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March 23, 2009

Obama signs book deal — can he do that?


From now on, you'll have to wonder: Is he signing a bill, or working on his goddamn book?

From now on, you'll have to wonder: Is he signing a bill, or working on his damn book?

The day after it was announced that former president George W. Bush had signed a whopper book deal with Crown, it was announced that sitting president Barack Obama had also signed a whopper book deal with Crown. Beyond the fact of it making strange bedfellows at Crown, it is the first time a president has struck a deal while still in office — although the Obama camp is saying the deal was struck “in early January, shortly before his inauguration” … with no explanation as to why, if that was so, it was not being announced until two months later.

According to an Associated Press wire story by Sharon Theimer, the deal is for an abridged, “youth-orientd version” of his memoir, Dreams of My Father, and a nonfiction book about his presidency after he leaves office.

As if anticipating criticism for engaging in such opportunism while in office, the Obama camp has also released the core terms of the financial arrangments for the reworking of his memoir: “Crown Publishing Group is giving him a $500,000 advance plus 15 percent of the U.S. sales price for hardcover book sales and up to 10 percent for the domestic price for paperback sales.”

However, no details about the deal for the second book were being released. One hard-to-overlook reference point looms in the background, though — as the AP puts it: “Former President Bill Clinton got $15 million for his book, My Life.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives