“He has tried to be a sort of drama-free president, especially compared to his predecessor, and that makes it more difficult to write a book, both in terms of getting information and turning his story into one that appeals for the readers,” said Allen.
After Trump’s gold rush for the book industry in recent years, the Biden era has been a bust so far. And that’s not just the case for mainstream journalists who are used to documenting the presidency in book form. Conservative readers don’t seem all that interested in reading hundreds of pages about a president they think is senile.
“Biden never does anything interesting,” said Eric Nelson, the publisher of HarperCollins’ conservative imprint Broadside Books. “The Hunter Biden thing has done pretty well because he’s pretty interesting. But Hunter Biden is not the president.”
“If your nickname is Sleepy Joe, you have to say at the same time that this person is screwing everything up and is extremely evil, but also that he’s clumsy and that’s quite a challenging combination,” added a major conservative publisher who was granted anonymity to speak freely .
The few books written about the Bidens aren’t exactly flying off the shelves.
New York magazine writer Gabriel Debenedetti’s “The Long Alliance: The Imperfect Union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama” has sold fewer than 1,500 copies, according to NPD BookScan. Julie Pace and Darlene Superville’s Associated Press’s “Jill: A Biography of the First Lady” have sold fewer than 2,500 copies, and Chris Whipple’s “The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House” and POLITICO’s Ben Schreckinger’s “The Bidens: Inside the First Family’s Fifty-Year Rise to Power” has sold fewer than 5,000 books each.
That contrasts with the nearly million copies sold by Michael Wolff’s Trump-focused “Fire and Fury,” according to NPD BookScan, and the more than 400,000 copies sold by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s “Peril,” among many other Trump-focused books. . where publishers committed murder.
Superville admitted her book sales were “a drop in the ocean” compared to Trump-era works, but said she wrote it more for educational and historical purposes. She talked about elementary school kids doing projects about first ladies who found her book in the library.
“It’s not really written to be some sort of bestseller book or to get into the New York Times top 10 or anything like that,” she said.
Whipple said in an email that “The Fight of His Life” barely missed the NYT bestseller list. He also quoted from the Times review of his book, which was largely positive, but included the sentence that “the little fender bender of the past two years doesn’t make for rubbernecks, especially when compared to the 18-car pile-up from the Trump campaign.” era.”
Keith Urbahn, the president and co-founder of the top D.C. literature agency Javelin, saw his business flourish during the Trump years as he represented authors including former FBI Director James Comey, former National Security Adviser John Bolton and the “anonymous” Trump official who was later revealed to Trump. be Miles Taylor.
“There was a sugar high in the Trump era of intrigue, the leaks, the non-stop drama, which was at the same time exhausting but also generated billions of dollars in clicks, book sales, cable ratings and in 2021 that interest fell off a cliff. Urbahn said. “What makes for stable governance makes for a less dramatic copy.”
Urbahn and firm have released several books about Biden that have had lackluster sales, including one by the president’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens — from Growing Up Biden: A Memoir, which has sold fewer than 9,000 copies — and Schreckinger’s more critical look at the Biden family.
“No one has yet written a successful book that takes readers back to the Biden administration,” he noted. “I think part of this is because it’s a very disciplined, no-leak culture, which makes it harder to get the scoops and access. And then there’s the reality that the American public has largely opted out of Washington, DC.”
Franklin Foer, a staff writer at The Atlantic, hopes his new Biden book, “The Last Politician,” will break the trend and sell well, saying it’s seeing strong pre-order sales. But he’s prepared for the possibility that many of the Atlantic subscribers who read his book excerpt in the October issue won’t take the plunge to actually buy the book.
When asked about the challenges of writing about Biden versus Trump, Foer said in an interview, “There are no sensational stories. I think everyone’s brains have been broken by Trump’s journalism and our expectations of what’s exciting and important are totally skewed.”
Foer added that a fellow political journalist told him to think of his book as “Russian literature” compared to Trump’s genre of books.
Robert Costa, CBS News’ chief election and campaign correspondent who co-wrote “Peril” with Woodward, said Biden’s presidency is “under-reported, understudied and often misunderstood.” Journalists, he added, have a responsibility to report on the current resident of the White House, even though the media is still reporting on Trump. But when asked if he’s co-writing a new book on Biden with Woodward, Costa said he’s focusing on his job at CBS, which includes an upcoming “CBS Saturday Morning” interview with Foer about his new Biden book.
Perhaps no reporter knows and understands Biden better than Evan Osnos, the New Yorker. His book on China received the National Book Award and his book on inequality made the Times bestseller list. But his biography of Biden, which came out before the 2020 election, didn’t fare as well.
“As a general livelihood rule, I never ask publishers for sales details,” he joked. “If my Biden book had been on the bestseller list, I would have heard about it.”
Osnos nevertheless thinks Biden is an interesting subject given the extraordinary life he has led and the many political resurrections he has had. That doesn’t mean Biden’s story matches the “almost romanistic levels of wildness” Trump displayed.
“He doesn’t hit the political frontal lobe of the American public with the kind of hammer Trump does and so I didn’t really expect him to generate the same kind of sales as Trump,” Osnos said. “There’s a reason Michael Wolff, as far as I know, doesn’t want to write a book on Biden.”
When asked if he was writing a book on Biden, Wolff responded in a text message, “Apples, oranges?”