What to expect from Donald Trump’s next book

I believe Donald Trump’s next book will come out in 2022, will move the needle on his election, and will generate tens of millions of dollars for him.

A New York Times newsletter sent today explains how political books continue to sell on both sides of the political divide. Conservatives now have their own publishers, including the well-established house Regnery and All Seasons Press, a new imprint set up to publish books that mainstream publishers won’t accept.

The newsletter includes this:

Then there’s the prospect of a memoir by Trump himself, which would be a guaranteed best seller but would present publishers with factual challenges and inevitable blowback from his critics.

In June, Trump said he was writing a book but publishers are resistant.

So what will actually happen?

Could Trump write a book?

The idea of Trump sitting at a keyboard punching out paragraphs that fit together in an organized way seems unlikely. But in any case, that is not how most celebrities write books.

Trump’s book The Art of the Deal had a ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz. Schwartz has made lots of trouble for Trump by speaking publicly about his writing relationship with Trump, and saying that he basically wrote the whole book loosely based on Trump’s ideas.

Trump will hire a ghostwriter (or perhaps already has hired one) for his next book, but take stringent steps to keep that person’s role secret. David Fisher took credit for ghost writing Trump’s 2015 book Crippled America. According a source that spoke to the New York Daily News, “He had a ghostwriter from start to finish, and he (Donald) was annoying, tough and threw fits throughout.”

The ghostwriter will assemble Trump’s ideas from conversations and rally speeches and organize them. They will also have to absorb Trump’s unique writing style and adopt it for the book.

This will be a challenging job. First of all, Trump’s bombastic writing style won’t hold up for 40,000 words, so the ghostwriter will need to find a way to adapt it without losing its inimitable punch. And second, Trump is mercurial and will certainly get upset and may turn on the writer halfway through the project, or shift direction and require massive rewrites.

It’s likely to be a job that pays at least $2 million, in some combination of up-front payments and share of sales.

In case you’re wondering, Mr. Trump, this would be an interesting challenge for me and I have worked on political books, but I’m not available for this particular project.

Could Trump’s book get a publisher?

Trump’s book is likely to be the bestselling book of the decade (more on that below). That means huge profits for a publisher that takes it on.

However, any mainstream publisher that acquires the book is likely to face a backlash from its editors, and possibly its distributors.

In any case, Trump will insist that he should be able to write anything he wants. No mainstream publisher will agree to those terms, because publishers are wary of liability for inaccurate statements.

While a conservative house like Regnery would certainly drool over the profits from such a book, it too would probably be unwilling to agree to publish everything Trump wants in the book. All publishers are cautious regarding lawsuits, and this book would certainly include statements that would generate some legal action.

In my opinion, the most likely option here is that people with knowledge of the publishing industry, possibly loosely affiliated with an existing publishing house, would work with Trump to create an entity dedicated specifically to publishing this book and other future books by Trump. This entity — call it Trump Press — would take a very light hand in editing the book, but would handle distribution deals so the book can get into the hands of buyers through the usual book buying channels.

The publishing deal itself will be very favorable towards Trump. The usual publishing deal gives the author about 15% of the cover price on hardbacks. Trump’s deal will give him something more like 80% of the book’s wholesale profits (after bookstore cut and cost of manufacturing and distribution), which will still leave the publisher with lots of cash coming in. This arrangement will be closer to self-publishing than a traditional publishing deal, but will still have the publisher doing all the legwork of layout, printing, bookstore relations, and distribution.

Trump will use his eventually rejected negotiations with publishers to portray himself as a victim of cancel culture, which will boost the publicity for the book and the appetite for readers to get a copy.

Would bookstores carry it?

Simply put: yes. It will be on Amazon. It will be in Barnes & Noble, in huge piles in the front of the store. It will be in every airport bookstore.

Bookstores employees will protest. There will be people picketing. Some will insist that you should boycott any bookstore that carries the book. Trump will falsely claim such activity violates the First Amendment.

