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Content Warning: This post is about the well-known transphobic writer JK Rowling and her wizarding series.
Can you name one of the fastest-selling books of all time? In the United States? Perhaps. But people tend to focus on the best selling books, which is a little different.
The best-selling books, as covered by the New York Times bestseller list each week, are the ones that sell the most total print runs, while the fastest-selling books are those that fly off the shelves at top speed. The best-selling books of all time include The Bible, Don Quixote, and The Lord of the Rings. But did you know that some of the fastest-selling books in the US include political memoirs and a certain magical boy?
Distribution is important in the publishing industry because it’s a business. And first week sales are considered a pretty big deal, good or bad. However, there are books that gain momentum over time and have enough sales to be considered successful by the industry. But a high and / or record-breaking first week of sales is still desirable. It hits the headlines.
Let’s take a look at the books that sold the fastest in the first week of sales in the United States. Some of these books are among the best-selling books of all time, and some are not. I told you it’s different.
The Magical Sales of Harry Potter
Some of the fastest selling books are part of the Harry Potter franchise, all of which were written by author JK Rowling. The more books were published and the blockbuster films were released, the more popular the books became.
The seventh Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published in 2007 and sold 8.3 million copies on the first day alone. And Scholastic reported that 11.5 million copies were sold in the first ten days. In this final issue, readers found answers to questions they had had for years – especially if Harry Potter or his archenemy Lord Voldermort survived.
The sixth book Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince also had big sales on the first day: 6.9 million. It was released in 2005 and, according to NBC News, “it averaged over 250,000 sales per hour”. The events in this book represent those of the latter as the stakes in the wizarding world become more serious and a loved one is killed.
Eighteen years ago (in 2003) Scholastic reported that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix broke “all publishing records”. That fifth book sold 5 million copies in the first 24 hours. Compared to the first four books, this one has more of a dark feel to it, including the most shocking death in the stories to date.
Another of the fastest-selling books is about Harry Potter, but it is not part of the original series. It’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Released nine years after the last HP book, it is a script of the play that follows Harry’s life as an adult and a father. According to Vulture, more than 2 million copies of the book were sold in North America in two days; some books sell that much in the first week or not at all.
Memoirs of Political Figures
President Bill Clinton’s memoir “My Life” sold well the first week, according to USA Today. Published in 2004, it covers the breadth of his career to date, his roles as husband and father, details of the presidency, and more. With sales of roughly 1 million copies in eight days, it’s one of several presidential memoirs that is selling so quickly.
In 2010, a few years after completing his second term as US President, George W. Bush published his memoir, which sold around 775,000 times in the first week. This book, Decision Points, covers big moments in his personal and professional life, such as the elections, how he selected certain government officials, his thoughts on Osama bin Laden and the Iraq war.
If you mention the fastest selling books, you must mention First Lady Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming. It’s an intimate look at the former first lady as she talks about her childhood through to her years in the White House. In the first week of 2018, “more than 1.4 million copies in all formats” were sold.
Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers and Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice were later published.
Additionally, former FBI director James Comey had a remarkable first week of sales for his memoir in 2018. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership explores key moments in his career in government, his views on leadership, and his relationship with the president Trump and the famous Hillary Clinton email investigation. How many copies were sold in the first week? About 600,000, NBC News reported.
Fast forward to 2020, and a memoir of Mary Trump, niece of then-President Donald Trump, had big sales. She is the daughter of Trump’s estranged brother and clinical psychologist. In this book, she discusses her family dynamics, how the president grew up, his personality, and more. Under the title Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Made the Most Dangerous Man in the World, nearly 1 million copies sold in the first day; First week numbers sold 1.35 million.
Mary Trump’s book is part of a series of readings focused on President Trump and his administration.
John Bolton, who was a national security adviser during the Trump years, wrote a memoir published in 2020. In The Room Where It Happened, he made some serious claims about the president’s thoughts on domestic and foreign affairs. The book sold 780,000 copies in all formats in the first week.
President Barack Obama’s 2020 memoir, A Promised Land, describes his political journey through 2011. As the first part of a two-book deal, approximately 1.7 million copies were sold in the first week. Time will tell whether the second book will be included in the ranks of these quick sellers.
Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga began in 2005 with the publication of the first book, Twilight. The story was about a love story between a human and a vampire, but it’s difficult for them to be together. Readers follow events from the perspective of the person Bella Swan.
Next up in the series are New Moon (2006) and Eclipse (2007), which continue the love story. Like the Harry Potter books, with the development of the series and the release of the popular films, the books became more and more popular. Book 4, Breaking Dawn, was the fastest-selling in the series and one of the fastest-selling in US history.
The last part of the original four book series sold 1.3 million copies in the first 24 hours of its publication in 2008. Here readers could find out how the story of Bella and Edward ends and if they are given their own version of a happy life.
In 2020 the book Midnight Sun was published, which follows the events from the point of view of the vampire Edward. In the first week of its release, it sold 1 million copies in all formats, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Meyer admitted that she is working on other books set in the world of Twilight; who knows, maybe one of them will be added to the list of fastest selling in the United States.
As you can see, many of the top selling books are similar in terms of subjects. Some are even part of the same book series. While it is not easy to write a fast-selling book, these authors prove that it is possible to get big numbers in quickly.