The Obamas Sell Memoir Rights for a Rumored $60 Million

Penguin Random House won the bidding war for the rights to Barack and Michelle Obama's forthcoming memoirs.

Erica Riveraby Erica Rivera
US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughter Sasha (R) at the National Christmas Tree Lighting on the Ellipse of the National Mall in Washington on December 1, 2016. Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM (AFP/Getty Images).

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama reportedly cashed in big on worldwide rights to his-and-hers memoirs about their two terms in the White House.

According to the Financial Times, a bidding war was underway Tuesday for joint rights to the power couple’s individual books. Penguin Random House, which ultimately signed the Obamas, was rumored to be on top with an offer upwards of $60 million. Simon & Schuster (which recently dropped a book deal with the controversial Milo Yiannopoulos after pro-pedophilia-esque comments) was reportedly also in the bidding war. HarperCollins apparently expressed interest as well.

To put this enviable book deal in perspective, just compare it to post-presidential book deals for Bill Clinton ($15 million from Knopf for 2004’s My Life) and George W. Bush (an estimated $10 million from Crown for 2010’s Decision Points). While both of those presidents’ wives also published memoirs (Hillary Clinton’s Living History in 2003 and Laura Bush’s Spoken From The Heart in 2010), a former president and former first lady inking deals simultaneously is, well, unprecedented (as far as we know).

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This isn’t Barack Obama’s first time at the table with publishing houses, however. He published Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, in 1995. It was translated into over a dozen languages and become a New York Times #1 bestseller. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream followed 11 years later, in 2006. It, too, was a New York Times bestseller, as well as a bestseller on Amazon, thanks in part to an endorsement by Oprah Winfrey. Obama detoured into children’s book territory in 2010 with Of Thee I Sing: A Letter To My Daughters.

The probable payday on the Obamas’ future memoirs is not only record-breaking, it’s far beyond what Barack Obama netted previously. He received $6.8 million in royalties from his first book and $8.8 million from his sophomore tome. (Then again, he didn’t have Michelle Obama included in the deal with him, and her fans would likely opine that she’s priceless.)

Penguin Random House announced the deal Tuesday night, along with a pledge to donate one million books to reading-related nonprofits. The Obamas will also likely donate a portion of the proceeds from their memoirs to charity.