Home » Amazon, Bestsellers » Michael Wolff’s Trump book is already a best-seller—here’s how many copies it takes to become one

Michael Wolff’s Trump book is already a best-seller—here’s how many copies it takes to become one

6 January 2018

From CNBC:

This week, excerpts and early copies of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” began to circulate among newsrooms, revealing bombshell claims by author Michael Wolff about President Donald Trump’s first year in office.

On Thursday, a lawyer for Trump demanded the author and publisher stop releasing material, retract what had already been released, and apologize. Instead, publisher Henry Holt & Co. bumped up the book’s publication date up four days from Jan. 9 to Jan. 5, citing “unprecedented demand.”

. . . .

Friday, the book held the No. 1 spot top on Amazon’s best-sellers list in books.

“There has been increased interest in this title over the last 72 hours, with the book sitting on the top of our Best Sellers lists for Books, Kindle Books, and Audible,” a representative from Amazon tells CNBC Make It Friday.

. . . .

The rankings for Amazon are calculated roughly every hour from data on book sales, but the factors considered by the e-commerce giant’s algorithms remain largely a mystery.

“It is like the most closely guarded secret in the universe,” Ellen Geiger, vice president and senior agent at Frances Goldin Literary Agency, tells CNBC Make It.

While it isn’t clear exactly how many copies of a book must be sold to break into a slot on the list, a 2013 study of Amazon’s best-sellers list for a two-week period by Publishers Weekly found that “a title in Amazon’s top five averages 1,094 print copies sold across all channels, including other retailers, on a typical day.”

Since Amazon updates its rankings so frequently, “really what it measures is velocity of sales … over a short period of time rather than an absolute number of sales over a longer period,” says Caroline Eisenmann, an associate agent at Frances Goldin. “What it reflects is how a book is selling relative to the other books on Amazon during any one time.”

. . . .

“If a book has cracked the top 100 and and particularly the top 20 and stays there — the duration is a huge part of it, if it stays there for a few days — that is generally a very strong sign that it is going to be a New York Times Best Seller and that it is going to start showing up on other lists,” Eisenmann says. “To hit that top slot is huge. It means that a book is selling hugely during the period it is there.”

Currently, the holder of the highest-selling nonfiction release is Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened,” which sold 300,000 copies in its first week, according to publisher Simon & Schuster, as reported by Fortune.

. . . .

“Depending on the composition of the overall list, it is possible to crack the New York Times Best Sellers list with 1,000 to 2,000 books per week,” she says.

Link to the rest at CNBC and thanks to Brandt for the tip.

Amazon, Bestsellers

28 Comments to “Michael Wolff’s Trump book is already a best-seller—here’s how many copies it takes to become one”

  1. Of course it also depends on what/who else might selling well at the same time (and on the NYTs side we won’t get into it mattering if they think you’ve been on top too long – or if they don’t ‘like’ you or who most of your sales are through … 😉 )

  2. I guess I should update my resume.

    Cracked the most closely guarded secret in the universe (with the help of Data Guy and a bunch of indie authors).

    Amazon’s sales rank works like this:

    A sale* has a half-life of one day. A sale 24 hours ago is worth 1/2 of a sale made right now. A sale an hour ago is worth 23/24ths of a sale made now. Sum the value of sales for each eligible title and rank order the results.

    That’s it.

    *Sale is defined as a pre-order or paid download (POPD). Paid downloads include, regular sales as well as KU downloads, Amazon Prime First Reads, etc. A sale is counted when the customer clicks the button. Even if the book is returned or, in the case of KU, returned unread.

    • Otherwise known to generations of market traders as an exponential moving average.

    • Constantly amazes me the lack of knowledge that everyone except for self-publishers seems to have about Amazon.

      • Why?
        It’s part and parcel of the dreamer mindset. They don’t bother with such things; they “have people” for that. All they need to do is “work on their craft and trust the universe to take care of them.”

        • Terrence P OBrien

          I suspect many self-publishers’ ignorance of equations behind stochastic market analysis is wide and deep. Same with the equations running CNC machines. People tend to pay attention to things in which they have a vested interest, and let most of the rest go by.

        • Authors are one thing, they often can have a kind of learned helplessness encouraged by those… nurturing them. But from agents/editors and so on it’s completely ridiculous. When I started in 2011, the knowledge level about how Amazon and the Kindle Store worked was pretty low. Self-publishers basically engaged in a big open source effort to figure it out. Publishers didn’t show very much curiosity about it, and still don’t. It’s quite bizarre.

          • From a rationalist point of view it does look bizarre. Like the “big time agents” attitude towards romance highlighted by KKR in this last week’s piece on the BPHs.

            But if you look at it from an institutional religion point of view it all fits: these are all creatures of orthodoxy. They have been submerged in their parochial establishment and “high minded” NYC/LONDON culture for so long that they simply cannot conceive of another world. Its like the soviet establishment under Gorbachev: facing an existential threat they clung to the old ways and worked to undercut the one guy that could have saved them.

            The publishing establishment is so mired in their apparatchik thinking that instead of embracing the economics of online and digital they gave them lip service while working to undercut them with windowing, price fixing, astroturfing…

            They still think digital is a transitory thing so why bother learning to deal with something they expect to go away REAL. SOON. NOW.

            Indies see Amazon as a tool to use.
            Corporate publishing sees them as heretics working against the natural order of things.

            One does not learn how heretics operate; one simply destroys them. 🙂

            • They still think digital is a transitory thing so why bother learning to deal with something they expect to go away REAL. SOON. NOW.

              Publishers know very well that digital is here to stay. It’s obvious to anyone who observes the market. That’s why the behavior of publishers is consistent with getting out of the fiction market.

