What happened is Hillary Clinton’s memoir sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
Simon & Schuster announced Wednesday morning that “What Happened” sold 167,000 copies in hardback in the United States since it went on sale Sept. 12. (Nielsen BookScan indicates that about 8,800 of those copies were sold in the greater DC metro area.)
According to the publisher, that’s the biggest first-week sales recorded by any author for a hardcover nonfiction title since 2012. Ebook and audiobook sales raised the book’s debut week total to 300,000.
(That’s better than the first week of Clinton’s 2014 “Hard Choices,” but still below the extraordinary first-week sales of Sarah Palin’s 2009 memoir, “Going Rogue,” which reportedly sold 469,000 copies in its opening week.)
S&S said that the audiobook version of “What Happened” was doing particularly well. Read by Clinton herself, the book had the best week of digital audio sales in the company’s history.
Clinton’s memoir, which recounts her experience during the 2016 presidential campaign against Donald Trump, has found an interested audience abroad, too. “What Happened” will debut Sunday at No. 1 on the nonfiction hardcover list of Britain’s Sunday Times.
S&S reports that it has printed has 800,000 copies so far.
Carolyn Reidy, president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster said, “The remarkable response to ‘What Happened’ indicates that, notwithstanding all that has been written and discussed over the last year, there is clearly an overwhelming desire among readers to learn about and experience, from Hillary Clinton’s singular perspective, the historic events of the 2016 election.”
Predictably, reviews of “What Happened” have been mixed.
The Washington Post called it “a raw and bracing book, a guide to our political arena.” Reviewer David Weigel went on to say, “The Hillary Clinton of this bitter memoir resembles the shrunken, beaten Richard Nixon who told David Frost that he gave his enemies a sword and ‘they twisted it with relish.’ Again and again she blames herself for losing, apologizing for her ‘dumb’ email management, for giving paid speeches to banks, for saying she would put coal miners ‘out of business.’ She veers between regret and righteous anger, sometimes in the same paragraph.”
The National Review scoffed: “The book only makes sense when you realize that What Happened is a fake title, a P. T. Barnum-style ruse to draw in the suckers. The real subject of this 500-page chunk of self-congratulation and blame-shifting — its real title — is Why I Should Have Won.”
The Atlantic claimed “What Happened” is “not a standard work of this genre. It’s interesting; it’s worth reading; and it sets out questions that the press, in particular, has not done enough to face.”
On Sept. 12, Clinton has also released a 117-word picture book adaptation of her 1996 bestseller, “It Takes a Village.”
Ron Charles is the editor of Book World.