It’s unheard of for a former U.S. president to struggle to score a major book deal after leaving office. And the absence of Trump’s own words from the literary world is made even more pronounced by the fact that several of his top aides and former Cabinet officials are writing books of their own. Former Vice President Mike Pence scored a seven-figure deal for two books with Simon & Schuster — a decision that sparked some employees of the company, well-known Simon & Schuster authors, and others to circulate a petition accusing the storied book house of promoting bigotry.
Trump has insisted that he has suitors for a book too. In a statement last Friday, he said he had received two offers “from the most unlikely of publishers” but turned them down because he did “not want to do such a deal right now.”
Trump didn’t reveal who the two publishers were. But in a statement on Monday afternoon to POLITICO, he insisted that “two of the biggest and most prestigious publishing houses have made very substantial offers which I have rejected.”
“That doesn’t mean I won’t accept them sometime in the future, as I have started writing the book,” the statement read. “If my book will be the biggest of them all, and with 39 books written or being written about me, does anybody really believe that they are above making a lot of money? Some of the biggest sleezebags [sic] on earth run these companies.”
“No morals, no nothing, just the bottom line,” he added. “And they sure wouldn’t admit it before the fact. But after the fact, they will stand by and say, ‘Let’s go.’”
POLITICO reached out to top publishers and editors at the “Big Five” publishing houses — Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster — to see if they had heard anything about any such deals Trump had been offered. None of the sources said they had heard about such potential book offers, and most said they wouldn’t touch a Trump project when he does start shopping a book around.
“It doesn’t matter what the upside on a Trump book deal is, the headaches the project would bring would far outweigh the potential in the eyes of a major publisher,” said Keith Urbahn, president and founding partner of Javelin, a literary and creative agency. “Any editor bold enough to acquire the Trump memoir is looking at a fact-checking nightmare, an exodus of other authors, and a staff uprising in the unlikely event they strike a deal with the former president.”
Besides the factual issues that publishing a book would bring, Trump’s role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection and his peddling of election falsehoods since last November have made him radioactive in the Manhattan publishing world. Simon & Schuster dropped a book by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who objected to the election results on Jan. 6, although his book was then picked up by conservative imprint Regnery.
A spokesperson for Regnery, Lauren McCue, declined to comment when asked if the imprint would be interested in Trump’s eventual book.
Trump could potentially work with one of the major publishing houses with imprints that have worked with Trumpworld figures, like Center Street at Hatchette, Threshold at Simon & Schuster, or Broadside Books at HarperCollins. The spokespeople for those imprints did not return a request for comment on the record.
“It’s likely that a few unlikely people did approach him!” one industry source said in a text message, before adding a joke. “But that could be, like, a publisher in Zimbabwe,” they texted, with a laughing/crying emoji. Two people in publishing said that such an offer would likely entail a profit-sharing deal.
Another said that they were confident that some people did write to Trump after he left the White House to offer him a book deal, which would instantly put any conservative imprint on the map.
“Somebody could have offered him 100 dollars,” the person said. “It doesn’t mean anything.”
“I’m skeptical,” added another publishing insider when asked if they believed Trump’s statement that he had gotten two offers. “He’s screwed over so many publishers that before he ran for president none of the big 5 would work with [him] anymore.”
Trump has written over a dozen books with more than nine different publishing houses before being elected president. And they have often sold well. His most famous book, “The Art of the Deal,” published by Random House, stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 13 weeks in 1987 and cemented his reputation as a ruthlessly successful businessman, only for the book’s ghost author Tony Schwartz to later call it a fictionalized portrayal. In the leadup to his presidential bid in 2016, Trump wrote “Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again,” a book that served as a foundation for his campaign.
The presidency, however, made Trump both more famous and toxic. In contrast, just over a month after leaving office, former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s post-White House memoirs were the objects of a bidding war involving at least four publishers, with the winning deal reportedly worth more than $65 million. Penguin Random House won the auction.
Other high profile members of the Trump administration have secured book deals with major publishing houses, including adviser Kellyanne Conway, former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former attorney general William Barr, and Pence.
Since leaving office, Trump has sat down for at least a dozen interviews with journalists writing about his time in the White House. Even if he has, in fact, turned down two book deals by publishers, he always has the option to self-publish. The former president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., turned down the opportunity to work with conservative publisher Center Street on his second book. Instead, he released “Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats’ Defense of the Indefensible” on his own.