How Grifters Gamed Amazon to Sell the ‘Mueller Report’ Already
The special counsel’s redacted Trump-Russia report won’t be ready for public consumption until Thursday, but that hasn’t stopped profiteers from selling books on it for months.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on the Trump campaign will be released Thursday, the Justice Department announced Monday. Like all public reports, the document will be free to read.
That hasn’t stopped people from trying to sell Mueller report books on Amazon for months.
Amazon’s book listings are an SEO cesspool where grifters try to peddle ebooks on every trending topic. In recent months, self-published works on the anti-vaccination and QAnon conspiracy theories have soared in Amazon’s ratings. So as readers clamored to see the full Mueller report, publishing houses and self-published authors rushed to sell books on the still-unpublished document.
Alan Dershowitz, the celebrity lawyer and frequent Fox News guest, has not read the Mueller report yet. No one has, aside from Mueller’s team of investigators and Attorney General William Barr. But for more than a month, Dershowitz and the publishing house Skyhorse have been selling a book with the full text of the report, plus a foreword from Dershowitz.
“There has never been a more important political investigation than Robert S. Mueller III’s into President Donald Trump’s possible collusion with Russia,” a product description for Dershowitz’s book reads. “His momentous findings can be found here.”
Of course, Dershowitz can’t write a foreword for a report he hasn’t read, and Skyhorse can’t publish the still-unreleased report’s text. Instead, Skyhorse has advertised the book on Amazon for more than a month, moving its anticipated release date back as weeks pass. The publisher now advertises as “placeholder” release date of April 30. (It was originally March 26.)
The flexible release date hasn’t stopped buyers from pre-ordering Dershowitz’s book. Amazon currently lists it as the “#1 Best Seller” in “federal jurisdictional law” category.
Other publishers are hot on its trail. The Washington Post is selling the text of Mueller's report, with analysis from three reporters, at the end of the month. Audible, an audiobook company, is currently taking pre-orders for an audio version of the 300-plus page report.
The Mueller report will not be the first document of its kind to get the book treatment. Other sought-after public documents, like independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s 1998 investigation into President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, have been sold in book form.
Melville House, a Brooklyn-based publisher, is one of several outlets to reformat these reports as books worth buying. The publisher did brisk business selling physical copies of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture, repackaging the dense report as a readable paperback. Melville House is one of several publishers promising to sell physical copies of the Mueller report as soon as it can get the text through the printing presses.
But the crush of Mueller report titles on Amazon can leave smaller publishers scrambling to differentiate their reprints of the public report. One such book promises to be an “exclusive edition of Robert Mueller’s full-length report” and “the first to contain” a selection of accompanying documents. Other Amazon titles offer breathless praise for the yet-to-be-seen document. “History may judge The Mueller Report as the most important document of our time,” reads the product description of a Mueller report book with introductions by two former congressmen.
And those are just the publishers that are waiting to read the report before publishing it. Other books on the site are already available for purchase. Among them are a pro-Trump coloring book full of Mueller report memes, a book criticizing the yet-unreleased report for allegedly missing crucial information, and a book called A Comprehensive Review of the Lies in the Mueller Report: Exhaustive Analysis of Each and Every Specific Lie.
The book, by Nate Roberts, has been for sale since early December. It costs $8.99 in paperback and is completely blank.
Empty gag books like these, which hope to climb Amazon’s charts by latching on to popular search terms, are relatively common. In 2017, a blank 266-page book called Reasons to Vote for Democrats reached the top spot on Amazon’s book charts.
Roberts also sells books like The Best Ideas From the Democratic Party Over the Past 100 Years, The Best Ideas From the Republican Party Over the Past 100 Years, The Complete List of Reasons Why Life Is Better Without a Cat, The Complete List of Reasons Why Life Is Better Without a Dog, and similar titles, all of which are completely blank inside.
Still, the blank book is no worse informed than Dershowitz’s, which promises analysis of yet-unreleased documents.
“Since the report hasn’t yet been released, I’m skeptical,” a reviewer of the blank book wrote in a one-star review, “to put it mildly.”