Bush to write book; Palin may steal limelight
NEW YORK – Republicans may have been voted out of power but they could dominate U.S. political bookshelves with memoirs by President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush among the possible coming attractions.
Publishers would eagerly offer Laura Bush seven figures for her memoirs, publishing experts say, raising the question of whether she could fetch more than her husband.
Yet both could be outdone by Sarah Palin, the feisty governor of Alaska and unsuccessful Republican vice presidential candidate in last week’s election.
“Rightly or wrongly, the public seems to have taken a fancy to Palin and I would imagine she’d get more than either of them at this silly moment in our lives,” said John Baker, the former editorial director at Publishers Weekly who is now an agent.
Agents and publishers say both Bushes and Palin would likely command multimillion-dollar advances but not as much as former President Bill Clinton, who received a $15 million advance, believed to be a record for a nonfiction work.
Interest in political memoirs is high after president-elect Democrat Barack Obama, who has already written two books about his own life, ended eight years of Republican rule.
Former Bush aide Karl Rove and ex-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are among those who already have book contracts but there’s another potential memoirist who the industry sees as even more intriguing: Vice President Dick Cheney.
President Bush told CNN on Tuesday he would probably write a book after returning to his home state of Texas in January.
“I want people to know what it’s like to make some of the decisions I had to make. What was the moment like. I’ve had one of these presidencies where I had to make some tough calls,” said Bush, who has a record low popularity in opinion polls.
Laura Bush, a former librarian, also has expressed interest in writing a book and has the advantage of being popular.
Agent Gary Morris of the David Black Literary Agency said intrigue about Laura Bush is linked to the success of Curtis Sittenfeld’s “American Wife,” a fictionalization of her life.
Palin, who rallied conservatives when presidential candidate John McCain added her to the Republican ticket, could be the real prize, some experts say.
“There are half a dozen publishers that would zealously bid on a Palin book,” said Robert Weil, executive editor at W.W. Norton. “Some agents say she could sell for $7 million.”
“Every publisher and a lot of literary agents have been going after her,” said Jeff Kleinman, an agent at Folio Literary Management.
Many presidential candidates write books before running — Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” was a best-seller — and recent former presidents have published with mixed results.
Clinton’s “My Life” was a big earner for Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House, largely because he worked tirelessly to promote it.
But Ronald Reagan’s “An American Life” was seen in the industry as a big loser for Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, part of CBS Corp.