By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
An Administration That Is Perpetually Beleaguered[dropcapW[/dropcap]hile Henry Holt & Co. chairman Stephen Rubin was speaking here in Israel at the Jerusalem International Book Forum, it was announced today (May 15) that Michael Wolff’s Siege: Trump Under Fire is to be published June 4.
The book is a follow-up to the 2018 Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House that Donald Trump tried to suppress.
The response in the media has been immediately dynamic. As Mike Allen reports at Axios in the first story to carry the news, “The book, ‘about a presidency that is under fire from almost every side,’ begins with Year Two and ends with the delivery of the Mueller report.”
Henry Holt, a division of Big Five publishing house Macmillan, has released promotional copy that reads, “With Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff defined the first phase of the Trump administration.
“Now, in Siege, he has written an equally essential and explosive book about a presidency that is under fire from almost every side.
“A stunningly fresh narrative that begins just as Trump’s second year as president is getting underway and ends with the delivery of the Mueller report, Siege reveals an administration that is perpetually beleaguered by investigations and a president who is increasingly volatile, erratic, and exposed.”
While here in Jerusalem, Rubin has described the market success of Wolff’s first Trump book—which turned out to be one of the first proofs-of-performance for the books industry in terms of how powerfully the political uproar of our time can help sell nonfiction titles. According to Rubin on stage here, the numbers for Fire and Fury include:
- 1.5 million copies now in print
- 750,000 copies in ebook format
- 315,000 audiobook edition copies
- Translation rights sold to 35 languages and/or territories
Rubin has pointed out that when Macmillan rushed out its publication of Fire and Fury in January 2018—in market-making defiance of Trump having ordering his attorneys to send the publisher a cease-and-desist letter—successive print runs were being quickly exhausted at bookstores. And this is how, he said, book came to sell so many ebook copies, as consumers eager to read the book turned to the digital edition while waiting for hardcopies.
Rubin said that the book would go on to spend 16 weeks at the top of The New York Times’ bestseller lists, nine of those weeks in the top position.
As Brian Stelter is reporting at CNN, “The book portrayed the White House as chaotic and Trump as incapable. It sparked weeks of discussion about the president’s fitness for office, as well as controversies over Wolff’s anonymous sourcing.”
The Amazon Sales Ranking Watch Begins
In the international trade book industry, many players will be watching the numbers on Amazon.com’s sales page for Siege.
As we publish today, the book ranks at No. 1,218,821 on the massive retail site. If current trends hold in nonfiction in the United States, and political nonfiction in particular, that ranking can be expected to rocket toward No. 1 as consumers learn about the new title and make pre-orders.
One effect of the release on January 5, 2018, of Fire and Fury was that John Sargent, CEO of Henry Holt parent Macmillan, became a book-business hero with his ringing dismissal of Trump’s effort to intimidate one of the world’s largest publishers.
Sargent would go on to speak at Frankfurter Buchmesse in the annual trade show’s “CEO Talk” in the Frankfurt Pavilion.
Sargent conceded, in answering Publishers Weekly’s Andrew Albanese on the issue that on hearing of Trump’s effort, his first thought was, “We’re going to sell a shitload of books.”
But he went on to reveal that at their peak, pre-orders for the book on Amazon had run as high as 23,000 per hour. “This was unprecedented,” Sargent said, “we hadn’t seen it before.”
By the second full week of sales statistics, the book was reported by Macmillan to have sold some 1.7 million copies in all formats internationally. Here in Jerusalem, Rubin has announced a total 4 million copies sold in all formats since the release of the book.
Thrilled to have a book riding the maniacal energy of the Trump news cycle, the world publishing industry watched as Fire and Fury punched through expectations, the International Publishers Association (IPA) announcing its support for Macmillan/Henry Holt, a statement that carried the backing of 81 member-associations in 69 nations.
To the book trade, slamming Trump’s brazen efforts to stop or blunt the release of both the Wolff book and, later, the Bob Woodward Fear: Trump in the White House from Simon & Schuster have been dramatic moments of support for the freedom to publish, a cause celebre to the industry.