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Michael Wolff could reap $7.4 million from 'Fire and Fury' sales

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 1/12/2018 Gerry Smith

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Michael Wolff may have already reaped $1 million from his controversial book about President Donald Trump and stands to earn $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 percent of the book’s list price -- a typical royalty rate -- and a $500,000 advance.

In its first two days, Wolff’s book, with a list price of $30, sold more than 29,000 hardcover copies, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks 85 percent of the U.S. market. Retailers also sold 250,000 e-books, and 100,000 audio books, the publisher told the Associated Press on Jan. 10. They go for $14.99 and $27.99.

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

Wolff stands to make much more. While updated NPD sales figures won’t be available until Jan. 17, his publisher said Thursday there are 1.4 million hardcover copies in the pipeline. If those sell, he stands to collect another $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 labeled 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.

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