September 8, 2016
Speculation about the Obamas’ future focuses on potential book deals
by Kait Howard
The Obamas haven’t breathed a word about whether their futures bend toward the literary, but that hasn’t stopped the press from speculating about the kind of income they could generate from book deals when Mr. Obama’s presidency ends.
The New York Times’ Gardiner Harris spoke with several literary agents who estimated that the couple could make between $20 million and $45 million on multi-book contracts, with some saying both Mr. and Mrs. Obama have the potential to make more money on book deals than any presidential couple in recent history.
The prediction that the Obamas will make such deals isn’t surprising — the president has several, not-ghostwritten books under his belt, and recently made a foray into magazine editing, while the first lady has penned a for-charity book on gardening, and has been known to champion efforts to increase literacy. But the speculation really drives at the question of how the Obamas will fund their not-exactly-modest lifestyle post-White House. Harris writes that the income could be “more than enough to pay the estimated $22,000 monthly rent for the nine-bedroom home they will occupy in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington and foot the bill for flights on private jets. (Mr. Obama has said he would like to avoid commercial flights once he surrenders Air Force One.)”
Harris also guesses that the Obamas might prefer book deals over speaking engagements because books “do not have the taint of paid speeches, and they generally sell well.” Perhaps they might even consult Senator Bernie Sanders, who purchased a $575,000 vacation house not long after signing his own book deal for an undisclosed sum with Thomas Dunne Books.
One amusing detail from Harris’s Times report: Obama is apparently still under contract for the second book of a two-book deal he signed with Crown in 2004, though nobody interviewed for the story “thought Mr. Obama would deliver that book to Crown under the 2004 terms.”
Plus, there’s the assessment of NYC-based literary agent Georges Borchardt that the potential success of a Michelle Obama book is so great that “She can write whatever she wants.”
Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.