DC booksellers expected 'Fire and Fury' crowds for Comey book. Instead, they got mostly journalists

When "Fire and Fury" hit bookshelves in January, the release became a Washington event, marked by people lining up at...

Posted: Apr 17, 2018 8:26 PM
Updated: Apr 17, 2018 8:26 PM

When "Fire and Fury" hit bookshelves in January, the release became a Washington event, marked by people lining up at local bookstores and sold-out speaking events for author Michael Wolff. Washingtonian even compared the hype around the release to that of "Harry Potter."

But DC's book nerds didn't turn up for James Comey's "A Higher Loyalty." At least not in the masses booksellers might have expected.

At around midnight at Kramerbooks on Monday, the bookstore on DC's Dupont Circle was mostly filled with reporters carrying cameras and notepads.

"There are more cameras here than people," one person joked.

Another journalist asked the room: "Is anyone a normal person or is everyone a journalist?"

Only one person -- reluctantly -- identified himself as a "normal person."

"I wanted to see it for myself and read it, especially after Comey's ABC interview. I'm more curious now," said Matthew Hoeck, who was immediately approached by a handful of reporters in the room.

The 24-year-old, who would only disclose that he "works in politics," came to Kramerbooks for "Fire and Fury" as well.

"Different experience today," he said, laughing.

But the lack of lines at Kramerbooks doesn't mean the former FBI director's book is destined to be a flop. In fact, the publishing house, Macmillan, has printed 850,000 copies in anticipation of intense interest from the public.

It's also already generated a ton of buzz and publicity, with Comey making his media rounds all week.

Trump lashed out at Comey in a tweet on Friday morning.

"James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR," he wrote.

So where were the DC diehard politics nerds on Monday night? A few book buyers had theories as to why the line paled in comparison to Wolff's release.

"I think people want an inside perspective on this administration," said 25-year-old Phillip Carlisle, who was the first to buy a book. "People want drama."

Carlisle said while Comey's book will certainly shed light on Trump's presidency, Wolff's book is what some perhaps considered "more sexy."

"I liked Wolff's book a lot but he is not a trustworthy person," he said. "Part of what made that so exciting is there were all these details coming out and you weren't sure what was real and what wasn't."

Carlisle said he showed up to get Comey's book early because he lives close to Kramerbooks, and because he "really love(s) James Comey."

"I think that he is a very admirable person," Carlisle, who identifies as "very liberal," said. "I'm expecting his book to be far more honest, far more accurate, than everything else I read in 'Fire and Fury.'"

Kramerbooks owner Steve Salis told CNN on Monday afternoon that the store had 600 copies of the book available.

"It's fascinating because I think in the book industry today it's almost like the movie business," Salis told CNN. "It's kind of like we've had two box office hits this year, and they happen to be around something to do with Trump."

Salis was prepared for big crowds, though he did note they do not "overly plan for anything."

"Our responsibility is to give the customers what they want," he said, noting interest in Comey's book.

At around 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday -- as most reporters with their cameras and customers began trickling out -- a Kramerbooks employee began stacking piles of copies in the front of the store.

By contrast, Wolff's book had sold out within 15 minutes of being available at the same store, according to reports from several outlets, including The Hill and USA Today.

With the success of Wolff's book, other book vendors in DC had also seemingly overprepared for Comey's book launch, promoting it heavily on social media.

Politics and Prose had such interest in the Q&A with Wolff for "Fire and Fury," it had to move its event to a larger venue. Still, on Tuesday morning -- when doors opened at 9 a.m. -- there weren't lines of people to buy the book, just customers who came to pick up their pre-ordered copies.

Solid State Books, also in DC, opened its doors at 10 a.m. ET.

"It's almost time!" the bookstore tweeted.

Indeed.

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