The financial disclosures yesterday of the families of President Obama and Vice President Biden indicate a significant role for books in the assets of both. But when it comes to book royalties, the president seems to have a distinct advantage over the vice president.
President Obama reported that in 2009 royalties from his two books – "Dreams from My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope" – totaled somewhere between $2 million and $10 million.
Obama also disclosed that he and his publisher, Crown Publishing, have come to a new arrangement with respect to future books by Obama. "Dreams from My Father" was originally published in 1995, after Obama was elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. In 2004, when he was elected senator from Illinois, the book was republished and Obama and Crown agreed at that time that he would write an additional two nonfiction books and a children's book.
"The Audacity of Hope," published in 2006, counts as one of the two promised nonfiction titles.
The new arrangement, however, frees Obama from the obligation to write another nonfiction book while president. At the same time, Crown and Obama have agreed that Random House – a division of Crown – will publish a revised edition of "Dreams From My Father" for middle-grade or young adult readers.
In 2007, Biden published a memoir as well. "Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics" (which Monitor reviewer Gail Russell Chaddock praised as "a ripping good read") brought in somewhere between $0 and $200 in royalties in 2009 – perhaps reflecting the lesser value assigned to the words of a vice president.
The Biden family, however, is not entirely devoid of literary assets. Among gifts received Biden listed a literary gem: a first edition copy of "Anna Livia Plurabelle" signed by its Irish author, James Joyce, valued at $3,500.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.