Barack Obama's memoir could fetch $20 million advance


If you believe Esther Newberg, co-head of ICM Partners' publishing unit, former President Barack Obama is about to come into some serious cash — $20 million or more. "There's no doubt Obama's memoir will go for more than any president's has ever gone," she predicts.

The bar is high. George W. Bush got $7 million for 2010's Decision Points (which sold more than 2.6 million copies), and Bill Clinton got a whopping $15 million — a presidential record — for 2001's My Life (sales of 2.2 million). Princeton University presidential historian Julian Zelizer predicts Obama's advance and sales will top both: "There is broader fascination with Obama, from conservatives who really hate him as well as liberals who deeply admire what he did."

Obama, 55, who likely will be repped by Washington lawyer Bob Barnett, recently told senior adviser turned CNN commentator David Axelrod that the book is his top priority. And he hired Cody Keenan, former White House director of speechwriting, to help. While every major publisher likely will bid, Random House, which published Obama's 1995 memoir Dreams of My Father and 2008 campaign book The Audacity of Hope (combined sales: 5 million), as well as both the Clinton and Bush books, has the inside track.

One wild card: Obama might find a rival in wife Michelle, whom Newberg predicts will "easily" surpass the $8 million Hillary Clinton got in 2000 for her memoir. Says the University of Virginia's Brian Balogh, who co-hosts the popular history podcast Backstory: "We haven't heard as much from [Michelle], and he won't be running for president, whereas she ...;"

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Read more: Stars and Execs Reveal What They'll Miss About President Obama

RELATED: See how U.S. presidents stack up by net worth
45 PHOTOS
Ranking the US presidents by net worth
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Ranking the US presidents by net worth
43. Harry S. Truman: <$1 million

33rd President (1945-1953)

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42. Calvin Coolidge: <$1 million

30th President (1923-1929)

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41. Woodrow Wilson: <$1 million

28th President (1913-1921)

(Photo by JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty Images)

40. Chester A. Arthur: <$1 million

21st President (1881-1885)

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39. James A. Garfield: <$1 million

20th President (1881-1881)

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

38. Ulysses S. Grant: <$1 million

18th President (1869-1877)

(Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

37. Andrew Johnson: <$1 million 

17th President (1865-1869)

(Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

36. Abraham Lincoln: <$1 million

16th President (1861-1865)

(Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).

35. James Buchanan: <$1 million

15th President (1857-1861)

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

34. Warren G. Harding: $1 million

29th President (1921-1923)

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33. William McKinley: $1 million

25th President (1897-1901)

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32. Franklin Pierce: $2 million

14th President (1853-1857)

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

31. William Howard Taft: $3 million

27th President (1909-1913)

(Photo by: Liverani/Andia/UIG via Getty Images)

30. Rutherford B. Hayes: $3 million

19th President (1877-1881)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

29. Millard Fillmore: $4 million

13th President (1850-1853)

(Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
28. Benjamin Harrison: $5 million

23rd President (1889-1893)

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27. William Henry Harrison: $5 million

9th President (1841-1841)

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

26. Zachary Taylor: $6 million 

12th President (1849-1850)

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25. Jimmy Carter: $7 million

39th President (1977-1981)

(Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

24. Gerald Ford: $7 million

38th President (1974-1977)

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23. Barack Obama: $7 million

44th President (2009-present)

(Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

22. Dwight Eisenhower: $8 million

34th President (1953-1961)

(Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

21. James K. Polk: $10 million

11th President (1845-1849)

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20. Ronald Reagan: $13 million

40th President (1981-1989)

(Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images)

19. Richard Nixon: $15 million

37th President (1969-1974)

(Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

18. John Adams: $19 million

2nd President (1797-1801)

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

17. George W. Bush: $20 million

43rd President (2001-2009)

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

16. John Quincy Adams: $21 million

6th President (1825-1829)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

15. George H. W. Bush: $23 million

41st President: (1989-1993)

(Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

14. Grover Cleveland: $25 million

22nd and 24th President (1885-1889) and (1893-1897)

(Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

13. Martin Van Buren: $26 million 

8th President: (1837-1841)

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

12. James Monroe: $27 million

5th President (1817-1825)

(Photo by: Getty Images)

11. John Tyler: $51 million

10th President (1841-1845)

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

10. Bill Clinton: $55 million

42nd President (1993-2001)

(Photo Bettmann via Getty Images)

9. Franklin D. Roosevelt: $60 million

32nd President (1933-1945)

(Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

8. Herbert Clark Hoover: $75 million

31st President (1929-1933)

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7. Lyndon Johnson: $98 million

36th President: (1963-1969)

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6. James Madison: $101 million

4th President (1809-1817)

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5. Andrew Jackson: $119 million

7th President (1829-1837)

(Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

4. Theodore Roosevelt: $125 million

26th President (1901-1909)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

3. Thomas Jefferson: $212 million

3rd President (1801-1809)

(Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images)

2. George Washington: $525 million

1st President (1789-1797)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

2.* John F. Kennedy: $1 billion 

35th President (1961-1963)

*Had he lived, JFK would have inherited $1 billion from his father. 

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

1. Donald Trump: $3.5 billion

45th President (2017-)

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