Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" was the top-selling book last week, NPD BookScan told The Associated Press. And its numbers are likely to grow far higher, even as its subject, President Donald Trump, hit out at America's libel laws, which he called "a sham and a disgrace."
"Fire and Fury" sold 29,000 copies, BookScan announced Wednesday. But Wolff's explosive tell-all about the Trump administration only came out last Friday and BookScan's weekly sales run through Saturday.
"The first couple of days of sales figures aren't giving us the full picture," said Kristen McLean, the NPD Group's book industry analyst. "Because of potential distribution issues related to the early release coupled with high demand, it may take a few weeks to see exactly where this book will land in comparison to other political best-sellers of the last few years."
McLean noted that Hillary Clinton's "What Happened," which came out last September, averaged sales of more than 30,000 hardcover copies per day in its opening week. But that book "was hugely anticipated and very well stocked," she said.
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"Fire and Fury" seemed to catch everyone off guard, from the Trump administration to publisher Henry Holt and Co., which has raised an initial announced printing of 150,000 to more than 1 million.
The book was supposed to come out Tuesday but Holt moved up the release in response to popular demand and to threats of legal action by Trump, who has denounced the book as fiction and bemoaned the country's "very weak" libel laws. An attorney for the president last week sent a cease-and-desist letter to Holt, asking for publication to be withheld. Sargent has issued a company memo defending the decision to publish "Fire and Fury" and a Macmillan attorney on Tuesday said the publisher planned no retraction or apology.
Trump on Wednesday again took up the issue of libel, telling reporters that his administration would "take a strong look at our country's libel laws so that if someone says something false and defamatory about someone, [the victim] will have meaningful recourse in our courts."
"Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values," Trump added without specifically mentioning Wolff or his book. "We want fairness, you can't say things that are false, knowingly false and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account."
Brian Hauss, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement that Trump's threat lacks teeth.
"There is no federal libel law, and the president does not have the authority to change state libel laws," he said, adding that the "First Amendment provides strong protections against libel liability, particularly with respect to statements about public figures or matters of public concern."
"Whatever President Trump might think, he has no power to override these constitutional protections," Hauss added.
Since reports of the book's contents emerged a week ago, retailers have struggled to keep up, with Amazon.com warning of delays of two to four weeks for delivery. BookScan, which tracks about 85 percent of the retail market, only counts an order as a sale once the book has been shipped.
The BookScan numbers also don't include e-books. According to John Sargent, CEO of Holt parent company Macmillan, digital sales already top 250,000 copies, an extraordinary number for a nonfiction release and likely boosted by the scarcity of the hardcover edition. Audio sales exceed 100,000.
Clinton's book, about her stunning presidential election loss in 2016 to Trump, had one of the biggest first weeks in recent history for a nonfiction book. It sold more than 300,000 copies in the combined formats of hardcover, e-book and audio, Simon & Schuster announced at the time. The debut for "Fire and Fury," with its stories of a chaotic White House, is approaching 400,000. "Fire and Fury" will appear at No. 1 on The New York Times' hardcover nonfiction list in the edition that runs on Jan. 21.
Trump's rise has been mirrored by an expanding literary genre that will intensify in 2018, with dozens of new works expected. Books of "resistance" will include guides to activism, reflections on democracy, investigations of Russian interference in last year's election and legal analysis, along with poetry and fiction.
But while Trump's opponents have been enjoying "Fire and Fury," booksellers hesitate to put it in the "resistance" category. At Unabridged Books in Chicago, owner Ed Devereux says that the book has been placed in a more traditional setting, new nonfiction.
"I don't think you're going to read that book to learn how to resist, or think of ways to deal with the political system," he said. "It's just a best-seller."
"Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World" is one work that could fall into the "resistance" category. It is to be released later this month, the 1-year anniversary of the massive women's marches staged the day after Trump's inauguration, and it includes essays by Roxane Gay, Ashley Judd and America Ferrera.
And "Keep Marching: How Every Woman Can Take Action and Change Our World," by activist and Women's March speaker Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, features "proven tactics, policy solutions and strategies any woman can use to build her power."
Several new works will address challenges to our system of government. "How Democracies Die," by Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, traces the demise of political rights in countries around the world. David Frum's "Trumpocracy" warns against the "complacent optimism" that American politics are immune from fatal damage. Amy Siskind's "The List" compiles her widely read online annal of breaks from democratic tradition during 2017. Timothy Snyder is following his best-selling "On Tyranny," a brief handbook about signs of authoritarianism, with "The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America." Snyder is a history professor at Yale University and his new book looks at threats to democracy in the U.S. and overseas.
"For me at least the point of 'On Tyranny' was to get ahead: knowing what we know of the past, we have to act quickly in the present," Snyder wrote in a recent email. "In the next book, I try to show us our own moment in history, so that we see what we treasure by observing how it is attacked. The point of 'Road to Unfreedom' is responsibility: as we act to preserve threatened political virtues, we make ourselves into the kinds of citizens who can make a better future."
Labeling a "resistance" book can be as challenging as defining the resistance movement. Disdain for the president is the unifier for authors who might otherwise have little to say to each other, from Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors, whose memoir "When They Call You a Terrorist" is due this month, to Frum, a former George W. Bush speechwriter; to author-journalist Sarah Kendzior, a prominent commentator on authoritarianism whose 2015 e-book "The View from Flyover Country" is being reissued this spring in paperback.
"I think a diverse resistance is a positive force," Kendzior wrote in a recent email. "Everyone has different insights on how the situation happened and how inhumane and unconstitutional policies can be stopped. This doesn't mean we have to agree about everything — I'm sure we don't — but we can agree we do not want an American autocracy."