July 11, 2017
Good news, everyone: Bill O’Reilly’s book sales are down
by Chad Felix
At any other time in this country’s history, it might have been the biggest story of the year: the firing, and subsequent fall, of Fox News millionaire poster-boy, serial sexual harasser, and author Bill O’Reilly.
But as we’ve all learned in our short, sad time here, 2017 is a very special kind of beast, one capable of generating shock after shock, and shame after shame — seemingly to no end. If the story of O’Reilly’s firing is a blip today, it’s only because Bill Cosby is also putting around giving lectures about how to avoid being accused of rape; or maybe because Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are publicly gloating about their mutual enemy: a free press; or possibly because people on Twitter are screaming “propaganda!” in response to NPR tweeting out the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July; or it’s only because Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile in his car in front of his fiancé Diamond Reynolds and four-year-old daughter, was acquitted.
Also, health care. That Muslim travel ban. The US leaving the Paris Climate Agreement. James Comey. Russia Stuff. The word “emoluments” and its meaning. The word (phrase?) “Mar-a-Lago.” Donald Trump golfing. Donald Trump in tennis shorts. The list goes on.
Suffice it to say, we have a lot to be upset about. But to return to the Bad Man at hand, here’s some good news. As it turns out, Bill “Papa Bear” O’Reilly isn’t totally immune to 2017’s uninterrupted programming of omnipresent bad. His book sales—and, as we noted when he was fired, O’Reilly is one of America’s best-selling authors—are noticeably down.
As Erik Wemple reports in the Washington Post, O’Reilly’s Fox News show, The O’Reilly Factor, was, among other things, a soapbox for him to shout about his books from.
O’Reilly was seeking to sell his books to his millions of viewers. “Become a BillOReilly.com Premium Member, and get any one of my books free of charge including ‘Old School: Life in the Sane Lane’ and ‘Killing the Rising Sun,’” said O’Reilly. “‘Old School,’ No. 1; ‘Rising Sun,’ No. 3 — we thank you all for that.” And during the show’s mail segment, O’Reilly read a note from Donna Ross of Lexington, Tenn. “Recently I was vacationing in Mexico and reading ‘Killing the Rising Sun’; the pool chairs were full of people doing the same thing,” read the letter. “Muy bien!” said O’Reilly. “That’s great to hear, Donna. Thank you. I hope you had a nice time.”
Though cable news hosts are rarely shy about promoting their books, O’Reilly was less shy than most, or all. Don’t take the Erik Wemple Blog’s word, however. “Bill O’Reilly is a book salesman with a TV show,” said the late Roger Ailes, who founded Fox News.
Of course, over time book sales slow down. That’s just how this gig works. But Wemple attributes the loss of overall sales and the more-rapid-than-usual slowdown of sales to O’Reilly’s present situation (check out the charts!). With the cancellation of the Factor, O’Reilly has lost his primary book-buying audience, as well as his the support of the network (which is pretty demanding of its authors). That loss of core audience is huge, especially given the reasons for O’Reilly’s firing. It’s hard to imagine anyone but O’Reilly Army-types, those constantly sucking at the funnel of O’Reilly anger, still actively seeking out garbage books like Old School: Life in the Sane Lane, Killing the Rising Sun: How American Vanquished World War II Japan, and Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of America — books that, had they been written by anyone else, would line the bottoms of publishers’ slush piles, not the tops of industry bestseller lists.
It’s likely, too, that given O’Reilly’s egregious transgressions, book retailers (bookstores and the wholesalers they buy from) are purchasing fewer copies of his titles. Fewer bookstores taking on fewer copies would in turn mean fewer store face-outs, shorter stacks, and less shelf real estate. Additionally, many are the bookstores that have always had ideological issues with O’Reilly, but still stocked his books to meet customer demand (hello, indie bookstores!); they can now be forgiven for opting out entirely. This makes for a bigger hassle for those who still wish to support him. All that spells lost sales.
Publishing can be cruel, Bill. Trust us, we know.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.