Former US president Barack Obama’s hotly-anticipated memoir A Promised Land was published just a few days ago, but it’s already set to become the best-selling presidential memoir in modern history. Within the first 24 hours of release, the book sold almost 890,000 copies in the U.S. and Canada alone, and is expected to be among the most sought after books this Holiday season.
Publisher of the Penguin Random House imprint Crown, David Drake said: “We are thrilled with the first day sales. They reflect the widespread excitement that readers have for President Obama’s highly anticipated and extraordinarily written book.” Fittingly, the only book that rivals A Promised Land in terms of initial sales is Michelle Obama’s 2018 memoir Becoming, which sold 725,000 copies on its first day of release and has since sold 10 million copies worldwide. In fact, Mrs. Obama’s book is still so in demand that a paperback edition is yet to be published.
As MarketWatch reports, A Promised Land went straight to No. 1 on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The CEO of Barnes & Noble, James Daunt, said the chain of stores sold over 50,000 copies with the first day of sales and is hopeful that the number will rise to half a million within 10 days. “So far it has been neck and neck with Michelle Obama’s book,” he said.
When compared to other presidential memoirs, it’s clear the Obama’s lead the race. Bill Clinton’s 2004 memoir My Life sold approximately 400,000 copies across North America upon its first day of release, and George W. Bush’s Decision Points sold around 220,000. The fastest-selling book of all time is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which sold a staggering 8 million copies within its first day of sales.
A Promised Land’s release date was considered risky by some. Coming out shortly after the US presidential election date, it was feared that the election might overshadow the book, or that a Trump victory could see interest in the Obama administration wain. However, with Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, winning the race, it seems the book will be of even more interest.
Obama points out in the introduction to the book that he didn’t intend for it to be published so close to one of America’s most high=-profile US elections. Obama noted that “the book kept growing in length and scope” and that he “didn’t fully anticipate,” the conditions under which he would work on the book, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Black Lives Matters protests, and “most troubling of all,” how America’s “democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of crisis.”
Given the current state of the world, Barack will not follow in Michelle’s footsteps with the arena tours she did to promote Becoming, though it’s unlikely he needs to do much promotion to sell his book. Even his critics will agree that Obama has a knack for writing and oration, and his previous books Dreams of my Father and The Audacity of Hope were met with critical acclaim, and have earned him a loyal following.
A Promised Land may also decide the fate of many bookstores across the world, many of which have struggled to stay in business due to the pandemic. Most bookstores were forced to close their doors during lockdown periods, and many have reported a serious loss in earnings. Obama’s latest book will no doubt be on many people’s Christmas lists, and its strong sales may help smaller bookstores stay afloat.