On a publisher's list of most coveted American authors, where would ex-president Barack Obama rank? "Most. Coveted," says Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan Karp. "I've thought a lot about this. I don't think there's anyone else."
Obama was a bestselling author even before his inauguration, first with his memoir, Dreams From My Father, and then The Audacity of Hope. He has a deal with Crown to write another nonfiction book when his term is up, for an undisclosed amount. Editors have been loath to speculate openly about what price Obama's deal would bring. But with his proven appeal and decades of literary productivity ahead of him, Obama could very likely top the reported $15 million Bill Clinton got for his memoir, My Life, or the $7 million George W. Bush is said to have received for his Decision Points.
To make a big media rollout bigger, Obama would do well to follow the multiplatform lead of Al Gore, who packages his books with documentaries, iPad apps, and viral Internet campaigns. Obama isn't limited to the standard postpresidential fare of memoirs, correspondence, and children's books, either. Given his authorial skills, Obama could write about everything from the law to cultural affairs to basketball. "I can assure you," Karp says, "that I would stand on line overnight to buy the first copy of The Audacity of Hoop."
Potential Earnings: $15 million or higher
Likelihood: Very high