As he navigates turbulent domestic and international affairs, President Donald Trump has been keeping one eye on an opportunity that awaits him in his post-White House career.
Since at least mid-2017, Trump has been talking about the post-presidential memoir he will write, or, more likely, have ghostwritten on his behalf. He is planning on it being explosive and assumes (not without reason) that it will be a New York Times bestseller. And since the early days of his administration, he has conveyed his eagerness to get started on the project.
“He sounded excited about it,” said one person who was present last year when the president made comments about writing a memoir. “He said it would sell better than even The Art of the Deal.”
Another source, who is a friend of Trump’s, said the president has casually discussed how such a book could be used to dish dirt and settle scores with his foes in the media, the Democratic Party, non-loyal Republicans, law enforcement, and even individuals in his own administration. Trump, according to this person, noted that this memoir could help “correct” the “fake news” already published in popular books and newspapers, and give him the opportunity to spin a juicy yarn on his time at the heights of power.
The source recalled there was at least one time when he heard the president say, “that’ll go great in a book,” referring to something that had just happened in a social setting. The implication left was that Trump was passively taking note of potential fodder.
One White House official said that President Trump has privately “joked about” doing a book. The official also pointed The Daily Beast to a clip from an October press conference where Trump cryptically discussed his supposed knowledge of lawmakers caught in inappropriate sexual encounters. “I think I’ll save it for a book like everybody else and I’ll write it,” the president said, when asked by a reporter who was he accusing of misconduct. “I’m not giving it to you.”
Modern-day presidents have written books about their time in office in the years after that time ended. Trump’s post-presidential memoir would certainly be a unique addition to that canon. Whether it would be the priciest is less clear.
While previous U.S. presidents and their family members have garnered record-shattering advances for books, major publishers haven’t always been willing to pony up top-tier money for the Trumps. Multiple sources told The Daily Beast that some publishers balked at the seven-figure price-tag Donald Trump Jr. sought for a book that was not published last year. (Trump Jr. did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.)
Though industry insiders freely admit that sales of a Trump presidential memoir would likely be explosive, several top publishing figures told The Daily Beast said that publishing a tell-all from the president would present several headaches.
The major publishing companies in New York are overwhelmingly staffed with left-leaning employees, many of whom often voice their displeasure internally when various imprints agree to publish books by Trump-friendly authors. Editors and publishers will also hear from authors themselves when publishers sign controversial authors, some of whom can threaten to speak out or even urge consumers or bankable authors to take their business elsewhere.
Other publishing industry insiders said Trump would be a difficult author to promote because he is liable to disregard a rollout plan for the book’s “scoops” and exclusive information.
“I don’t think he’d be able to keep his mouth shut to have the revelations land at the right moment,” one top publishing source said. “But I do think he’d be able to get his supporters to buy it as merchandise.”
Despite the unpredictability of a Trump-authored memoir’s content and rollout, two book agents who’ve dealt with popular political books said that the president could expect to see a book advance—from some amenable publishing house—at least in the low seven figures. The sources predicted that the final amount would fall short of the reportedly $65 million book deal that former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama landed.
Trump has been compelled to write a post-presidential memoir, in part, out of agitation that so many books were being written about him—some of them bestselling hits with large advances—by “everybody else.” Depending on the author, the president has met these releases with varying degrees of fury. To this day, he remains extremely sensitive to critical books on him and his presidency or business empire. He closely tracks media coverage of them and routinely orders his lieutenants to trash the writers’ credibility.
Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former Trump friend and reality-TV co-star who worked as a senior official in his administration, surreptitiously recorded audio of the president, and leveraged those recordings into a book deal. During the media rollout of her highly unflattering book, titled UNHINGED, Trump and his allies waged an all-out public-relations counterattack, calling Newman a “low life,” among other epithets. Early this year, during the rollout for former Trump adviser Cliff Sims’ book, Team of Vipers, senior White House aides including Jared Kushner and Kellyanne Conway successfully talked the president off a ledge of publicly attacking Sims, arguing that doing so would only give the ex-official more publicity. The strategy worked, but just for a few days. Ultimately, Trump could not help himself from rage-tweeting about Sims.
And the publication of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury directly caused the president to get involved in throttling and burying his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, for Bannon’s scorched-earth quotes about Trump family members.
All three of these cases resulted in a lawyer for Trump or his campaign threatening legal retribution. But when his legal envoys aren’t saber-rattling, the president has sometimes joked about journalists and others cashing in on the Trump era with ratings, cable contributorships, book deals, and increased readership and subscriptions.
In his decades in the public eye, he put his name to several books, including the successful The Art of the Deal, which he continues to brag about to rally audiences and world leaders alike. Trump’s 2015 book, Crippled America, was more political and less commercially successful. And, as evidenced by Trump’s own private remarks, he seems to want back in the game.
“My own personal library is stocked with books on every president from George Washington to Donald Trump,” said Jeff Lord, a Trump ally and acquaintance who has written an upcoming book on the president and populism. “Presidents, like all mortals, pass away. But unlike most mortals, their presidential reputations are debated for eternity. So the best way for a president to get his side of the story out is to write his own memoirs.”
“This is what presidents should do, [and] I certainly hope Donald Trump does do it,” Lord continued. “The ultimate source is oftentimes the president himself… As most of these presidents do, he would have the bestseller of all bestsellers on this. I think for the historical record it is critical that he does it. He really has been targeted by the opposition in all sorts of ways. This is his chance to answer for history.”