A Trump Memoir Would Sell. Will Publishers Buy It?
ELIZABETH A. HARRIS, ALEXANDRA ALTER
When U.S. presidents leave office, regardless of their parties or approval ratings, a common ritual awaits: They write books, capturing the moment for history and sharing insight into one of the world’s most unusual jobs.
But publishers are at odds over such a project with President Donald Trump, even though his presidential memoir would likely sell millions of copies. It is a debate that pits powerful commercial interests against fraught political and cultural fault lines, with some executives worried that signing him would prompt a revolt among their authors and staff, and that ensuring the book’s veracity could be an even bigger concern.
“I would take a meeting,” said Dana Canedy, the senior vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster’s namesake imprint. “But there’s a huge gap between taking a meeting and publishing a book.”
“我会就此开个会，”西蒙与舒斯特公司(Simon & Schuster)同名出版社的高级副总裁兼出版人达纳·坎迪(Dana Canedy)说。“但开会和出书之间还有很大的差距。”
Concentrated in New York City, mainstream book publishing is dominated by editors, agents, publicists and other professionals who are politically left of center, but the big houses all sign books by conservatives, seeing it as key to their mission and their business.
Sean Hannity is at Simon & Schuster. Sarah Sanders is at Macmillan. Newt Gingrich has been published by divisions of Penguin Random House, Hachette and Macmillan.
肖恩·汉尼蒂(Sean Hannity)签了西蒙与舒斯特，莎拉·桑德斯(Sarah Sanders)签了麦克米伦(Macmillan)，纽特·金里奇 (Newt Gingrich)的书则由企鹅兰登书屋(Penguin Random House)下属出版社、桦榭(Hachette)和麦克米伦出版。
Trump has published more than a dozen books with houses that include Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Penguin Random House, although some titles have sold more than others. According to NPD BookScan, “Trump: The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received” has sold about 3,500 copies through traditional retail channels, like Amazon or big-box stores, since it came out 15 years ago. “The Art of the Deal” has sold more than 630,000 copies.
特朗普已经出版了十几本书，出版商包括西蒙与舒斯特、哈珀柯林斯(HarperCollins)和企鹅兰登书屋，不过销量参差不齐。据NPD BookScan称，《特朗普：我收到的最好的高尔夫建议》(Trump: The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received)自15年前出版以来，通过亚马逊(Amazon)或大商场等传统零售渠道售出3500本。《交易的艺术》(The Art of the Deal)则已经卖出超过63万本。
Sales and profits this time around stand to be huge. Trump was defeated in the 2020 election but still has a megaphone on social media and holds sway with many conservative media outlets, which will give him a platform to promote his book even when he is out of office. More than 73 million people voted for him this year.
But the risks this time are different, too. Several top executives said that publishing Trump could be perilous in a polarized media environment — to a degree that is far different from his books released before he became president — and that the possibilities of boycotts, libel lawsuits and social media campaigns outweighed the obvious financial benefits. Earlier this year, Hachette dropped a planned memoir by Woody Allen following protests by its employees and Allen’s son Ronan Farrow, an author who is also published by a Hachette imprint.
但这次的风险也有所不同。几位高管表示，在一个两极分化的媒体环境下，出版特朗普的作品可能是危险的——其程度与他当选总统前出版的书籍大不相同——抵制、诽谤诉讼和社交媒体运动的可能性超过了明显的经济利益。今年早些时候，桦榭放弃了伍迪·艾伦(Woody Allen)计划出版的回忆录，此前桦榭的员工和艾伦的儿子罗南·法罗(Ronan Farrow)提出了抗议。法罗也是桦榭旗下一家出版社的作家。
Others noted that publishers would face credibility issues if they released a book by a public figure known for spreading falsehoods and misinformation. Publishers, who typically rely on authors for fact-checking and accuracy, would likely need to take additional steps to verify that Trump’s account was factual and that he would be willing to undergo that kind of review. And if the factual and legal vetting did not eventually satisfy the publisher, would they be able to claw back whatever portion of the advance had already been paid?
“I’d have to be satisfied that he met Simon & Schuster’s overall standards for publishing a book, which is that book be honest, fair and balanced,” Canedy said. “We’d want to know that he would be willing to be edited and submit to a rigorous fact-checking process.”
Any potential deal would also depend on what he wanted to write about, she added.
“If he presented a proposal for a book about how he single-handedly changed America, that’s one thing,” Canedy said. “If he presented a proposal about where he took the Republican Party and how, that’s a very different book.”
Speculation about Trump’s plans for his memoir — which he has hinted at in the past — began picking up in the days after the election. Though he does not yet appear to be actively shopping one, his finances are under stress and he could be looking for the type of cash infusion a book might bring.
Most of the president’s businesses are losing money, according to an investigation by The New York Times, which obtained two decades of his corporate and personal tax information. These tax records also show that he has hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due in the next few years that he has personally guaranteed. He is also under audit by the IRS. This audit has been going on for years, and an adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.
Presidential memoirs have long been a popular and lucrative subgenre. Such books have a built-in audience and are generally reliable moneymakers. Even Richard Nixon found a publisher for his 1978 memoir, “RN,” despite a boycott effort.
