Former US president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have signed book deals with New York-based publisher Penguin Random House, the publisher announced on Tuesday. Financial terms were not disclosed for the books, which several publishers had competed for, although the deals are likely to be in tens of millions of dollars. According to The Financial Times, bidding for the double-book deal topped $60 million, a record sum for US presidential memoirs.
Both Obamas have published through Crown, a Penguin Random House imprint. But Penguin Random House declined comment on which imprint or imprints the books would be released through. “We are absolutely thrilled to continue our publishing partnership with President and Mrs Obama,” Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle 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.”
The Obamas were represented in negotiations by Robert Barnett and Deneen Howell of Williams & Connolly. Barnett has worked on deals with Barack Obama’s two immediate predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and with Michelle Obama’s predecessors Hillary Rodham Clinton and Laura Bush.
The Obamas plans to donate a “significant portion” of their author proceeds to charity, including to the Obama Foundation. Barack Obama’s book is a strong contender to attract the largest advance for any ex-president; the previous record is believed to be $15 million for Bill Clinton’s My Life.
The unique dual arrangement announced on Tuesday is for books that are among the most anticipated in memory from a former president and first lady. Barack Obama is widely regarded as one of the finest prose stylists among modern presidents, and his previous books Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope – which sold millions of copies – are considered essential to his rise to the White House. Michelle Obama has given few details about her time as first lady. Her only book is about food and gardening, American Grown, released in 2012. Both Obamas are widely popular with the public in the US and abroad.
Titles and release dates were not immediately available. The books will reflect on the Obamas’ White House years, although Penguin Random House declined to give further details. 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. The official was not authorised to discuss the negotiations and asked not to be identified.
Presidential memoirs have contributed little to the literary canon, a tradition many believe Barack Obama will change. But recent books have found large audiences: Clinton’s My Life and George W Bush’s Decision Points sold millions of copies. Books by first ladies, including Hillary Clinton’s Living History have been dependable best-sellers.
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