John Oliver does an Oprah by turning forgotten children's book into overnight bestseller

The comedian used 'The Kid who Ran for President' to poke fun at Donald Trump, pushing it up 25,000 places on the charts

The Kid Who Ran For President


It appears that when it comes to selling books in the US, people with a name beginning with O have the magic touch. The much publicised ‘Oprah Effect’, which saw talk show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey send books to the top of the bestseller charts by selecting them for her on-air book club, has now become the ‘Oliver Effect’, as John Oliver, the satirist presenter of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, has revived a long-forgotten children’s book from second-hand purgatory to a top seller on Amazon. And all in the name of poking fun at Donald Trump.

The Kid who Ran for President, written by children’s writer Dan Gutman in 1996, saw a huge  bounce in its sales figures over the past few days after the British comedian used it as a prop “instruction manual” for how Donald Trump should drop out of the presidential election. The novel, which centres around a schoolboy who jokingly runs for the White House, only to drop out when elected by a mass wave of popular support, rose to 108th place on Amazon’s bestseller list – after spending more than a decade at the 25,000th position.

“This is better than being on the bestseller list,” author Dan Gutman told the New York Post when asked about the five-minute segment that broadcast on Sunday night. “That’s the highest any of my books have ever been in my 30-year-career, including the popular kids’ series My Weird School and The Genius Files.”

The Kid who Ran for President had already sold more than a million copies before the Oliver Effect worked its way back into the charts, and Gutman has said that it has gotten a boost in sales every election cycle. A Nielsen study in 2011 revealed that during the 15 years that Oprah Winfrey ran her on-air book club, her recommendations produced overnight publishing successes; Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan saw an 863% boost in sales, while Cormac McCarthy’s The Road saw its sales jump by 797%.

The bad news for fans of Oliver using The Kid who Ran for President as a manual recommending how Trump should pull out of the November election, however, is that Gutman wrote a follow-up novel in which his 12-year-old protagonist changes his mind and gets sworn in. But as this election cycle is showing, the truth is often stranger than fiction.

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