Across the capital and around the country, booksellers reported brisk sales of Bob Woodward’s Fear on its first day on the shelves. The title now has 1 million copies in print, according to its publisher, Simon & Schuster, which added that a total of 750,000 copies were sold through the day of publication alone. (The combined sales figure includes pre-orders and first day sales of print books, e-books, and audiobooks in all formats.)
Barnes & Noble reported that the title was its fastest-growing adult title since Go Set a Watchman was released in July 2014. “Fear had amazing first-day sales and is in high demand across our stores and online,” said Liz Harwell, senior director of merchandising, Trade Books at B&N said in a statement. “We haven’t seen an adult title sell this quickly in over three years, and are working with Simon & Schuster to keep our shelves stocked to meet what we expect will be continued demand.”
Based on pre-orders, Fear was #1 last week in the Apple iBooks store.
Among independent booksellers, Fear was a hot item as well. Jake Cumsky-Whitlock, co-owner of Solid State Books on the northern edge of Capitol Hill said sales were strong in the first hours after opening on Tuesday; it had ordered 120 copies of the book and sold 53 by the end of Tuesday.
The store stayed open until midnight to release the book, as did Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Dupont Circle. Cumsky-Whitlock said he expects sales of the book to outpace earlier bestsellers with incendiary details about the Trump administration, including James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, and Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged.
“Woodward has the pedigree,” said Cumsky-Whitlock, referring to the author’s reputation as a reporter and one of the journalists who exposed the Watergate scandal. “Fire & Fury traded on gossipy business. Fear has some really explosive, damaging revelations by serious names and high-ranking members of the administration.”
At Politics & Prose’s locations across the capital, co-owner Bradley Graham said there was a “surge in early sales.” Sixty copies had sold in the opening two hours of the day, and 300 were on hold for customers who had pre-ordered the title. Among the largest bulk purchases, according to Graham, were officials from foreign embassies. “One purchased 13 copies,” said Graham. “Another asked for four.”
Outside of Washington, booksellers reported similarly strong first day sales for the book. Michael Hermann, owner of Gibson’s Books in Concord, N.H., echoed Cumsky-Whitlock's sentiments about Fear, saying he also expects it out to outsell both Comey's memoir and Fire & Fury. To date Fire & Fury has sold nearly 1 million copies according to NPD BookScan, while A Higher Loyalty sold almost 600,000 copies.
Some booksellers did report delays in their orders, though not on the scale seen with Fire & Fury. As of Tuesday evening, they had not determined why the orders were delayed and declined to comment on the record.
Of course, not all booksellers reported the title a slam dunk. Those with seasonal customers or less liberal readers, said there was a lack of interest in the title. At Bob’s Beach Books in Lincoln City, Ore., the peak season is summer vacation. With the crowds headed home for the fall, owner Diana Portwood said she placed a later order from distributors and was awaiting copies late this week or next.
Back in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C., East City Bookshop owner Laurie Gillman struck an optimistic, but balanced tone at the end of the day. "We had good pre-orders and plenty of interest," said Gillman, "but not a crazy frenzy."
The day after publication, S&S reported that pre-order sales for Fear were the largest for any title in Simon & Schuster company history, and, as a result of the demand for the book, the publisher ordered a ninth printing that will bring the total number of hardcover copies in print to more than 1,150,000.
“Bob Woodward’s Fear is selling with the force of a cultural phenomenon, in extraordinary numbers across the board, in hardcover, e-book, and audio editions," S&S president and publisher Jonathan Karp said in a statement. "Based on immense pre-publication and ongoing interest, the reading public clearly has an enormous appetite for what we believe, as Woodward says, is 'a pivot point in history.' "
This article has been updated with further information.