President Donald Trump loves to promote books, especially those that wax favorably about him and his presidency. And conservative authors yearn for a Trump tweet sending potential buyers to their latest works. But inside the publishing industry, Trump’s imprimatur is not always a guarantee of sales success.
In fact, sometimes it pays to be on his bad side.
His endorsements of certain books have become such a common occurrence, pro-Trump circles jokingly refer to the plugs as “Donald Trump’s book club” or “Donald Trump’s Oprah’s book club.” When high-profile Trump supporters or advisers have a new book out, they all hope—expect, even—for that tweeted endorsement.
According to an informal tally by The Daily Beast, at least 40 people are in this “club.”
On Tuesday, the endorsement went to Fox News host Harris Faulkner’s new book.
“Terrific new book out by the wonderful Harris Faulkner, ‘9 Rules of Engagement.’ Harris shares lessons from a military family. Enjoy!” President Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning, plugging the Trump-friendly host’s written work.
It was hardly the first time that Trump, as president, has encouraged his millions of followers to go out and buy a book by a conservative scribe.
“I hope he keeps it up because I am writing a book… [and] it is about him!” Jeffrey Lord, a former Reagan administration official and a pro-Trump commentator fired by CNN last year, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday afternoon. Lord says his upcoming book is titled, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and the New American Populism vs. the Old Order, and that he’s hoping for a February release via the Bombardier imprint.
Lord, in fact, is already a member of Trump’s book club. In January 2016, Trump had promoted an earlier Lord book, tweeting, “‘What America Needs: The Case for Trump’ Great new book by the esteemed Jeffrey Lord”—that book, Lord says, was written in the span of a month in late 2015.
“I let Corey [Lewandowski, Trump’s then campaign manager] know about the book,” Lord recalled. “I did not ask for a tweet… I just let Corey know what the deal was… And [Trump] tweeted about it within 24 hours, or 48 hours, of that.”
Nowadays, according to sources close to the president, all Trump needs to lend his stamp of approval is positive coverage of the book on Fox News, oftentimes Fox & Friends, one of Trump’s all-time favorite programs. For example, two knowledgeable sources told The Daily Beast that Trump tweeted about reporter Salena Zito’s book last month after catching her recent interview on the Fox News Channel.
Trump associates and White House aides all acknowledged that it is a rare occurrence, if ever, that the president will actually read the book himself.
While it is true that Trump’s tweets will sometimes cause a brief or sudden uptick in sales for certain titles, publishing industry sources tell The Daily Beast that Trump’s Twitter promotion of a book can have an impact on sales—but often not in the way that he intends.
Two people familiar with conservative book publishing sales told The Daily Beast that a positive tweet rarely moves same-day sales on sites like Amazon in any significant way, compared to other promotional outlets like prime-time interviews on Fox News.
On the other hand, a negative tweet can bring attention to a book and help an author reach number one. Literary industry insiders always expected former FBI Director James Comey’s book to perform well, but many credited some of its success to attention from Trump’s Twitter feed. After Trump unleashed on the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last month, his book jumped to number one on Amazon’s nonfiction bestseller list.
To be sure, it could be a case of correlation rather than causation, but industry insiders still see a major business upside in being associated with an open feud with the president.
“The single biggest thing you can hope for is Donald Trump to attack you over Twitter,” one publishing source told The Daily Beast.
Still, that hasn’t stopped Trumpworld luminaries from striving for a pat on the head from the president’s frenetic Twitter account.
In an interview at his book release party in 2017, Trump pal Eric Bolling said that during a White House visit, he’d personally given Trump a manuscript of his new book. Though he said he didn’t know if the president had the time to read the book, the then-Fox News anchor hinted that the president may promote it before its release.
“Who knows? Maybe he’ll tweet about it,” Bolling said at the time. “Keep your eyes on Twitter.”
Several hours later, Trump retweeted the conservative pundit’s promotion of his book.
Other prominent media allies of Trump have also found it effective to appeal, in person, to the president about hyping their books, rather than waiting for him to stumble upon it while watching his favorite TV shows.
Two sources familiar with the matter recounted how Christian Broadcasting Network journalist David Brody directly and repeatedly lobbied the president and White House staff early this year to promote his book The Faith of Donald J. Trump, a book about Trump’s relationship with Christianity.
Sure enough, @realDonaldTrump tweeted in February, “‘The Faith of Donald Trump,’ a book just out by David Brody and Scott Lamb, is a very interesting read. Enjoy!” According to these sources, President Trump personally dictated this tweet to a West Wing aide, following one of the president’s private conversations with the author. Brody tweeted later that day, “@realDonaldTrump calls my new book with @WScottLamb an, ‘interesting read’ and says, ‘enjoy!’ It’s on sale right now at bookstores everywhere and on Amazon.”
And the list of Trump-approved books—both during his term as president and his time as a reality-TV star and businessman—goes on, and on, and on.
Even a casual perusal of Trump’s Twitter feed yields a treasure trove of book promotions and free advertising including shoutouts for Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt ( “very special and so is her book”), conservative media superstar David Clarke (a “great guy” with a “great book”), Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett, Dr. Robert Jeffress, former senior campaign staffers Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, and Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade.
The president also recommended a literally empty book from conservative author and commentator Michael Knowles roughly an hour after Knowles appeared on Fox & Friends. The book is titled, Reasons to Vote for Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide, with the blank pages of the book driving home the joke.
And even CNN, the so-called fake news network and routine target of Trump’s ire, earned an endorsement for a book from the president despite the fact that he found the cover photo to be unflattering. The tweets are, in may cases, indistinguishable from one another save for the titles of the books and their authors.
But the Trump book club predates the White House—in fact, the president has used his Twitter feed for quite some time to tweet about books he almost certainly hasn’t read.
In April of 2015, he congratulated Dana Perino on her book making it to the top of the charts on Amazon. Yet two months later, Trump seemed a little peeved about mentioning it on his Twitter.
“Why did @DanaPerino beg me for a tweet (endorsement) when her book was launched?” he wrote after Perino criticized him on-air following his entrance into the presidential race.
Prior to his election, Trump has excitedly talked about Gary Busey’s book of “Buseyisms,” as well as books by Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson, Piers Morgan, Mike Tyson, Rush Limbaugh, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and Fox News hosts Kimberly Guilfoyle and Bret Baier, to name just a few.
“I assume he likes to see [books published] that treat him fairly,” Chris Bedford, editor in chief of The Daily Caller News Foundation, said. In October, Trump tweeted, “Highly respected author, Christopher Bedford, just came out with book, ‘The Art of the Donald, Lessons from America’s....’ Really good book!”
There, of course, is no evidence that President Trump has read this book either. The tweet was posted less than half-an-hour after Bedford appeared on Fox & Friends. Bedford notes that his “publisher said yes, absolutely,” that Trump’s Twitter love helped sales, and that “by the time I had gone to bed that night... it blasted up on Amazon.”
“It was a great feeling to see that it had been acknowledged, and I was very grateful,” he continued. “Books are hard... It’s great if they get noticed.”