Pence signs a seven-figure book deal, but Trump and other administration alums face a tough market in publishing
Mike Pence has signed a multimillion-dollar, two-book deal with publisher Simon & Schuster, making him one of the first alums of former President Donald Trump’s inner circle to ink such a lucrative contract.
Two people in the publishing industry tell CNN the former vice president’s deal is worth seven figures, somewhere in the range of $3 million to $4 million.
News of it comes as the publishing industry grapples with questions of how to handle high-profile would-be authors from the Trump administration.
The concern, according to highly placed sources in publishing, is whether the writers could be counted on to tell the truth — and whether a publisher might provoke a damaging backlash in the culture of cancellation.
“I would try to keep an open mind,” said one publishing source. “That doesn’t mean I would sign them.”
Recent veterans of the Trump administration who want to write books are already facing a higher bar than others for getting a contract, according to seven senior people who work in the book publishing industry. They agreed to speak candidly about trends in the industry in exchange for anonymity.
Kellyanne Conway, the former counselor to Trump who left the White House last August, is also reportedly writing a book for a major publishing house.
A representative for Pence declined to comment about a book deal, but the former Indiana governor is making moves to suggest he could run for president in 2024. On Wednesday, Pence announced he was launching a new political advocacy group called Advancing American Freedom. The proto-presidential campaign vehicle boasts a large advisory board of Trump allies and former administration officials, including Conway, Newt and Callista Gingrich, and Larry Kudlow.
The trouble with publishing Trump
A book from Trump would likely be an instant best-seller, but publishers anticipate he’ll expect an exorbitant advance and that the process of putting it together could be too difficult to make it worth the effort and money. Trump, major publishing executives say, would likely have to self-publish, especially if the smaller independent houses won’t be able to pay a large enough advance.
“It’s not that the book wouldn’t sell, it’s that he is impossible to fact check or do business with,” said one person at a major publishing house.
A second person at a major publishing house said it would be hard to resist at least talking with Trump about a book.
“It’s the right thing to do. You’re a professional. You hear what someone has to say, that doesn’t mean you make a bid. But there is a lot of money to be made, and that is an aphrodisiac,” said this person. “He has a lot of followers.”
On the other hand, publishing a Trump book, say those who spoke to CNN, would likely have significant downsides that could outweigh the financial considerations of publishing a former president.
“If word got out we even read the pages, or took a meeting, the collective conscious of the people on the ground in the publishing business would come in to play,” said a third person at a major publishing house. “Staff would leave, consumers, readers would leave, talent/authors would leave.”
One former publishing executive said the possibility of “cancellation” over publishing a Trump book is a real profit-and-loss consideration.
“This is cancel culture P&L,” said the former executive. “That is what they are really afraid of. They are worried about employees. There would be mass walkouts. No one would stay for Trump. No amount of money would be worth it.”
To a lesser degree, those fears also apply to books from Trump administration veterans. While publishers are likely to judge each book proposal on a case-by-case basis, sources say it will be particularly challenging for Trump officials who did not resign after the January 6 riot at the US Capitol.
Challenges for other Trump Republicans
Another industry source who spoke to CNN said that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has met with agents to discuss the possible market for a book, although so far no deal seems to be in the works. The assumption that Pompeo is planning on running for president in 2024 is giving some publishers pause.
A representative for Pompeo, who in March made his first trip to the early caucus state of Iowa, did not respond to requests for comment.
There’s little doubt among publishers that books from Trump’s inner circle would have a market among the former President’s supporters, and publishers say they have a responsibility to deliver books that promise to give a fuller picture of the administration.
Sources in the industry say there’s no firm rule or view that everyone who served and stayed alongside Trump is too toxic. Pence’s new contract is a case in point. Also, other former Trump officials including John Bolton, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and former White House aides Omarosa Manigault Newman and Cliff Simms have all published books with the major houses.
But the Capitol riot, which occurred after Trump encouraged supporters to “stop the steal” and force the overturning of the 2020 election results, appears to have been a watershed moment in the book publishing industry. Days afterward, Simon & Schuster canceled a planned book by Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who objected to the counting of electoral votes on January 6.
“We did not come to this decision lightly,” the company said in a statement. “As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: at the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.”
Hawley criticized the cancellation as a “direct assault on the First Amendment.” He eventually found a new publisher for his book, the boutique conservative house Regnery.
Trump officials looking to sell a book would likely have an easier path to publication through Regnery, said one industry source, though the payoff would be considerably less than from one of the major publishing houses.
And self-publishing is likely only a viable option for people with the highest name identification, such as Trump himself or Donald Trump Jr., who self-published his most recent book, “Liberal Privilege.” (Trump Jr.’s 2019 book, “Triggered,” was published by Hachette’s conservative imprint Center Street, and was a New York Times bestseller. The Times reported that Trump Jr. rejected an offer from Hachette for his second book.)
And while plenty of Trump associates might at least get a hearing from a publisher, it seems unlikely the industry would take seriously another proposal from the eldest Trump son.
“That is not for a serious publishing house,” said one industry source about any other books from Trump Jr. “Pompeo was secretary of state, [but] Donald Trump Jr. is Donald Trump Jr.”