Author Michael Wolff could reap US$7.4m from ‘Fire and Fury’

Copies of the book ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’ by author Michael Wolff are seen at a local book store in Washington January 9, 2018. — Reuters picCopies of the book ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’ by author Michael Wolff are seen at a local book store in Washington January 9, 2018. — Reuters picNEW YORK, Jan 13 — Michael Wolff may have already reaped US$1 million (RM3.9 million) from his controversial book about President Donald Trump and stands to earn US$7.4 million or more if readers snap up copies that are now on the way to stores.

Fire and Fury, his account of President 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 aren’t 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, Wolff’s 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 US market. Retailers also sold 250,000 e-books, and 100,000 audio books, the publisher told the Associated Press on January 10. 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 he gets US$1.11 million.

Wolff stands to make much more. While updated NPD sales figures won’t be available until January 17, his publisher said Thursday 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’s too early to tell whether Fire and Fury will shatter any book publishing records, according to Kristen McLean, executive director of business development at NPD.

“Demand for the Wolff book took everybody by surprise,” McLean 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.”

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, Charles Harder, sent a letter to Henry Holt demanding that the publisher withdraw copies of the book and apologize to Trump.

“Can’t say things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account,” Trump said Wednesday. Wolff has stood by his reporting, much of which corroborates previous reports from other news organizations. — Bloomberg