Woodward's 'Fear' Can't Stay on Shelves

September 12, 2018

By Carlo Versano

Bob Woodward's book detailing the chaotic atmosphere in Trump's White House is officially a hit.

"Fear," only went on sale Monday, and publisher Simon & Schuster has already ordered a seventh printing, bringing its initial run to 1 million copies, said Washington Post book critic Ron Charles.

"A million copies is an enormous release," Charles said Wednesday in an interview on Cheddar. "Just almost unprecedented."

The book by Woodward, whose legendary co-reporting on the Watergate scandal ultimately led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, benefits from two factors. First, the topic of Trump sells; and as Michael Wolff's sensational "Fire & Fury" showed, people devour the palace intrigue of this perplexing administration.

Second, Woodward, who still works as an associate editor at the Washington Post, has a sterling reputation. He's "the most trusted journalist in the world," Charles said. That gives weight to the tome, even if many of its revelations are already more or less public knowledge by now, he added.

Charles reported that Barnes and Noble said "Fear" was its fastest-selling book since Harper Lee's 2015 novel "Go Set a Watchman", the long-awaited follow-up to "To Kill a Mockingbird". Woodward's book is currently available through third-party sellers on Amazon but displays a shipping estimate of "one to three weeks," implying a serious shortage of copies.

And the demand is coming from some unusual places ー Washington's large independent bookstore, Politics and Prose, told Charles it was selling bulk orders to foreign embassies, as diplomats struggle to understand the unorthodox president and hope the book will help them get to know "what are we dealing with."

While the book's stats are impressive, they also speak to the "weird economy" of publishing, Charles said. Because unsold books can be returned and pile up in inventory, publishers tend to be conservative in their initial sales estimates and early runs.

"Publishers are very reluctant to publish and print and ship more books than might sell," Charles said.

Though in this case, with a highly respected journalist giving readers a peek behind the curtain of a highly unusual presidency, S&S apparently can't print copies fast enough.

"Fear" is available in stores and online ー while supplies last, that is.

For full interview click here.