How Presidential Memoirs Work

"My Life"

Even before the writing began, former President Bill Clinton's memoir was different from those of previous presidents -- no other presidential memoir has garnered a $10 million advance. For comparison, President George W. Bush was reportedly paid $7 million total for his 2010 memoir "Decision Points" [source: Sheridan]. The up-front money, along with a record-breaking first printing of 1.5 million copies, is proof-positive that publisher Alfred A. Knopf believed Clinton's story -- all 957 pages of it -- was going to be a huge success.

Shortly before its release, "My Life" was ranked No. 1 in's sales rankings, an achievement Bush's "Decision Points" repeated six years later. "My Life" enjoyed an ongoing spot in the top-10 at Amazon and sold more than 2 million copies. Clinton's first main appearance on a tour to support the book -- at BookExpo America -- filled the 2,700-person convention room beyond capacity. The tour was extensive, with book signings and talks at book stores across the country, along with a host of radio and television talk show appearances. He also spoke with Dan Rather on CBS's news show, "60 Minutes" and on the other major networks, including ABC's Oprah Winfrey show.

Bill Clinton isn't the only successful author in the Clinton family -- former first lady Hillary Clinton has seen great success with her memoir, "Living History." In fact, first ladies generally see more success with their publishing than their spouses do. Let's take a closer look at this counterpart to the presidential memoir.