J.D. Vance's Book Sales Got Bigger Boost from Trump Than Netflix

The book Hillbilly Elegy is rising in the Amazon charts, and J.D. Vance can thank Donald Trump for the boost.

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

As well as being the big winner in Republican politics this week, Vance has had more good news as his book Hillbilly Elegy has seen a huge sales boost.

Currently, the book is ranked 170 on Amazon in the overall books list for the U.S., but is number one in several categories including 'Poverty,' 'Sociology of Rural Areas,' and 'Sociology of Class.'

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J.D. Vance, the 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 have been given a big boost by Donald Trump. Getty Images

Vance's book garnered strong reviews when published in 2016, with the National Review describing it as "a harrowing portrait of much that has gone wrong in America over the past two generations." The Economist said: "You will not read a more important book about America this year." Other reviews were just as glowing, from across the political divide.

The book sold well, still ranking as high as fourth on Amazon in mid-2017. But then sales tailed off, as happens to almost all books. By Mid-2020, it was 647 on Amazon's chart.

In late 2020, a movie version was released on Netflix, starring Amy Adams and Glenn Close, and directed by Ron Howard. The Netflix film was critically panned—it has a rating on Rotten Tomatoes of just 25 percent. However, it did rank in the Netflix top ten for two weeks, according to streaming data tracker FlixPatrol and Nielsen Ratings.

The Netflix release did give Vance's book sales a boost, as might be expected. According to Amazon data accessed by using internet archive the Wayback Machine, it rose in November 2020 to 160 in the Amazon book rankings—a rise of around 500 places from a few months previously. The spike in Google Trends interest in the book can be seen in the graph below—the highest point is in November 2020.

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Hillbilly Elergy search interest and book sales (via Google and Amazon). Author J.D. Vance won the Ohio GOP Senate primary in May 2022. Newsweek research

Hillbilly Elegy sales then dip again, and drop significantly. By October 2021, it ranks in the 2,000s. By December 2021, the ranking is 6,134.

However, according to the latest data, from early May, Hillbilly Elergy has risen to 170—a climb of around 6,000 places. Trump endorsed Vance on April 15th, according to Vance's tweet from that day.

The chart above shows Google searches for "J.D. Vance," "Hillbilly Elergy" and Amazon ranking for the book.

Trump's endorsement was typically forthright on the previous war of words between the two men. Trump's statement said: "Like some others, J.D. Vance may have said some not so great things about me in the past, but he gets it now…"

Vance previously wrote in The Atlantic in 2016 that "Trump is cultural heroin. He makes some feel better for a bit. But he cannot fix what ails them, and one day they'll realize it."

The victory for Vance means that he will now face Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan in November's midterms after he comprehensively won his respective primary. Ryan, a 2020 presidential candidate, beat his nearest challenger Morgan Harper by more than 52-percentage points on Tuesday, with 86 percent of the ballots reported. Bookmakers have made Vance the overwhelming favorite to take the Ohio Senate seat being vacated by Republican Rob Portman.

(A note on the data—Amazon doesn't give out ranking history, so Newsweek has used internet archived pages to track ranking history. This is imperfect as there are gaps in the data, but gives a picture of the ranking history.)