Trump Turmoil Gives Much-Needed Jolt to Book Publishing Business
(Bloomberg) -- Make America read again.
That could be the publishing industry’s slogan given what President Donald Trump has done for book sales. Just as newspaper subscriptions surged after the 2016 election, book publishers are now enjoying a jump in customers.
The number of political books sold in print is up 27 percent this year from a year earlier. Those 7.55 million copies include blockbusters like Bob Woodward’s “Fear,” which went on sale this month and sold 1.1 million copies its first week. Other big sellers include Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” which has sold more than 2 million copies, former FBI Director James Comey’s memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” and “Unhinged” by former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman. Many more Trump-related titles are in the works.
About 12 million copies were sold in the five quarters after Trump took office. That’s almost double the 6.8 million that were bought during the same period after the 2012 election, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks 85 percent of print and e-book sales.
“People are so consumed with the news cycle,” said Kristen McLean, NPD’s executive director of business development. “All the attention is getting sucked in that direction right now.”
The flood of political titles has been a boon to companies like Macmillan, which published Wolff and Comey, and CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster, which published Woodward and Manigault Newman. Preorders for “Fear” were the highest in Simon & Schuster’s history.
Political books aren’t the only genre growing in the Trump era. The “self-help” category is up 11 percent in 2018 from a year earlier, which could reflect the anxiety of a nation following the news cycle, McLean said.
Surprisingly, many people are still reading in print. When Apple Inc. unveiled the iPad in 2010, some observers assumed print would die off. But e-book sales have declined from their peak in 2013 and are down 7.5 percent through the first quarter, according to NPD.
Political book sales are being boosted by authors who appear at events across the country. Tickets for Michelle Obama’s book event set for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in December went on sale this month. Low-price admissions for $29 were gone in seconds. Tickets that include meeting the former First Lady went for as much as $3,000. Demand was so high that a second date was added. Her memoir, “Becoming,” is due to out later this year.
Authors can sell as many as 60,000 books during book tours, McLean said. Many writers also appear nonstop on cable and broadcast news as well as late-night talks shows to talk about their books. Trump’s tweets attacking authors like Woodward and Wolff seem to help sales.
Overall, book publishing has flat over the past five years. Total sales are up 2 percent this year, as genres like fiction decline, according to NPD. And Trump isn’t the only one to trigger a book surge in recent years: Sales of political books grew even more in 2009, after Barack Obama’s historic first election, according to the researcher.
But demand for Trump books has provided a much-needed jolt for the industry, even if it’s short-lived.
“We find that people are often surprised when we tell them print publishing and sales have actually been on the rise,” McLean said.
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