How much do celebrities make from writing memoirs?

They say everyone has a book in them. But apparently not all of those stories are created equal. Enter: Celebrity memoirs. Stories are just like anything else in this world — there are good ones and there are very bad ones. The disparity can be alarming (especially with celebrity memoirs).

The good ones are appreciated, even celebrated, and those from whom they come are rewarded. The bad ones, however, largely go unnoticed and are far from appreciated.

Some stories, undoubtedly, are worth more than others — at least to major book publishers. It seems that these companies have gone the way of professional sports teams, issuing record-breaking contracts to get talented people to sign on the dotted line. In the publishing industry, that means for the rights to personal stories. Really, it’s pretty unbelievable.

Let’s take President and Michelle Obama, for example. Following their exit from the White House back at the beginning of the year, it was announced that publishers waged a bidding war over the rights to their next books.

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The winner (if you want to call them that): Penguin Random House, with a final price tag of a reported $65 million. Not a bad reward for a couple who spent the last eight years, for better or worse, in the critical lens of the globe.

But I get it, he was the leader of America. Of course the story he has to tell is going to seek millions. This isn’t the first former president to garner such a large deal. Bill and Hillary Clinton have tallied more than $50 million on various books over the years, according to Forbes. And that amount does not include Hillary’s most recent memoir, What Happened, which was released last week.

Regardless of how good the stories actually are, people who spend their lives in the public eye are fetching extremely large contracts. Back at the beginning of August, former FBI Director Jim Comey inked a book deal of his own, which some experts peg well in the millions.

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All of this begs the question, what’s the value of a story? Is it in the quality of the tale itself, or is it strictly its marketability?

These days, it seems it’s only about the latter.

Published by Ed A. Murray

Ed A. Murray is an author, freelance writer, digital marketer and blogger dedicated to impactful storytelling. He writes about writing, books, marketing and life, and has published three books of fiction.

7 thoughts on “How much do celebrities make from writing memoirs?

  1. I have an issue with a book by any celebrity. They’re almost always written to make the person look good.

    While that’s okay, I’d much prefer to read about the mistakes they’ve made. Not because the mistakes were controversial mind you, but that’s what forces the person to get up off the floor, dust themselves off, and try again. At the end of the day, it’s the mistakes we’ve made, and the backbone we’ve summoned to overcome them that defines us, not the million ‘atta boys’.

    One of the most interesting pieces I ever read was in the book ‘Flyboys’. by James Bradley. he interviewed President Bush concerning his being shot down during WWII. It was actually haunting because suddenly we have one of the most powerful men in the world who can’t get the answer to a simple question. What happened to his crew. he made it out of the plane (which exploded second after he got out), had given his crew ample time to get out (his wingmen said they’d see one other chute other than his – he didn’t see it), and lands in the water. The Japanese are coming out to get him and when all hope looks lost, he’s rescued by an American submarine.

    But to this day, he’s no clue what happened to rest of his crew. Did they die in the explosion, did they make it out to be killed by sharks or the Japanese. HE had no clue, and it haunts him.

    It suddenly made the man very human to me. That’s the stuff I like, to take a great man, and make them someone I can relate to.


  2. I agree–being “famous” doesn’t automatically make a good book. But publishers are in it for the money, and celebrities pull it in. I think I’ve read maybe 5 autobiographies in my life, and not many more biographies.


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