Lena Dunham, Bill Clinton, Keith Richards & More Big Book Deals (Photos)

The Girls creator is getting a reported $3.6 million for her first book. But she’s hardly the first celebrity to ink a seven-figure publishing deal. The Daily Beast tracks down some of the best paid authors.

Getty Images (2); AP Photo

Getty Images (2); AP Photo

Given the state of the publishing industry, it’s a wonder there’s any money to pay authors. But a few celebrities, politicians, and bestselling writers can still command top dollar. Case in point: Girls creator Lena Dunham’s reported $3.6 million advance for her book project. She’s in good company, though. From Bill Clinton’s $15 million contract to Jack Welch’s $7 million deal, here are some of the biggest advances in the publishing industry.

Todd Williamson / AP Photo

Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham has certainly been making a run of it lately. Between her hit HBO show Girls getting picked up for a second season and her latest movie, Nobody Walks, debuting to glowing reviews, Dunham was already on fire. But now, word has leaked that the 26-year-old actress has inked a book deal reportedly worth at least $3.6 million. Tentatively titled Not That Kind of Girl, it’s rumored to be part advice book and part essay collection. 

Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe, the mind behind such classics as The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff, split from longtime publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2008. They couldn’t come to an agreement over his next novel, Back to Blood, which will be released Oct. 23. So Wolfe jumped to Little, Brown & Co. The reported payday? Close to $7 million. 

Bill Clinton

After eight years in office, Bill Clinton had a few memorable moments to spin together into a compelling autobiography. So the former president and saxophone enthusiast parlayed his experience into a $15 million publishing deal. But don’t feel bad for the publisher. My Life has sold more than 2.2 million copies since it was released in 2004.

Hillary Clinton

After her husband’s affair with Monica Lewinsky nearly brought down his presidency, people wanted to know what Hillary Clinton was thinking. In 2000, Simon & Schuster lured the former first lady and senator-elect with an $8 million deal—a near record at the time. The book, Living History, gave readers what they wanted: a peek inside the Clinton White House and her 30-year relationship with the president.  

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin cemented her status as America’s right-wing sweetheart during the 2008 campaign. Even though the election didn’t go as she might have hoped, she emerged with legions of fans who hung on her every tweet and Facebook status update. So it came as no surprise when Palin nabbed a big deal for Going Rogue. The payday? $1.25 million.

Tina Fey

Tina Fey is funny. And she has the Emmys to prove it. But she shied away from writing a book for years. Fey finally took the plunge when she turned 40, figuring she’d had enough life experiences to write something. The $5 million advance probably didn’t hurt either. What eventually emerged was Bossypants, which was widely praised by critics for its sharp wit and biting intelligence.

Keith Richards

How much would you pay to get Keith Richards to dish about his relationship with Mick Jagger? Publishers got into a major bidding war over the Rolling Stones guitarist’s memoir, Life, which wound up fetching $7.7 million. Richards delivered the goods, giving fans a window on their 50-year relationship. His nickname for Jagger?  “Your Majesty” and “Brenda.” 

Pope John Paul II

Isn’t the pope supposed to take a vow of poverty? Someone probably should have told the pope. John Paul II received an $8.5 million advance in 1994.

Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney may have left office as a somewhat unpopular figure, but he definitely landed on his feet. The former vice president reportedly signed a $2 million book deal in 2009. He said at the time, “In terms of carrying grudges or trying to settle grudges, that’s not my purpose. If it had been, I wouldn’t have lasted very long in politics.” 

Tiziana Fabi / AFP / Getty Images

Amanda Knox

It must have been a relief to have been cleared of murder charges and freed from an Italian prison in 2011, but that was not the only good news Amanda Knox would be getting. HarperCollins quickly signed her to a $4 million book deal, which is two times the amount former Vice President Dick Cheney received for his memoir.

J.K. Rowling

Perhaps it’s not surprising that J.K. Rowling received one of the largest advances ever for The Casual Vacancy, which was published in 2012. Rowling did create the Harry Potter franchise after all. But the $8 million advance might have seemed like nothing to her, since the Harry Potter e-books alone sold more than $4 million worth of copies in their first month of release. Still, it must have been somewhat satisfying, considering she had sold her first Harry Potter book for just $4,700 back in 1997.

Alan Greenspan

It pays to have been the former chairman of the Federal Reserve. Or, maybe it just pays to be Alan Greenspan. Penguin paid him an $8.5 million advance for his memoir, which was published in 2007. At the time, it was said to be the second-largest advance ever for a nonfiction book, ranking only behind Bill Clinton’s memoir. Although he got some help from a ghostwriter, at the time he promised, “I plan to do the first draft and the last draft.” 

George W. Bush

George W. Bush may not have been the most popular American president of all time, but that did not make publishers any less interested in his book. Crown shelled out $7 million for Decision Points, which was published in 2010. It provided insights into about a dozen of the president’s personal and professional decisions, and was not simply a memoir. “I want people to understand the environment in which I was making decisions. I want people to get a sense of how decisions were made and I want people to understand the options that were placed before me,” he said of the book. 

Jack Welch

Former General Electric chairman Jack Welch has something of a penchant for large book deals. In 2000, he sold his memoir, Jack: Straight From the Gut, for the huge sum of $7.1 million to Time Warner Trade Publishing, after a wild bidding war. He managed to sell that book without any kind of written proposal. Sales to the public were not quite as successful, and he had to take a major pay cut for his next book, Winning, in 2004. But no need to feel sorry for him. HarperCollins still ended up paying an estimated $4 million for the book, so we’d say he still won.