Donald Trump was great for the book business, while books about President Biden have failed to sell.
What’s especially striking about the Trump administration is the sheer number of insiders who felt compelled to write about their experiences during his tumultuous presidency. (So far no such books have emerged from the Biden administration.) Later this month, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, whose testimony before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack was so central to its efforts to shed light on Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, will join those ranks with her own book, “Enough,” pitched by publisher Simon & Schuster as the story of “an idealistic young woman thrust in the middle of a national crisis.”
Here’s a ranking of how Trump-insider books did, based on data obtained from Circana BookScan, which says it tracks about 85 percent of trade print books sold in the United States, based on data from all major retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart and independent bookstores. The ones that performed best were the most critical of Trump and his handling of the job. That may bode well for Hutchinson’s memoir.
A book can end up on a bestseller list by selling 5,000 or more books in a week. But it’s fair to say many of these memoirs did not become monster bestsellers.
One caveat: Conservative books often sell through nontraditional channels, and so sales may not be captured by BookScan’s focus on traditional retail outlets. This is especially the case with Trump’s $75 coffee-table book on his presidency. It ranks relatively low in sales tracked by BookScan, but Trump filed financial disclosures indicating sales have been much higher. So sales of books by Trump insiders who praise him may well be higher than the numbers listed here.
These numbers reflect sales from publication until Aug. 19 of this year. We are listing hardcover sales only. Some books did not issue paperback versions and in many cases sales of paperbacks were relatively small.
Under most contracts with major publishing companies, an author earns a royalty of 15 percent of the cover price of a hardcover book. A book priced at $30 would earn the author $4.50 per sale.
Publishers will generally offer an author an advance payment. Once enough books are sold to cover the advance, the author begins to earn additional income. In other words, a person receiving a $1 million advance would need to sell more than 222,000 books at $30 each to earn back the advance.
1,259,610: Mary L. Trump, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” 2020 (Simon & Schuster). Yes, Trump’s niece was not part of his administration. But her highly critical account of growing up in the Trump family is a useful benchmark to measure the success of other books. So far, no insider account has come to close to her numbers.
680,223: John Bolton, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” 2020 (Simon & Schuster). Trump’s former national security adviser reportedly earned a $2 million advance for his tell-all. His sales easily earned that back and more.
570,912: James B. Comey, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” 2018 (Flatiron Books). The former FBI director was fired by Trump just months after Trump took office. He earned an advance of nearly $3 million, but that was also a good investment for the publisher, Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan.
289,918: Michael Cohen, “Disloyal: a Memoir: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump,” 2020 (Skyhorse Publishing). Trump’s former fixer was disbarred and went to prison after admitting to a variety of crimes, including arranging payouts to keep two women silent about alleged affairs with Trump. He also published a second book on Trump, in 2022, “Revenge,” which sold far fewer copies (23,153).
193,895: “Anonymous” (Miles Taylor), “A Warning,” 2019 (Little, Brown). In a triumph of marketing, this book was pitched as an account of internal resistance to Trump, prompting speculation it was written by a cabinet member or perhaps even the vice president. The author turned out to be the chief of staff to the secretary of Homeland Security.
130,988: Mike Pence, “So Help Me God,” 2022 (Simon & Schuster). The vice president earned an advance of $1.4 million for detailing his version of surviving the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The book retailed at $35 a copy, so it does not seem likely he earned back his advance.
127,435: Kayleigh McEnany, “For Such a Time As This: My Faith Journey Through the White House and Beyond,” 2021 (Post Hill Press). All four of Trump’s press secretaries wrote books, and McEnany, his last, sold the most. Her sales may be undercounted because her book was published by Post Hill Press, which specializes in titles with conservative and Christian themes, and may have been marketed in nontraditional outlets, escaping BookScan’s measure.
122,892: Andrew G. McCabe, “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” 2019 (St. Martin’s Press). McCabe was a senior FBI official who was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, earning a tweet from Trump that it was “a great day for Democracy.”
112,406: Nikki Haley, “With All Due Respect: Defending America With Grit and Grace,” 2019 (St. Martin’s Press). Trump’s former U.N. ambassador and now a rival for the GOP presidential nomination, Haley sold the most books of a former Cabinet member.
107,500: Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, “Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady,” 2020 (Gallery Books). Wolkoff’s bitter and revealing memoir of working for the first lady prompted a Justice Department lawsuit claiming she violated a nondisclosure agreement — which was dropped after Biden became president.
106,010: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “Speaking for Myself: Faith, Freedom, and the Fight of Our Lives Inside the Trump White House,” 2020 (St. Martin’s Press). Trump’s second press secretary also topped 100,000.
