The timing of Bill O’Reilly’s latest best-selling book could hardly be more awkward.
The book, “Old School,” is billed as a defense of traditional values and includes advice on how men should treat women respectfully, not as sex objects. The book went on sale the same week The New York Times reported that O’Reilly, the Fox News host, had settled suits with five women who had accused him of sexual harassment or verbal abuse.
While O’Reilly’s critics have pounced on the appearance of hypocrisy — “Loved the part about how to treat women! This guy’s the worst!” one Amazon reviewer wrote — many of his die-hard fans might not care.
The New York Times published an investigation last weekend that found that five women who had accused O’Reilly, a former Boston news anchor, of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior received settlements totaling about $13 million.
“Old School,” which came out March 28 and was written with Bruce Feirstein, sold 67,500 copies in its first week, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks 85 percent of the print market. It will debut at No. 1 on the New York Times’s hardcover nonfiction best-seller list on April 16.
On Friday, it was among the top 15 books in sales on Amazon and was No. 1 on Barnes & Noble’s nonfiction best-seller list.
But it was still unclear how the disclosure of the sexual harassment settlements might affect sales for the book or his career as a prolific author. The strong start for “Old School” includes preorders and largely reflects the first week of sales, before The Times published its article about the settlements.
Although best known as a combative Fox News personality, O’Reilly has carved out an incredibly lucrative side pursuit as an author. His ongoing “Killing” series, which he started in 2011 and writes with Martin Dugard, has more than 17 million copies in print, according to his publisher, Henry Holt. His book “Killing the Rising Sun,” about the final years of World War II, holds the No. 3 spot on the New York Times’ hardcover list, while his 2013 book, “Killing Jesus,” is No. 4 on the paperback list.
“Killing the Rising Sun” topped all adult nonfiction books last year, selling 1,104,389 copies, according to Publishers Weekly.
Patricia Eisemann, the director of publicity for Henry Holt, and Stephen Rubin, the company’s president and publisher, declined to comment when asked if the company would continue to publish O’Reilly’s books in the aftermath of the new revelations.
Commercial publishing houses depend heavily on core authors, and some industry analysts said it was unlikely that Holt would sever ties with O’Reilly, whose Fox show provides a built-in marketing machine for his books.
“I doubt very much that they would take a drastic action like cutting him loose,” said Mike Shatzkin, chief executive of Idea Logical Co., a book industry consulting firm. “They’re not going to die if he’s not there, but they certainly would be scrambling to make up the revenue.”
A publishing house is not subject to the same pressures as a network, which depends on advertising revenue, but occasionally a public scandal will drive publishers to drop an author. Simon & Schuster faced a fierce backlash this year from independent booksellers and some of its own authors after it bought a memoir by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former editor at Breitbart News who espouses views that many regard as xenophobic and misogynist.
His publishing contract was canceled in February after a video clip resurfaced, in which he condoned sex between adults and teenage boys. By then, the publisher had suffered a public relations debacle.
Even if Henry Holt continues to publish O’Reilly, his sales could fall as a result of the allegations against him, particularly if major book retailers decide not to carry his titles or Fox cancels his show. His children’s book series, a spinoff of the “Killing” books, could be particularly vulnerable to a consumer or retailer boycott, given the nature of the allegations. “Give Please a Chance,” a picture book he wrote with James Patterson, has sold 181,200 copies since it was released in November, according to NPD BookScan.
So far, major book retailers are sticking by him. “We leave it to our customers to decide what to buy and read,” a Barnes & Noble spokeswoman said. Amazon, which declined to comment, features “Old School” in its spring reading nonfiction recommendations. O’Reilly’s literary ambitions and his TV career evolved simultaneously.
In 1998, before he established himself as a cable news superstar, O’Reilly’s wrote “Those Who Trespass,” a violent crime novel about an unhinged broadcast journalist who murders the network executives and correspondents who have slighted him.
O’Reilly went on to write about 20 other books, creating a publishing empire that includes children’s titles, political and cultural critiques, and a best-selling memoir, “A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity.”
Like Patterson, the juggernaut of the thriller genre, O’Reilly has kept his sales numbers high in part by being incredibly prolific and relying on his co-authors to help him produce a steady stream of blockbusters.
Henry Holt vigorously defended O’Reilly when questions arose about the accuracy of his books. In 2015, after the liberal watchdog group Media Matters published an article accusing O’Reilly of fabricating a dramatic scene in “Killing Kennedy,” Holt said the company would “fully stand behind Bill O’Reilly and his best-seller ‘Killing Kennedy,’ and we’re very proud to count him as one of our most important authors.”
Historians and scholars also criticized “Killing Lincoln” and “Killing Patton.” Although the latter was an immediate best-seller, several World War II historians disputed the book’s central claim that Patton’s death was orchestrated by Josef Stalin.