One of publishing’s most thriving genres of the past four years, books about President Donald Trump, is not going to end when he leaves office.
In 2021 and beyond, look for waves of releases about the Trump administration and about the president’s loss to Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Works already planned include the anti-Trump “Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response,” by former Obamacare head Andy Slavitt. There’s a campaign book from New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns. And former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale is reportedly working on a memoir.
Expect detailed condemnations of the 45th president’s actions and rhetoric, from journalists and former associates, and also flattering accounts from White House allies and pro-Trump pundits. And there might well be a book from Trump himself, who received more than 70 million votes even as he became the first president in nearly 30 years to be defeated after one term.
“It was a very controversial presidency and the New York publishing world isn’t exactly packed with Trump fans,” says Matt Latimer of the Javelin literary agency, where clients have included former FBI Director James Comey, former National Security Adviser John Bolton and Fox host Tucker Carlson.
“But there are tens of millions of Americans who look to the Trump presidency as an important time and are fans of his administration. At least some publishers will recognize that.”
Publishers often speak proudly about their openness to diverse voices, while also acknowledging that they like to make money. Several houses have conservative imprints that over the past few years have acquired books by everyone from Sean Hannity to Corey Lewandowski.
Simon & Schuster is Hillary Clinton’s longtime publisher, but through its conservative Threshold Editions released Trump’s most recent work, “Crippled America,” which came out in 2015. Center Street, a Hachette Book Group imprint, has published Donald Trump Jr., Newt Gingrich and Judge Jeanine Pirro among others.
“No matter their political beliefs, every American has personally experienced the seismic shift within Washington,” Center Street publisher Daisy Blackwell Hutton said in a statement. “Books will be published for years to come about his presidency and the conservative movement in general, and Center Street absolutely intends to be a leader in that space.”
There are risks in publishing Trump, although even presidents who have left office highly unpopular, from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush, managed to get book deals and release bestsellers. None were as polarizing as Trump or have so many upcoming legal battles, including a New York State investigation into his finances, and a defamation lawsuit from E. Jean Carroll, one of more than 20 women who have alleged sexual assault or misconduct by Trump.
Several publishers told the AP that they don’t believe Trump will have the same global appeal as former President Barack Obama, whose “A Promised Land” comes out next week. Obama and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, agreed to a reported $65 million deal with Crown in 2017.
Any publisher signing with Trump or a top administration official might face the anger not just of Trump critics among the general public, but from within the industry. When Simon & Schuster signed up the far right journalist-commentator Milo Yiannopoulos in 2017, more than 100 authors publicly objected. (The publisher ended up dropping him amid allegations he approved of sex between men and young boys.) Hachette cancelled a memoir by Woody Allen, whose daughter Dylan Farrow has alleged he sexually abused her, after employees staged a walkout in protest. (Skyhorse Publishing later released the book).
Ellen Oh, an author of fantasy novels who co-founded the grassroots organization We Need Diverse Books, mentioned three of the most controversial Trump appointees: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and senior advisor Stephen Miller. “I would campaign hard against these three officials who have done the most damage under Trump,” said Oh, who was among those who signed the Yiannapoulos letter.
David Drake, executive vice president and publisher of Crown, which will release Obama’s memoir, declined comment on whether he would acquire a book by Trump or even meet with him. The executive vice president and publisher of Alfred A. Knopf, Reagan Arthur, doubted she would sign up Trump, but added that she would probably agree to meet with him, out of courtesy to a former president.
Dana Canedy, senior vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster’s namesake imprint, said any decision to work with Trump or those in his Cabinet would depend on what they were planning to say.
“I would apply the same rigorous approach to any meeting, with anyone, Democratic or Republican,” she said. “I would have to see whether there’s an arc to the story, how deeply reported it would be, and that there would be fact-checking so we could be confident about it. And that’s whether Joe Biden was coming to me or Donald Trump was coming to me.”
Canedy said she might be interested in a book from Trump about his influence on the Republican Party, which initially resisted his rise in 2016. She would want Trump, or any author, to be “fair, balanced and honest,” and have “a level of insight and self-awareness.”
Asked if she believed Trump could meet those standards, Canedy said: “I wouldn’t know how to answer that, quite honestly, because I would need to see the proposal first.”
The switch from a Republican to a Democratic president also should result in a shift on best-seller lists. The past four years have seen a continuous run of anti-Trump blockbusters, including Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty,” Mary Trump’s “Too Much and Never Enough,” and Bob Woodward’s “Fear” and “Rage.”
The next four years should mark the dawn of books against Biden.
“It’s historically been our experience that books coming from the right are more available and more popular when there is a Democratic presidency,” says Adrian Zackheim, who runs the conservative Sentinel imprint at Penguin Random House and has published books by Mike Huckabee, Nikki Haley and Brian Kilmeade among others. “That is pretty much a scientific fact.”