Aug 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

One place where Trump still wins

Illustration of an orange book with a red tie bookmark

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The first three big post-presidency books about Donald Trump have shot up the bestseller list and are selling out.

Yes, but: The actual sales are nothing like some of the books sold during the blockbuster days when he was in the White House and the nation was obsessed.

Why it matters: Books are one of the few places where Donald Trump and his former confidants feel they still have a chance to tell their side of the story.

  • "Many sources only spoke to us for the book for the purposes of making sure history was accurately recorded," said the Washington Post's Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, authors of “I Alone Can Fix it: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year," which debuted in late July. "Some of them had never spoken to us before or to any reporters about their experiences at the time."
  • President Trump has given at least 22 interviews for 17 different books since leaving office, Axios' Mike Allen reported in June.

By the numbers: A slew of new books about the Trump era have been topping The New York Times' bestseller lists over the past month.

  • “I Alone Can Fix it: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year” by Leonnig and Rucker has sold more than 124,000 copies in the U.S. through the end of July, according to NPD BookScan data. That figure represents about half of all books sold. Ebook, audiobook and international book sales make up the other half. It's been ranked No. 2 on the Times' non-fiction bestseller list for the past two weeks.
  • “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost,” by The Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender, has sold over 75.000 copies, including hardcovers, ebooks and audio downloads, according to a statement from its publisher. The book debuted at No. 3 the Times' non-fiction bestsellers list and has remained on the list for three weeks.
  • “Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency,” by Michael Wolff, has been on the Times' non-fiction bestseller list for three weeks. NPD BookScan data suggests that Landslide has sold nearly 45,000 print copies in the U.S. through the end of July.

For reference, these sales aren't as big as Trump book sales last year, but some have already begun to appear on the list for top-selling political books of 2021, according to NPD Group's BookScan data.

  • "Too Much and Never Enough" by Mary Trump, "The Room Where it Happened" by John Bolton, and "Rage" by Bob Woodward, sold over 1.3 million, 780,000 and 600,000 copies in their first weeks last year.
Political science and political memoir book sales
Reproduced from NPD BookScan; Chart: Axios Visuals

Asked why Trump books are sill so popular, Bender tells Axios: "I think a big reason is that Donald Trump has a very good chance of being a nominee again and even winning the White House."

  • Bender spent two years embedded with Trump supporters. In his book, he offers new details about the events leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.
  • "When I was doing that reporting, I had no way of anticipating that it would still be so important 10 months after an election in which he lost, he says. "There's still so much left to learn."
  • "The events of January 6 were scandalizing and traumatic for so many people, both because of the loss of life, and also the very real potential that existed for a violent toppling of America’s democracy," Leonnig and Rucker said.

The big picture: More political books were sold across all formats during the Trump presidential term than at any point in NPD BookScan history.

  • "High-profile books related to the Trump Presidency have definitely been among the top bestsellers, especially in 2018 and 2020," says Kristen McLean, Executive Director in the books and entertainment division at The NPD Group.
  • So far this year, political science and political memoirs books are seeing higher year-to-date volume than the pre-Trump era, per NPD Group.

What to watch: A slew of new Trump books are on their way, and if this summer's sales suggest anything, there are likely to be a few hits.

  • ABC News' Jonathan Karl's new book "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show," will be out Nov. 16. The book is a sequel to his bestseller "Front Row at the Trump Show."
  • Investigative journalist Bob Woodward and The Washington Post's Robert Costa are penning a book about the final days of Trump's presidency, which is set to be released in September
  • The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway's new book, "Rigged," is due this September.
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