Wolff could reap $9.8 million from Fire And Fury

Michael Wolff
Michael Wolff

An account of United States President Donald Trump's first year in the White House has sold out at bookstores and the publisher is rushing to deliver more

NEW YORK • Michael Wolff may have already reaped US$1 million (S$1.3 million) from his controversial book about United States President Donald Trump and stands to earn US$7.4 million (S$9.8 million) or more if readers snap up copies that are now on the way to stores.

Fire And Fury, his account of Mr Trump's first year in the White House, is selling so fast that bookstores have run out and his publisher is rushing to deliver more.

Publishing economics can be complicated and details of Wolff's contract are not public. Neither the author nor his publisher, Henry Holt & Co, a division of Macmillan, responded to requests for comment.

But to get a rough estimate of what Wolff has made so far, let's assume he gets 15 per cent of the book's list price - a typical royalty rate - and a US$500,000 advance.

In its first two days, his book, with a list price of US$30, sold more than 29,000 hardcover copies, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks 85 per cent of the American market. Retailers also sold 250,000 e-books and 100,000 audio books, the publisher told the Associated Press. They go for US$14.99 and US$27.99.

Add up all those sales, multiplied by the prices and you get revenue of US$7.42 million. Subtract the advance and, at 15 per cent, Wolff gets US$1.11 million.

He stands to make much more. While updated NPD sales figures will not be available until tomorrow, his publisher said last Thursday that there are 1.4 million hardcover copies in the pipeline. If those sell, he stands to collect another US$6.3 million. He could also auction off the paperback rights and movie rights.

It is too early to tell whether Fire And Fury will shatter any book publishing records, according to Ms Kristen McLean, executive director of business development at NPD.

"Demand for the Wolff book took everybody by surprise," she said. "We're really playing catch up in print and perhaps because of it, there have been pretty substantial e-book and audio sales. We'll have to see exactly where it lands in a few weeks."

Mr Trump has labelled the book "fiction" and its author a "fraud", renewing his call for stronger libel laws to help people who are targeted by false or defamatory statements. A lawyer representing the President, Mr Charles Harder, sent a letter to Henry Holt demanding that the publisher withdraw copies of the book and apologise to Mr Trump.

"Can't say things that are false, knowingly false and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account," Mr Trump said last Wednesday. Wolff has stood by his reporting, much of which corroborates previous reports from other news organisations.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2018, with the headline 'Wolff could reap $9.8 million from Fire And Fury'. Print Edition | Subscribe