So around the fall of 1987, I was the publisher of Random House. I had inherited a fabulous book from my predecessor: Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal.” Trump was not yet a household name outside New York City, but he was working on it — changing the abandoned property that became the Jacob K. Javits Center, turning a seedy Central Park’s Wollman Rink into a vibrant playground again, transforming a sad old hotel into the flashy Grand Hyatt. And more.
No one knew how big “The Art of the Deal” (co-authored by Tony Schwartz) might become, and it was my responsibility to oversee the publication. While my memory is not perfect, I do recall we took a bold stance … starting our printing at 100,000 copies, then revising it upward to 200,000; then revising it again to 300,000 and before Christmas, flooding the market with an extra 50,000 copies or so. (These were considered spectacular printings for such a local personality and publishers — always cautious because books are returnable — knew the cost of overprinting a title.)
The book climbed up and up to the #1 position on the New York Times bestseller list and I left for the Christmas vacation in a very smug mood.
Until the phone rang mid-vacation.
It was The Donald (though he wasn’t yet “The” back then). He was calling from Aspen. Actually, he was shouting from Aspen. He was livid. The two bookstores in Aspen had no more copies of “The Art of the Deal!” They had sold out. He was stuck on his Christmas vacation and there were no books to sign; no books to sell. He was furious.
How upset was I? Muchly. I tried to tell him that this was the real life definition of a “runaway” bestseller. He was not amused .. he countered he could sell at least another 2000 copies over the holiday if only books were in the Aspen bookstores. I countered that it was Christmas — the Random House warehouse in Pennsylvania was closed — there would be no way to get the books out. And, even if we could get the books out of the warehouse, they would never get to Aspen in time. He countered: if “you want to get it done, you can.” He volunteered he send his PERSONAL 747 airplane to transport the books.
Long story short: my frantic calls to the owner of Random House; his instant orders to the warehouse personnel; etc etc etc. … books miraculously loaded onto the Trump airplane to Aspen, 2000 books loaded into the two Aspen bookstores and (ta-dah!) all books sold out. The book eventually sold over a million copies.
The end of the story: He was (goddamnit) right.
The moral of the story: Never underestimate THE Donald.