President Trump is not a big reader. Whether it’s a free-time issue, a length issue or simply an issue of interest, it’s well-documented (by the president himself) that cracking open a book isn’t high on his to-do list. And yet the less-than-two-year-old Trump White House has been churning out books faster than the president tweets. Okay — maybe not that fast.
With the release Tuesday of “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House,” Omarosa Manigault Newman joined the ranks of former Trump staffers with a book under their belt.
Former press secretary Sean Spicer’s book, “The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President,” hit shelves in July. Anthony Scaramucci, the man who took over for Spicer for a record week and some change, will get the chance to share his take on 45 with “Trump, the Blue-Collar President,” scheduled for release in October. Even Rob Goldstone, the music publicist whose email to Donald Trump Jr. helped fuel the Russian collusion investigation, has a book coming out in September called “Popstars, Pageants and Presidents: How an Email Trumped My Life.”
Fired Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s road to authordom was a bit rockier. In 2016, his first seven-figure book deal fell through amid concerns over a nondisclosure agreement. Later, he joined with fellow campaign alum David Bossie for 2017’s “Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency,” which described the fast-food-fueled chaos of the Trump campaign while painting a positive picture of the president himself.
The onslaught of books about Trump is something the president himself tried to curtail by making White House employees sign a nondisclosure agreement, a rarity among federal government workers. The two-page NDA, the existence of which Omarosa highlights in her new book, included a “seemingly innocuous clause that prohibited top aides from disclosing confidential information in any form including books, without the express permission of the president,” according to Politico.
Certainly political insiders writing books about their famous former boss isn’t a novel concept. Search through the avalanche of Obama administration tomes on Amazon, and even a onetime White House intern has a memoir to hawk. But behind-the-scenes tell-alls about a sitting president not even two years into his first term? That’s new.
The book industry expects the proposals from West Wing wonks to start sliding into their inboxes after the lights in the executive office building go out. The beginning of a second term (or after an election loss) is prime time for book shopping, because the political fan base will be either nostalgic or contemplative, toggling between I miss them! and What happened? Anything else feels premature and, according to some editors, too light on salacious details or meaningful policy discussions.
Publishers were originally skeptical of pitches from Spicer and Scaramucci, according to industry insiders. The former didn’t want to dish, and the latter was hardly in the White House long enough to get anything dish-worthy. One editor joked of Scaramucci’s book, which originally touted juicy revelations, “What crazy secrets? It was only 10 days.”
In his review of Spicer’s “The Briefing,” Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple called the book “a bumbling attempt to gaslight Americans into doubting what they have seen with their own eyes.” Still, Spicer’s take is a bestseller in the “Media & Internet” subcategory of political books on Amazon.
Just in terms of ginning up interest, the Trump White House has been good for the publishing business. Folks lined up at midnight in Washington to grab the first copies of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” which sold nearly 2 million copies in its first week. And a day before it was even published, Omarosa’s exposé had broken the top 10 of Amazon’s overall bestseller list.
The Bush and Obama White Houses hardly caused that much of a reading frenzy, so that’s one feather the Trump administration can stick in its cap. It’s hard to dream up a similar flood of nonfiction from the “boring” Obama White House, according to the publishing industry. Maybe a salacious exposé from the former health secretary? As one editor put it: “Can you imagine a best-selling Sebelius tell-all?”