Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo garnered lots of media attention when the talk show host announced its availability on his March 18 program. The book was conceived as a satire of Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President—by Charlotte and Karen Pence, Vice President Mike Pence’s daughter and wife, respectively—and published by Regnery.
The announcement on the Oliver show generated tremendous demand for the title and despite having 40,000 copies in print, Chronicle Books, which published the book in cooperation with HBO, was having trouble meeting the demand. But according to NPD BookScan, the Pence book outsold the Oliver book last week. BookScan, which captures about 85% of print book sales, reported that the Pence title sold 8,630 copies last week, putting in in 55th place on the BookScan overall bestseller list, while the Oliver book sold 7,325 copies, landing it in the 77th spot.
Both books feature bunnies—in the Oliver book, two boy bunnies fall in love, while in the Pence title the family rabbit follows the vice president around over the course of his day. The Oliver book, moreover, was a developed as a direct response to the vice president’s long-held anti-LGBTQ stance.
The rollout of the Oliver book resulted in howls of protest from independent booksellers, who cried foul after learning that the majority of the first printing went to Amazon. In response to the outcry, last Friday, Chronicle president Tyrrell Mahoney sent an e-mail apology to regional indie bookseller association board members about the rollout.
"We had to ensure that the book was a complete surprise for the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver audience," wrote Mahoney. "[A]fter much deliberation and exploration of other options, we ultimately agreed to make the book available for purchase at the time of the on-air surprise by allocating a percentage of the print run to Amazon and making the rest of the first print run available to all our other retailers as soon as possible." Copies of the book began shipping to outlets other than Amazon last Thursday.
The explanation did not sit well with indie booksellers. ABA CEO Oren Teicher noted that the association "has spoken at length with Chronicle" about its failure to ensure that all channels had the book at the same time. "We hope it's a teachable moment for all in our business," Teicher said.