As expected, both Obamas will publish books now that they have left office. Penguin Random House (PRH) won the bidding war for worldwide rights to their books.
In the brief press release announcing the deal, the publisher did not give details on what the books will cover, but the Associated Press reports that, “A publishing official with knowledge of the negotiations said that Barack Obama’s book will be a straightforward memoir about his presidency, while Michelle Obama plans to write an inspirational work for young people that will draw upon her life story.” CNN reports the books are projected to be released in 2018.
The NYT reports the heated race to win publishing rights “probably stretched well into eight figures … the opening offers for Mr. Obama’s book alone were in the $18 million to $20 million range.” The Guardian says the deal is a “record sum for US presidential memoirs … By comparison, fellow Democrat and former president Bill Clinton earned $15m for rights to his 2004 memoir My Life after he left office … Republican George W Bush, reaped some $10m from his 2010 book Decision Points.”
It has not been announced which of the many PRH imprints will publish the books. The NYT says that it is likely that two imprints will be involved, to help share the cost of the large advance each Obama will receive.
Crown published the previous books by the Obamas, including Mrs. Obama’s book about the White House garden and both of Mr. Obama’s memoirs, Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.
The NYT notes “a postpresidential memoir has even greater potential to be a critical and commercial hit. Mr. Obama kept a journal during his time in office, which suggests his memoir could include behind-the-scenes moments that were captured as major events unfolded … frank discussion of his time in the White House, and of issues like race relations in America, could reach an even wider audience, becoming a worldwide blockbuster.”
According to the press release, as part of the deal, PRH will donate one million books in the Obama family’s name to two nonprofits providing access to reading materials for children and the Obamas will donate a significant portion of their author proceeds to charity, including to the Obama Foundation.
“We are absolutely thrilled to continue our publishing partnership with President and Mrs. Obama,” Markus Dohle, the chief executive of Penguin Random House, said in a statement. “With their words and their leadership, they changed the world, and every day, with the books we publish at Penguin Random House, we strive to do the same. Now, we are very much looking forward to working together with President and Mrs. Obama to make each of their books global publishing events of unprecedented scope and significance.”