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JD Vance book sales were boosted more by Trump than by Netflix

The book Hillbilly Elegy is rising up the Amazon charts, and JD Vance can thank Donald Trump for the boost.

The conservative commentator-turned-politician won the Republican Senate primary in Ohio on Tuesday, after the former president endorsed him.

In addition to being the big winner in Republican politics this week, Vance had other good news as his book Hillbilly Elegy experienced a huge increase in sales.

Currently, the book is ranked 170 on Amazon’s overall book list for the United States, but it is number one in several categories, including “Poverty”, “Rural Sociology”, and “Class Sociology”.

JD Vance, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio, speaks during a campaign rally at the Trout Club on April 30, 2022 in Newark, Ohio. Vance’s book sales were given a big boost by Donald Trump.
Getty Images

Vance’s book garnered strong reviews when it was published in 2016, with the National exam describing it as “a harrowing portrait of all that has gone wrong in America over the past two generations”. The Economist said, “You won’t read a more important book about America this year.” Other reviews were equally glowing, across the political divide.

The book sold well, still ranking number four on Amazon as of mid-2017. But then the sales went down, as it does with almost all books. In mid-2020, it was 647 on Amazon’s chart.

In late 2020, a film version was released on Netflix, starring Amy Adams and Glenn Close, and directed by Ron Howard. The Netflix film has been criticized – it has a rating on Rotten Tomatoes of just 25%. However, it ranked in Netflix’s top ten for two weeks, according to streaming data tracker FlixPatrol and Nielsen Ratings.

The Netflix release gave Vance’s book sales a boost, as you might expect. According to Amazon data accessed using the Internet Archive of the Wayback Machine, in November 2020 it rose to 160 in Amazon’s book ranking, an increase of about 500 places from a few months earlier. Google Trends’ peak interest in the book can be seen in the graph below – the peak is in November 2020.

Research interest and book sales from Hillbilly Elergy (via Google and Amazon). Author JD Vance won the Ohio GOP Senate primary in May 2022.
Newsweek Research

Hillbilly Elegy then sales drop again and drop significantly. As of October 2021, it ranks in the top 2,000. As of December 2021, the rank is 6,134.

However, according to the latest data, from the beginning of May, Hillbilly Energy increased to 170, an increase of approximately 6,000 places. Trump endorsed Vance on April 15, according to Vance’s tweet from that day.

The graph above shows Google searches for “JD Vance”, “Hillbilly Elergy” and the Amazon ranking for the book.

Trump’s endorsement was generally candid about the previous war of words between the two men. Trump’s statement said, “Like others, JD Vance may have said some not-so-good things about me in the past, but now he understands…”

Vance has already written in Atlantic in 2016 that “Trump is a cultural heroine. He makes some people feel better for a while. But he can’t fix what ails them, and one day they will realize that.”

Vance’s win means he will now face Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan in November’s midterm after winning his respective primary by a large margin. 2020 presidential candidate Ryan beat his closest challenger Morgan Harper by more than 52 percentage points on Tuesday, with 86% of the ballots reported. Bookmakers have made Vance the overwhelming favorite to fill the Ohio Senate seat vacated by Republican Rob Portman.

(A note about the data – Amazon does not provide ranking history, so Newsweek used archived web pages to track ranking history. This is imperfect as there are gaps in the data, but gives a picture of the ranking history.)