Trump was "befuddled" by his election win, he did not enjoy his inauguration and was scared of the White House. It also details Ivanka Trump's secret presidential ambitions as well as quote’s Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon as calling a meeting between Donald Trump Jr and a group of Russians was "treasonous".