103,900: Jared Kushner, “Breaking History: A White House Memoir,” 2022 (Broadside Books). This sales figure for Trump’s son-in-law requires an asterisk. Campaign filings by a political action committee associated with Trump disclosed that it spent $158,000 buying copies of the book from Books-a-Million.
97,667: Mike Pompeo, “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love,” 2023 (Broadside Books). Trump’s second secretary of state and former CIA director published this book when he was considering a run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
82,400: Peter Navarro, “In Trump Time: My Journal of America’s Plague Year,” 2021 (All Seasons Press). Trade adviser Navarro, recently convicted of refusing to testify to Congress, did better than more prominent members of the Trump administration with his account of the administration’s internal battles over the pandemic. His book was published by All Seasons Press, which seeks conservative writers rejected by traditional publishers.
78,638: William P. Barr, “One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General,” 2022 (William Morrow). Barr was considered a loyal defender of Trump until he broke with him over Trump’s refusal to accept his loss to Biden.
77,880: Omarosa Manigault Newman, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House,” 2018 (Gallery Books). A former television reality star who became a political aide to Trump, Newman boosted sales by disclosing White House conversations she had secretly recorded.
76,620: Kellyanne Conway, “Here’s the Deal: a Memoir,” 2022 (Threshold Editions). Conway, a communications aide who coined the phrase “alternative facts,” served through most of the Trump administration.
39,246: Stephanie Grisham, “I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House,” 2021 (Harper). Trump’s third press secretary never held a traditional news briefing for the media, so her book title (and cover photo of the briefing lectern) is a bit of an inside joke.
37,868: Anthony Scaramucci, “Trump: The Blue-Collar President,” 2018 (Center Street). Scaramucci lasted only ten days as White House communications director, but that was long enough to earn a book contract.
30,002: Scott W. Atlas, “A Plague Upon Our House: My Fight at the Trump White House to Stop COVID from Destroying America,” 2021 (Post Hill Press). As a member of Trump’s covid task force, Atlas fought against scientific consensus and pushed for faster reopenings and fewer restrictions. This book was also published by Post Hill Press, so the actual sales numbers may be higher.
25,942: Mark T. Esper, “A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times,” 2022 (William Morrow). These are pretty low numbers for a former defense secretary.
23,052: Mark Meadows, “The Chief’s Chief,” 2021 (All Seasons Press). The odds are high that Meadows, Trump’s last chief of staff, will end up with lower sales than his former aide Hutchinson. Meadows’s book was also published by All Seasons Press. Despite the relatively low sales, the book has the distinction of playing a role in one of Trump’s indictments, as one of the book researchers recorded the former president saying he had retained a sensitive military document and knew it was classified secret.
21,127: Sean Spicer, “The Briefing: Politics, the Press and the President,” 2018 (Regnery Publishing). Trump’s first press secretary brings up the rear of the parade of former flacks who wrote books.
17,091: David Friedman, “Sledgehammer: How Breaking with the Past Brought Peace to the Middle East,” 2022 (Broadside Books). Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer for Trump, was a surprise choice for the sensitive post of U.S. ambassador to Israel and argues that having no diplomatic experience proved to be an asset.
10,391: Deborah Birx, “Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, Covid-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic before It’s too Late,” 2022 (Harper). Birx, a longtime government official, was White House coronavirus coordinator but was soon marginalized by people like Atlas.
9,800: Matthew G. Whitaker, “Above the Law: The Inside Story of How the Justice Department Tried to Subvert President Trump,” 2020 (Regnery Publishing). Whitaker was briefly acting attorney general after Jeff Sessions was forced out. His polemic against the “deep state” was published by conservative publisher Regnery.
7,283: Guy M. Snodgrass, “Holding the Line: Inside Trump’s Pentagon with Secretary Mattis,” 2019 (Sentinel). Jim Mattis, Trump’s first defense secretary, passed up a chance to write a tell-all memoir, so his speechwriter sought to fill the gap.
1,569: Jason D. Greenblatt, “In the Path of Abraham: How Donald Trump Made Peace in the Middle East — and How to Stop Joe Biden from Unmaking It,” 2022 (Post Hill Press). Greenblatt, chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, became a White House aide appointed to be special representative for international negotiations. His memoir of Middle East diplomacy appears to have the lowest sales of former Trump aides.
???: Donald Trump, “Our Journey Together,” 2021 (Winning Team Publishing). The president’s coffee-table memoir of official White House photos retails for $75 — or $230 for a signed copy. BookScan’s tally records only 41,844 in sales, but Trump, in financial disclosure forms, in July reported earning $5.75 million in royalties over 18 months. Many of the books appear to have been sold directly from the book’s website, and the publisher has claimed more than 500,000 have been sold. If that’s the case, Trump would place just behind Bolton and Comey in terms of books sold — but still well behind his niece.
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