But in the end, the book will go on sale and remain on sale.

Will Trump get sued for libel?

Of course. Anyone can sue anyone for anything. A better question is, Will the book generate enough legal problems to stop it from selling?

Books include two kinds of statements: opinions and facts.

No one can sue you successfully for publishing an opinion, so long as it does not defame anyone. If Trump says his plan for Afghanistan would have worked, that’s not something you can prove or disprove. If he says the election was rigged, that is an opinion.

What about facts? Books are full of false facts all the time. If the facts don’t damage anyone, they’re not actionable. If Trump wants to say that he had the biggest inauguration crowd of all time, that’s a false statement, but it doesn’t damage anyone. (These are the statements that traditional publishers would object to, but that won’t be an issue here.)

Then there are false facts that damage people’s reputation. If Trump repeats claims that Hunter Biden is a pedophile, he’ll get sued for that, and if the claim is outrageous enough and provably false, a judge could issue an injunction halting the publication of the book. It’s easier to get away with “I’m hearing that . . . ” types of defamation by innuendo in a speech than when you put it in print.

However, Trump and his lawyers are quite familiar with these rules. In the end, the book will include plenty of outrageous opinions, false facts, and accusations — but will tread carefully regarding anything actionable. The criteria for what not to include will not be “Could it lead to a lawsuit?” but “Could it lead to an injunction?” And there’s a lot you can say that doesn’t cross that line.

Would it sell?

Obviously, yes.

The bestselling nonfiction book published in the last 20 years was Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, which sold 33 million copies.

There are enough Trump supporters and “Trump-curious” people to support that many sales for Trump’s book. It will certainly sell tens of millions of copies.

Would it accomplish Trump’s goals?

Absolutely.

Trump’s first goal is to find ways to get his opinion out. Twitter and Facebook have banned him. A book like this will allow him to show how great his presidency was, tell what really happened in his own words, promise what he will do, and cast stones at his enemies, especially Joe Biden. He will explain how great his plan was for the economy, how well he handled the pandemic, how effective his border policy was, and how the election was rigged. And it will persuade some of the people who didn’t vote for him in 2020 to vote for Republicans in 2022 and Trump in 2024.

Trump’s second goal is to generate visibility for himself and his ideas. The book will be highly effective at that. Everyone will be talking about it. Every article in mainstream media about how wrong it is will help Trump become more visible.

But Trump’s final goal with the book will be to make money. Assume the following (all conservative estimates in my opinion).

  • $30 list price.
  • 20 million units sold.
  • Trump gets 20% of the list price on each book sold.
  • $2 million paid to the ghostwriter, and $2 million for publicity work

That generates a profit of $116 million. That’s real money, folks. And Trump could use some real money right now.

Leading is hard. Shouting is easy.

Joe Biden has to lead the country. Donald Trump can concentrate on nothing but promoting himself. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and take pot shots. A book is part of that.

The book is coming. It’s inevitable. The question is, what are Democrats and Republicans opposed to the return of Trump going to do about it?

3 responses to “What to expect from Donald Trump’s next book

  1. Do political books ever sell through their huge advances? I think they usually end up as the biggest piles of remainders (you though I was going to say the other term they are usually called).

    I’m not sure I have ever read one; did I miss anything?

    1. The advance reflects the publisher’s estimate of sales. So some of them do earn out their advances. I think Clinton’s and Obama’s memoirs did. Even when they end up the remainder pile, that doesn’t mean they didn’t earn out their advances earlier.

      I can’t speak to political memoirs. But books of political philosophy can be fascinating.

  2. “The question is, what are Democrats and Republicans opposed to the return of Trump going to do about it?”

    The best thing everyone opposed could do is ignore it.

    Protests, denouncements, etc., only throw gas on the fire – in fact it is what many in the GOP expect and want.

    Alas, there is just too much incentive in the media and with many Democrats to ignore it, as they too gain by performing their own outrage and promoting outrage to their audiences.

    And round and round it goes…

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