The Obamas have sold their memoirs

Now what?
Now what?
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

For the Obamas, as with many of their predecessors, life after the White House now includes a book deal.

Penguin Random House announced today that it has acquired two books by Barack and Michelle Obama. The memoirs of the former US president and first lady, to be published separately, had been the subject of a intense bidding war between some of the biggest US book publishers: Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster and Macmillan together placed bids, according to the Financial Times (paywall).

“We are absolutely thrilled to continue our publishing partnership with President and Mrs. Obama,” Markus Dohle, CEO of the winning publishing house, said in a release. “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.” The publisher hasn’t disclosed book titles, release dates, or the financial terms of the deal.

The FT reports that the auction had gone as high as $60 million, an astronomical figure for two books. Generally any deal over $500,000 is considered newsworthy in the book industry; big-deal book advances for celebrities and former presidents run at their very highest in the $10 million to $15 million range. After US president George W. Bush left the White House, he sold his memoir Decision Points, using the same lawyer who represented the Obamas here, for a rumored $7 million. Actor and comedian Amy Schumer is said to have recently sold her book for $8 million to $10 million.

Of course there’s no way to be sure how much the books sold for; publishers don’t usually disclose such details, and agents and authors generally only do so at their discretion. Robert Barnett, one of the lawyers representing the Obamas, declined to comment on the advance.

There’s reason for publishers to bet big on presidents. Bush’s new book of his paintings, released Feb. 27, has been at the No. 1 spot on Amazon for two days at time of writing. Obama’s first memoir, Dreams from my Father, spent 150 weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list.

The Obamas will donate a “significant” portion of their profits from the book to charity, including the Obama Foundation, according to the publisher’s release.