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AP Exclusive: Clinton book has sold more than 300,000 copies

Hillel Italie, AP National Writer

Hillary Clinton waves to the audience at the Warner Theatre in Washington, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, for book tour event for her new book "What Happened" hosted by the Politics and Prose Bookstore. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Hillary Clinton's "What Happened" had a big debut.

Clinton's book, about her stunning presidential election loss in 2016 to Donald Trump, sold more than 300,000 copies in the combined formats of hardcover, e-book and audio, Simon & Schuster told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The book's hardcover sales of 168,000 were the highest opening for any nonfiction release in five years, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks around 85 percent of retail print sales. Mark Owen's "No Easy Day," a 2012 memoir about the killing of Osama bin Laden, sold more than 250,000 copies in its first week.

Sales for "What Happened" far exceeded the first-week numbers of more than 100,000 copies for Clinton's book about her years as secretary of state, "Hard Choices," which came out in 2014 as she was preparing to launch her run for president. "What Happened" has been at or near the top of the Amazon.com best-seller list since its publication Sept. 12 despite a suspicious early wave of negative reader reviews, likely posted by commentators who had not read the book and later pulled by Amazon.

"The remarkable response to 'What Happened' indicates that, notwithstanding all that has been written and discussed over the last year, there is clearly an overwhelming desire among readers to learn about and experience, from Hillary Clinton's singular perspective, the historic events of the 2016 election," Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy said in a statement. "In its candor and immediacy, 'What Happened' is satisfying that demand."

Clinton's all-time opening was for her memoir, "Living History," a 2003 release that included her first extended comments on the affair between her husband, President Bill Clinton, and White House intern Monica Lewinsky. "Living History" sold more than 600,000 copies in its first week and came out before the rise of e-books and before the collapse of the Borders superstore chain and the struggles of Barnes & Noble weakened the hardcover market.

Clinton, a Democrat, had promised to let her "guard down" for her first book to come out when she was neither in government nor seeking office. Responses to "What Happened," as with so much of Clinton's political career, have varied widely. Some contended that it was time to "move on" from the elections. Others countered that as the first woman nominated by a major political party she had a vital story to tell and an audience eager to hear about it. Reviewers have called "What Happened" everything from boring and self-serving to revelatory and poignant.

On Oct. 1, "What Happened" will debut at No. 1 on The New York Times' best-seller lists for hardcover and for combined e-book and hardcover. According to Simon & Schuster, the book set a company record for weekly digital audio sales and sold more e-book editions in a week than any nonfiction release from the publisher since Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs in 2011.