But blowback from within the industry to a Trump memoir, especially as he refuses to concede that he lost the election, is likely to be severe.
Celeste Ng, the author of the best-selling novel “Little Fires Everywhere,” said she wouldn’t hesitate to speak out against her publisher, Penguin Random House, if it struck a deal with Trump.
畅销小说《小小小小的火》(Little Fires Everywhere)的作者伍绮诗(Celeste Ng)说，如果她的出版商企鹅兰登书屋与特朗普签约，她会毫不犹豫公开反对。
“We have every reason to believe a Trump memoir would be primarily misinformation, ungrounded opinions and flat-out lies,” she said in an email. “Don’t pay him to do it and don’t give him the legitimacy of a contract with a major publishing house. If you’re going to set yourself up as a gatekeeper, you have a responsibility for what goes through your gate.”
Some prominent writers who have been outspoken critics of the president said they would not object if a publisher took on the project. Stephen King, who has frequently denounced Trump on Twitter, said in an email that Trump should be given the opportunity to release his book, as a matter of principle.
“Anything he wrote would be a pack of self-serving lies, but I believe in the freedom of people to read what they want, and I hate censorship,” said King, who is one of Simon & Schuster’s top-selling authors. “Let him publish, if he wants. I hope my publisher won’t be the one to do it, but in any case I can’t wait to see the critics take him apart.”
Keith Urbahn and Matt Latimer, who co-founded the Javelin literary agency and have represented several former Trump administration officials, said they would take a meeting with Trump but acknowledged how difficult it would be to find the book a home.
共同创立标枪文学社(Javelin)的基斯·厄本(Keith Urbahn)和马特·拉蒂默(Matt Latimer)曾代理过数位特朗普政府的前官员，他们表示愿意与特朗普会面，但也承认要为这本书找到归宿是多么困难。
“It’s going to be an extraordinarily hard time to sell the Donald Trump memoir,” Urbahn said. “While not entirely insurmountable, this is the thorniest nonfiction publishing challenge that I’ve ever seen.”
Thomas Spence, the president of the conservative publisher Regnery, which has worked with Trump before, said he would be eager to buy the president’s memoir, but he doubted that the big five publishers would ultimately refuse such a big seller.
“I’m hoping they will stand by their principles and not get involved,” he joked, “so we have a better chance of picking it up!”
Another possibility is that Trump could self-publish a book and bypass the houses entirely. That would mean taking on printing, distribution and other logistical headaches along with financial risk, since self-published authors forgo an advance in exchange for a much higher percentage of sales. But given the number of books that Trump is likely to sell, retaining complete control of a book’s content and message is likely to be an appealing proposition.
His son Donald Trump Jr. released his first book with the Hachette imprint Center Street but self-published a new one this fall called “Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats’ Defense of the Indefensible.” It has sold just 12,000 copies through traditional retail channels, according to NPD BookScan, which is significantly less than his first book. It’s not clear how many he has sold in other places, such as through his website.
他的儿子小唐纳德·特朗普在桦榭旗下的中央街出版社(Center Street)出版了自己的第一本书，但今秋又自行出版了一本新书，名叫《自由特权：乔·拜登和民主党人为不可辩护而辩护》(Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats Defense of the Indefensible)。根据NPD BookScan的数据，这本书在传统零售渠道上仅售出1.2万册，远远低于他的第一本书。目前尚不清楚他在其他渠道（比如自己的网站）卖了多少。
But with his finances strained, will Trump want the guaranteed cash infusion, much of it upfront, that a publisher can provide? George W. Bush reportedly received an advance of $7 million for his 2010 memoir, “Decision Points.” Bill Clinton sold his autobiography, “My Life,” to Knopf for around $15 million. Most recently, Barack and Michelle Obama received some $65 million from Penguin Random House for their books. Obama’s memoir, “A Promised Land,” which Crown released this week, is already shaping up to be a blockbuster, with a global first printing of nearly 6 million copies.
但在财务紧张的情况下，特朗普会想要一家出版商能提供给他的（大部分还是预付）有保障的现金注入吗？据报道，乔治·W·布什(George W. Bush)靠2010年的回忆录《抉择时刻》(Decision Points)获得了700万美元的预付款。比尔·克林顿(Bill Clinton)将自传《我的生活》(My Life)以1500万美元的价格卖给了克诺夫出版社(Knopf)。最近，贝拉克(Barack)和米歇尔·奥巴马(Michelle Obama)出的书从企鹅兰登书屋获得了6500万美元。由皇冠出版社(Crown)本周出版的奥巴马回忆录《应许之地》(A Promised Land)有望成为轰动性巨作，其全球首印量已经接近600万册。
An article in The New York Post last week, citing an unnamed source, said Trump could be offered book and TV deals worth $100 million, but publishing professionals said that number was almost certainly too high for a book.
《纽约邮报》(New York Post)上周的一篇文章援引匿名消息人士的话称，特朗普可能得到价值1亿美元的图书和电视合约报价，但专业出版人士表示，这个数字对于一本书来说肯定太高了。
“Unless he plans to write the Bible, I don’t think that’s accurate,” said the best-selling author Scott Turow. “But I’ll guarantee one thing: He’ll want a bigger advance than Obama got.”