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Home » How Barack Obama’s Book Sales Stack Up Against Other Big Memoirs

How Barack Obama’s Book Sales Stack Up Against Other Big Memoirs

Former U.S. President Barack Obama just published his memoir two days ago, and already it’s on track to become the bestselling presidential memoir of all time. But how does it compare to other memoirs and other books?  

Obama’s fourth book, A Promised Land, was released on Tuesday, when it set a first-day sales record of almost 890,000 copies, which includes audiobooks, e-books and pre-orders. That marked the biggest 24-hour sales period for any book published by Penguin Random House, which has also published the Fifty Shades of Grey series and John Grisham’s books.

It’s not just a great debut. It puts him well ahead of first-day sales of memoirs by his two predecessors, George W. Bush (220,000) and Bill Clinton (400,000). And Obama’s the bestselling author in the house, though not by much—his wife, Michelle, sold 725,000 for the first day of her memoir, Becoming.

Obama also outsold his one-time rival-turned-cabinet member, Hillary Clinton. Her 2017 memoir, What Happened, which explored her failed 2016 bid for the presidency, scored 300,000 first-week sales.

At the time, the number was impressive, marking publisher Simon & Schuster’s best showing in six years. It had the biggest hardcover debut of any nonfiction book on the market in five years. But it wasn’t Clinton’s biggest debut. Her 2003 book, Living History, which included her first extensive commentary on her husband’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, topped 600,000 in its first week.


Obama also easily topped Mark Owen’s No Easy Day, a 2012 memoir detailing the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, which occurred while Obama was commander-in-chief.

Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography Steve Jobs, which was published just a few weeks after the Apple co-founder died, sold 379,000 in its first week, making it that year’s top bow.

Obama’s numbers reflect first-day, not first-week, sales, so he will likely blow the numbers of these predecessors out of the water when first-week sales have been compiled. Why the big boom for his book compared to others?

Obama’s historic position, as the nation’s first African-American president, certainly contributes to some of the popularity. He stayed relatively out of the spotlight during his first four years out of office, and people are eager to hear his reflections.

He also staged a media blitz before the book’s publication, appearing everywhere from CBS’s 60 Minutes to NPR’s Fresh Air.

Plus, the book came out amid a highly politicized atmosphere, with President Donald Trump challenging the election results.

During the first half of 2020, the bestselling book was the novel Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, which sold nearly 715,000 copies.

Source: Forbes – Business

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