Bill Clinton, James Patterson Novel Sells 250,000 Copies in First Week

Not since 2015's 'Go Set a Watchman' has an adult fiction title sold as many books as 'The President Is Missing' has in its first week.
Courtesy Photo

Neither a rehash of the Monica Lewinsky scandal nor the suicide of best-selling author and TV host Anthony Bourdain appears to have substantially dented first-week sales of The President Is Missing, the thriller co-written by former President Bill Clinton and James Patterson. Alfred A. Knopf announced that the book has sold 250,000 copies across all formats and of that, Nielsen BookScan reported sales of 152,000 hardcover copies. (Nielsen represents about 85 percent of total print sales).

Knopf — which co-published the book in a unique arrangement with Little Brown and Co., Patterson's home — touted it as the biggest fiction debut going back to November's Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway, which Nielsen said had print sales of about 260,000 its first week. The sales also mark the biggest adult fiction debut since 2015's Go Set a Watchman, the To Kill a Mockingbird sequel that sold over 1 million copies in its first week. As another point of comparison, Stephen King's latest, The Outsider, which had been the No. 1 seller on Nielsen since its May 22 publication, sold about 148,000 copies in its first two weeks. 

The Clinton-Patterson book tour got off to a rocky start on the Today show when the former president was asked about how he views the Lewinsky scandal in light of the #MeToo movement.

The suicide of Bourdain, the former chef and host of CNN's Parts Unknown, might also have undercut sales a bit. Sales of Bourdain's books, most notably his 2000 memoir Kitchen Confidential, skyrocketed on Amazon after his death. Since it often takes a publisher one week to catch up to the sudden demand in older books, any impact on The President Is Missing was likely muted.

The real tell for The President Is Missing will be how sales hold up over the summer beach-reading season and especially for Father's Day. Clinton and Patterson are doing a comprehensive book tour that includes sold-out events across the country. (Clinton is solo at many events). 

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