Donald Trump has insisted he is writing "the book of all books" – even though major figures in US publishing said on Tuesday that no big house is likely to touch a memoir by the 45th president because it might stoke "a staff uprising" and it would be "too hard to get a book that was factually accurate".
When Trump left the White House in January, the Washington Post said he made 30,573 false or misleading claims while in power. The comments by publishing insiders were reported by Politico.
Former presidents traditionally turn to their memoirs when they leave office after two terms, like Barack Obama, or are kicked out of it after one, like Trump. Ever since the Guardian broke news of Michael Wolff's first White House tell-all, Fire and Fury, in January 2018, books about Trump and his presidency have proved a goldmine.
In a statement last week, Trump (75) said he “turned down two book deals, from the most unlikely of publishers”, which he did not name. “I do not want a deal right now,” he said. “I’m writing like crazy anyway, however, and when the time comes, you’ll see the book of all books.”
The New York Times reported that a two-book, seven-figure deal with Simon & Schuster won by Mike Pence was "grating" on Trump. A Trump spokesman denied that. But the former vice-president's deal also caused problems for Simon & Schuster, when staff members said the company should not promote bigotry.
Book deals by other rightwingers have run into problems in relation to the deadly attack on the US Capitol on January 6th, in service of Trump’s lie about electoral fraud and attempt to overturn his election defeat.
Simon & Schuster dropped a book on antitrust by the Missouri senator Josh Hawley, who encouraged rioters and objected to electoral college results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. But The Tyranny of Big Tech was picked up by Regnery, a rightwing publisher – and distributed by Simon & Schuster.
A Trump memoir could similarly be published outside the mainstream. After all, he has had bestsellers before – if with the help of ghost writers. Tony Schwartz, who wrote Trump's 1987 hit The Art of the Deal, now says the book should have been called The Sociopath.
On Tuesday, Politico reported that senior figures at Penguin Random House, Hachette, Harper Collins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster said they would not touch a Trump book.
“It would be too hard to get a book that was factually accurate, actually,” one was quoted as saying. “That would be the problem. If he can’t even admit that he lost the election, then how do you publish that?”
Another was quoted as saying he was “skeptical” about Trump’s claim to have had two offers, adding: “He’s screwed over so many publishers before he ran for president none of the big five would work with [him] any more.”
Keith Urbahn of Javelin, an agent who has ushered numerous Trump books to market, told the website: "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.
“Any editor bold enough to acquire the Trump memoir is looking at a factchecking nightmare, an exodus of other authors and a staff uprising in the unlikely event they strike a deal with the former president.”
In a new statement, Trump insisted that “two of the biggest and most prestigious publishing houses have made very substantial offers which I have rejected” – but again did not name them.
“That doesn’t mean I won’t accept them sometime in the future, as I have started writing the book,” he said. “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.”
Trump has never been above making a lot of money but his personal worth has plummeted and he faces extensive legal troubles. Reports that post-White House memoirs by Barack and Michelle Obama sold for $65 million may also have grated upon him. – Guardian