Penguin also acquired a new book from Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, co-authors of A Very Stable Genius, published early this year. Their sequel will explore the last year of Trump’s presidency as he faced impeachment, played down the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, was hospitalised with COVID-19 and fought to overturn the results of the election. Doubleday, another Penguin Random House imprint, acquired a book that will be co-written by Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, and Susan Glasser, a writer for The New Yorker, which will analyse how Trump has changed Washington.
Trump’s presidency has been an enormous boon for the publishing industry, with breakout hits by former administration officials (John Bolton, James Comey and “Anonymous,” who later revealed himself as Miles Taylor, a former official at the Department of Homeland Security), exposés by journalists (Bob Woodward, Michael Wolff) and tell-alls from estranged confidantes and proteges (Michael Cohen, Omarosa Manigault Newman). One of the year’s top-selling nonfiction books, Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough, sold more than 1.3 million copies in the first week after its release; she recently sold a second book to St. Martin’s about Trump’s impact on the nation.
In sheer volume, Trump books dwarf works released about the previous administration during its first term: There have been more than 1,200 unique titles about Trump published in the last four years, compared to around 500 books about former President Barack Obama and his administration during his first term, according to an analysis by NPD BookScan.
Many of the factors that drove sales for earlier books about Trump might not persist after he leaves office. While Trump will likely still have a large social media platform, he is unlikely to drive constant cable news coverage as he has for the past four years. Many of the most successful books about the President got a boost from news coverage after he publicly attacked and sometimes sued the authors and publishers.
Some publishing executives remain bullish on the genre, noting that books about Trump have continued to sell well throughout his term and have already defied predictions that readers would one day tire of him.
“The opportunity for book publishers was huge starting in 2016, and will be huge in 2020,” said Ann Godoff, Penguin’s president and editor-in-chief. “People say, ‘Well, there have been too many Trump books.’ I think you haven’t seen anything yet, and the reason for that is the sources are going to come loose; they’re going to be freer to talk.”
Simon & Schuster is still investing heavily in behind-the-scenes books about the president and the 2020 election. After publishing two blockbusters by Woodward, Rage and Fear, Simon & Schuster plans to release Woodward’s next book with Washington Post reporter Robert Costa is about the final days of the Trump presidency.
Simon & Schuster also acquired a book by New York Times political reporters Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, which will look at the 2020 election as a turning point in American politics, and an expose by reporter and longtime Trump chronicler David Cay Johnston about Trump’s finances.
Publishers are betting that there will be a substantial lingering appetite for Trump books, but some question just how large the market will be, and how long the public’s fascination with him will last. Seismic sales for Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land, which sold more than 3.3 million copies in its first month, might signal that interest in Trump will remain high in coming years.
Another looming question for publishers is how to navigate a potential post-presidential memoir by Trump. While such a book would undoubtedly be a mega-bestseller, mainstream publishing companies could face a backlash from their writers and staff members. On top of that, some publishers might balk at a Trump memoir if the book failed to meet the company’s standards for accuracy – especially if he continues to argue falsely that he won the election.
Then again, Trump’s refusal to concede — and his hints about running in 2024 — could help fuel interest in another round of books about the 45th president.
“It’s a hard addiction to break for publishers and the public,” said literary agent Matt Latimer, co-founder of the Javelin Agency, which has represented several former administration officials. “The Trump phenomenon is never going to completely vanish. We’ll be talking about Trump for the next four years.”
The New York Times