Barack and Michelle Obama have a book deal. This is not surprising on its own, because of course Barack and Michelle Obama have a book deal. Former First Couples always land book deals. And this time it was extra obvious, not only because they made history by being the first black family to live in the White House, but also because Barack Obama is already a two-time best-selling author, for Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. Michelle, a fellow Harvard Law alum, is no slouch either. The only surprising thing about it was the price tag: $65 million, reportedly. That is, economically speaking, a lot of money. More than even the high-end of expert estimates.
The publisher that landed the books, Penguin Random House, released this statement.
“We are absolutely thrilled to continue our publishing partnership with President and Mrs. Obama. With their words and their leadership, they changed the world, and every day, with the books we publish at Penguin Random House, we strive to do the same. Now, we are very much looking forward to working together with President and Mrs. Obama to make each of their books global publishing events of unprecedented scope and significance.”
So that is what we know. But truthfully, I’m more interested in what we don’t know. What I’m saying is… I have some questions.
What if the Obamas don’t write memoirs?
What if they sit down to write their personal stories but get writer’s block and decide to change course?
What if they write, like, dueling fantasy books that are intended to be the first volumes of longer series?
What if their agent negotiated most of this deal while they were on vacation, but both of them spent the whole trip pounding through the Harry Potter series and they came back thinking, “Hey, we should try that”?
What would you do if you were the editor who acquired the books thinking you’d landed two of the most anticipated non-fiction books in recent memory — the memoirs of the first black President and First Lady, to be released during the presidency of their successors, who are attempting to reverse course on many of their signature accomplishments — and you suddenly found yourself dealing with a pair of first-time fiction writers?
What if one of them does that?
Like, what if Michelle writes a straightforward memoir about her time as First Lady and Barack writes a hyper-violent Game of Thrones-esque book about wizards and stuff?
What if it sells like gangbusters and gets made into an HBO series?
How wild would it be to see opening credits for a violent prestige series titled like The Necromancers Guild and then have “Based on a book by Barack Obama” pop up at the end?
Do you think that would ever become normal for you or would it blow your mind a little, every time, even if the series runs for 10 seasons?
What if Barack Obama wins an Emmy?
What if he gets way into it and starts wearing a sea captain’s hat everywhere like George R.R. Martin?
What’s the deal with that, anyway?
How many of those hats do you think George R.R. Martin owns?
Gotta be at least a dozen, right?
What if instead of fantasy books Barack and Michelle Obama release two detective books that complement each other?
Like where the books tell the same story but Barack’s is from the perspective of the detective and Michelle’s is from the perspective of the murderer?
What if they sell them together in one package deal?
You know, like a Speakerboxxx/The Love Below situation?
What if the detective in their books is a dog from England and the title is Inspector Woof and the Case of the Queen’s Missing Rubies?
How much would you pay for that?
Or would you just wait for the movie?
Do you think the Clintons are secretly steamed that the Obamas got such a huge book deal?
Do you think Bill saw this news break and realized he only got $15 million for his book and called his agent immediately?
Do you think Bill Clinton’s book agent sometimes ducks Bill’s calls because he knows Bill will start telling him some story about a diplomatic trip to Sweden or wherever and tie him up for hours?
He definitely does, right?
How many steamy, heaving-bosom airport-bookstore novels do you think Bill Clinton has submitted to his publisher?
More than one?
More than five?
More than ten?
Do you think he proposed publishing them under a pseudonym?
What pseudonym do you think he used?
Probably, like, “Dirk Rockledge” or “Mitch Steelrod,” right?
What if Trump finishes out his term and shops a book and only gets offered $10 million?
He’ll flip, right?
Or will he just say it’s the biggest advance ever and act like we don’t have Google?
What if Michelle’s book outsells Barack’s?
What if it outsells it by a lot?
Do you think they’re super competitive with each other?
But, like, in an adorable way?
If Michelle’s book outsells Barack’s, do you think she’ll needle him about it constantly?
Like, do you think they’ll be finishing up dinner and clearing the table and Barack will say “Who should do the dishes tonight?” and Michelle will get a little mischievous twinkle in her eye and reply “Well, since I’m the PRIMARY BREADWINNER, I think it’s only fair that you pick up the slack around the house”?
Do you think that will hurt Barack’s feelings?
Do you think he’ll try to play it off like it doesn’t, just so he doesn’t seem like a poor sport?
What if they both do straightforward memoirs but the books are brutal tell-alls?
What if Barack mails in his manuscript and the editor cracks it open expecting to read some uplifting tale of what a nation can do if it finds a way to come together, but the very first sentence is “Mitch McConnell is a piece of shit”?
Do you think the editor would spit out his coffee like he’s in a sitcom from the 1990s?
Can you imagine being that editor and going to your boss with a ruined, coffee-stained copy of Barack Obamas big huge post-presidency memoir and just being all, “Okay, I can explain”?
Do you think editors should avoid drinking coffee while reading manuscripts, just to be safe?
What if they both write biographies of Joe Biden?
I would like that.