PRH scoops book deal with Obamas

PRH scoops book deal with Obamas

Penguin Random House has scooped the world rights to publish former US president Barack Obama's book, along with a title from his wife Michelle, in a deal reported to have topped $65m (£52.5m).

Barack and Michelle are writing separate books, but brokered the deal together through literary agent Robert Barnett, who also negotiated former UK prime minister Tony Blair's £4.5m book deal, and Deneen Howell of Williams & Connolly. No separate information about UK publication plans have been revealed, and a PRH UK spokesperson declined to give any more information.

The books will reflect on the Obamas' White House years and Associated Press has cited "a publishing official with knowledge of the negotiations" as saying Barack Obama’s book will be a straightforward memoir about his presidency, while Michelle Obama plans to write an inspirational work for young people that will draw upon her life story.

The Financial Times has reported that the two book deal topped $65m, after other Big Five publishers including HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster lost out in the bidding process. The deal far exceeds the sum for books by previous US presidents, including Bill Clinton's My Life (Knopf), which went for $15m, and George Bush's, whose memoirs Decision Points (Crown) sold for $10m.

However, the Obamas will donate "a significant portion" of their author proceeds to charity, including the Obama Foundation, PRH said.

The publisher's c.e.o Markus Dohle, who reportedly stayed in New York to finalise negotiations and was not at the company's sales conference in Florida yesterday (28th February), announced the deal. "We are absolutely thrilled to continue our publishing partnership with the president and Mrs. Obama," he said. "With their words and their leadership, they changed the world, and every day, with the books we publish at Penguin Random House, we strive to do the same.  Now, we are very much looking forward to working together with the president and Mrs. Obama to make each of their books global publishing events of unprecedented scope and significance."

PRH has not revealed the terms of the deal, but said it would donate one million books in the Obama family's name to First Book, a longstanding Penguin Random House non-profit partner and the White House digital education initiative, Open eBooks. It will do so in "support of the mission of The Obama Foundation and Penguin Random House's own commitment to social responsibility", the company said.

First Book is dedicated to promoting equal access to education by providing new books, learning materials, and other essentials to children in need in the United States and Canada.

"Consistent with their past practice, the Obamas also plan to donate a significant portion of their author proceeds to charity, including the Obama Foundation," PRH added.

It was previously reported that all "big five" publishers Hachette, HarperCollin, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster were bidding for the book deals with Barack and Michell Obama.

Obama’s previous books The Audacity of Hope and Dreams From My Father were published by PRH in the US but Canongate in the UK. This will be Michelle Obama's first book.

James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said the book publications would be "one of the publishing events of the year, if not for several years." He told The Bookseller: "Given the quality of his writing and the success of his previous books Audacity of Hope and Dreams From My Father, I would have thought Barack's book will do incredibly well, this is fantastic news."