              Publishers pretend paper has a glorious future, and self-publishers pretend they know more than publishers. Both groups are posturing to secure advantage. At the fringe, there are probably some in both groups who really believe it.

              If I can convince the opposition I believe what I say, I have a substantial advantage.

              I’d also add that publishers use Amazon far more than independents. Amazon and publishers support each other.

  3. The only people running out to buy a hardcover of this book are people who have not figured out their phone yet.

    • Speak for yourself. There are many people who don’t like reading long-form text on computer screens, especially on phones. I’m not comfortable reading ebooks on any screen smaller and lower in resolution than the display of my current 12″ MacBook.

    • Terrence P OBrien

      Zillions of people prefer paper to digital. That’s why they buy paper. Many of them buy the hardcover rather than wait for the paperback because they want to understand the current stories about the book in the news. Skill with phone isn’t a decision variable for them.

      Their tastes and preferences also differ from mine.

  4. CNBC – your trusted source for news can’t recognize that it’s comparing apples to oranges. Amazon’s ranking is based on SALES to CONSUMERS. Simon & Schuster have no idea what sells happen in a given time period. They only know what’s been ORDERED by BOOK STORES. (If S&S knew what was actually selling, they wouldn’t need a reserve for returns.)

    • Actually, S&S and all major publishers have a very good idea of how many print books sell to consumers every week, thanks to Bookscan. While Bookscan in the US isn’t as complete a picture as it is in the UK (Where the London Times bestseller list is based entirely on Bookscan numbers) in the US it does capture the majority of print sales.

      Via Author Central, Amazon very helpfully offers authors access to their own weekly Bookscan numbers so they can track print sales themselves.

      It always puzzles me when folks who comment on this site continue to promulgate the myth that bestseller lists are based on orders, not actual sales. While the NYT list is more heavily weighted toward sales in independent stores, the NYT also factors in sales on Amazon (including digital sales) as well as in chains and supermarkets. But those are sales, not orders.

  5. Most Barnes and Nobles didn’t have any on release day. At best just a few with no stock in the back. When the publisher moved up the release date after all the free PR from Potus – physical distribution could not keep up with that timeframe.

    Meanwhile, the Ebooks went like hotcakes.

    • Meanwhile, the Ebooks went like hotcakes.

      Sure. If someone really wants to see what’s in the book and they pull up the Amazon page, they see “might ship in two to four weeks” next to “download it right now”. No comparison, unless you don’t actually know that you can read a book on your tablet or phone, which it appears some percentage of the public still does not.

  6. Well, #1 in all books is a pretty good start. They’ll probably keep it in their category for a while, too, since it’s misfiled – should be in the Fiction section…

    One point that leapt out to me, though. One that makes me even more reluctant to ever entrust anything I write to a Big publisher. That publicist should be thrown out of the top floor window for missing “…due to YUUUGE demand…”

    • All my books are in YUUUGE demand. They’re also all #1 New Yort Timed Bestsellers.

    • It’s fiction. Yeah, right. That’s why Trump hired a pricey Beverly Hills libel lawyer to threaten to enjoin the publication of the book prior to publication. Another brilliant stratagem from the stable genius.

      • That Donald Trump would overreact to that sort of thing is not out of character for him.
        Which is not a compliment.

      • Certainly some of it is fiction. The author himself has said so, because he can’t know who is lying. But he readily admits that some of this book is likely to be completely wrong.

        Because of that, its not really useful as a gauge for what REALLY happened. You just have to pick and choose what you believe BASED ON WHAT YOU ALREADY THINK. Surely you can see how… useless… that is.

        Now, as a gauge for how chaotic Trump’s white house has been? This pretty much says it all, because you have a bunch of first hand sources who worked there saying conflicting stuff. Pretty freaking chaotic.

      • It’s fiction. Yeah, right. That’s why Trump hired a pricey Beverly Hills libel lawyer to threaten to enjoin the publication of the book prior to publication.

        Can we conclude hiring a lawyer means allegations are true?

        • Not with Trump. The guy has filed more than 1,900 assorted lawsuits, including suing a comedian for breach of contract because of a joke. Trump is the patron saint of frivolous lawsuits.

  7. Although #1 on Amazon certainly qualifies, what really is a best seller?

    The New York Times list seems to have played politics keeping some books off when they were #2 or 3 on Amazon.

    Some authors ask/beg/plead for hundreds of downloads of their free book to hit a top spot in a
    category>sub>sub>sub>sub>category. They then call themselves a best seller.

    Is it the critic’s choice or pure monetary sales?

    • While, the title of “Best Seller” excludes it from being something critics get to chose.

      And I don’t think Amazon gives you the best seller tag that displays on your listing page for free books (I’m not sure of this, however). Although, you can use free promotions to gain enough momentum to hit the top of a list in actual sales as well. But you still have to sell them.

      Either way, that has nothing to do with making Amazon’s Top Seller lists. That’s purely based on the formula listed in William Ockham’s comment above.

    • Terrence P OBrien

      Is it the critic’s choice or pure monetary sales?

      Sales. Critics opinions aren’t sales. For critics, authors can always say, “Highly Acclaimed.”

  8. its never been a secret how many a pub/bkstores have to sell, [and yes, whoever noted farther upstream it can depend on other say dozen writers who are selling like buckcakes.] It’s about 1000+ ‘units’ a week, depending on upstream, sustainedly to break top 20.

    This 1000 min can grow over the weeks, swelling, diminishing, depending on what book on cats or dogs or a celebrity, or pol, or an old saw novelist in whatever genre, has just released

  9. 1,000-2,000 sales to break WHAT part of the NYT list? To get on the combined ebook/print list, you’re looking at 17,000-20,000. So to say that you “only” need 1,000, that might be the hardcover list, but that’s not story with the combined list.

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