A few months ago, former President Donald Trump signed a book deal.
There wasn’t the huge fanfare most former presidents receive when they ink deals for a memoir; news of the book, a coffee table tome with pictures detailing Trump’s presidency – retailing about $75 and $230 if signed – made barely a blip in the media. But the deal, which CNN can confirm included a multimillion dollar advance for Trump, has quickly and significantly plumped the pockets of the former President.
Sales of the book, “Our Journey Together,” grossed $20 million in less than two months since it went on sale in late November, two people familiar with the publishing of the book told CNN. Part of the book’s popularity among Trump’s base is the captions, all of which he wrote himself, and most of which feature unbridled hot takes on his political enemies.
“We did an initial print run of 200,000 copies,” said Sergio Gor, a longtime Republican operative who founded Winning Team Publishing to publish the book last fall. Gor’s partner in the company is Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s oldest son. To date, this is the only book they have published, but Gor says he has signed two more conservative authors, whom he declined to name.
The idea behind “Our Journey Together” was simple: Trump’s fan base was hungry for more of the signature firebrand former President. So, give them what they want, said Gor. In less than two days on sale, via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and 45books.com, operated by Winning Team Publishing, the autographed copies of the book were selling into the thousands. Unsigned copies were selling quickly as well.
“We still can’t keep up with the customers,” said Gor, who says they are now out of books and have issued requests for 300,000 more copies to be printed in three locations in the United States. Those printings are in the works, but people ordering “Our Journey Together” now likely won’t see copies arrive until late February or early March, said Gor. A current search for available books on the internet turns up nothing, save for copies being peddled by third parties. A signed copy on Amazon being sold as a “collectible” is listed at $1,749. Other signed copies on the auction website eBay range between $950 and $1,300.
Swear words and memories
While hardly a traditional memoir, “Our Journey Together,” is, as Gor said, “pure Trump.” The revelations Trump extends in the book are not deep analysis of his time in the White House, but rather his unedited interpretations of events or people, with zero in the way of different perspectives or the opportunity for comment from his hit parade of targets.
Without a Twitter feed (Trump remains banned by the social media platform), the former President seems to be using the coffee table book to extend his post-White House kiss-offs. Next to or below each of the 300 or so photographs is a Trump-authored caption, some even written in his tell-tale handwriting – a thick, black scrawl of marker, mostly uppercase but with dotted lowercase i’s and lots of exclamation points.
“Attempting to listen to crazy Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office – such natural disagreement,” writes Trump next to one photo. For another image of the House speaker, Trump drops a hand-scrawled, semi f-bomb: “She was screaming and shaking like a leaf, she’s f***ing crazy, hence the name ‘Crazy Nancy.’”
Adjacent to a picture of the late GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of his noted adversaries, Trump notes, “Asking for a job for his wife and I am smiling but I didn’t like him even a little bit.”
Not all in Trump’s crosshairs are political. Of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Trump writes, “Mark Zuckerberg would come to the White House and kiss my ass. His censorship is terrible for America. His ‘campaign contributions’ even worse.”
Some photos are of Cabinet members Trump appointed himself, like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. “General Mark Milley looks like he’s praying, and ‘Yesper’ (who said ‘yes’ to everything,) doesn’t know if he’s alive,” Trump wrote.
“I’ve never seen a presidential book that’s really a hatchet job of other people,” said John Reznikoff, founder of University Archives, who has dealt with the buying and selling of hundreds of presidential collectibles over his more than four decades in the auction business. After learning of the book’s popularity among collectors late last fall, Reznikoff said he purchased several copies of “Our Journey Together,” as he has with every other presidential memoir or book.
‘The closest thing to printing money’
The reason a presidential book can range into the high hundreds and thousands of dollars is the autograph.
Reznikoff said books, especially those that are signed, will undoubtedly increase in value exponentially over time. He pointed to former President Barack Obama’s 2020 presidential memoir, “A Promised Land,” signed copies of which are selling on auction sites for around $600. “It’s hard to find a presidential signature at all on anything that goes for less than $100,” said Reznikoff.
He said if Trump is a fast signer, using a bookplate of his signature – a common practice for authors that Gor confirmed Trump did – then he could get through several hundred books a day. “It’s the closest thing to printing money I can come up with,” said Reznikoff of the lucrativeness of Trump’s signature.
Trump’s fan base is big into merchandise, and Trump himself has used his name on everything from steaks and bottled water to ties, perfume, alcohol and mattresses. “Sometimes a book with a signature can become de-valued if that signature is easy to find,” said Reznikoff, who cited the ubiquity of books from former President Jimmy Carter, who wrote more than 20.
But for Trump, who has never had a high bar for what, when and why he signs his name to something, a coffee table book with fiery captions tracks with the size of the lift the former President was willing to undertake. Whereas most presidential memoirs would devote a chapter or two to describing a meeting with a world leader, Trump doles out the experience in a few sentences.
“Boris is one of a kind!” Trump wrote in a caption with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, letting the big color pictures tell the story. A cerebral diagnosis of the moment – a picture of the two men greeting each other at a global summit – and its effect on modern history it is not.
The photos in the book are images taken during his presidency, culled from several hundred thousand, said Gor. About 90% of the images were taken by official White House photographers, which are archived and considered public domain, as they were taken on behalf of the government to document Trump’s tenure. Trump’s chief official White House photographer, Shealah Craighead, shot most of the book’s images. A person with knowledge of Craighead’s interest in striking a deal in recent months to create her own book of Trump images – similar to the one Obama’s former chief official photographer Pete Souza published – said Craighead’s idea couldn’t find traction via traditional publishers.
“The appetite for Trump-related books these days is pretty low,” said the person, who has worked with several politically connected authors. “The market has been saturated.” Still, the person noted it’s not a surprise Trump fans would be drawn to this book, which is basically Trump personified in glossy, oversized photos.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Gor, whose impetus was to start a conservative publishing house solely to sign the former President and capitalize off of his base – then add other Trump-friendly authors in time. “(Trump) wants to do another book after seeing the success of this one,” said Gor, who added that Trump spent several evenings at Mar-a-Lago going through the 8,000-9,000 photos Gor and his assistants had narrowed down for him, and even more nights signing the book when it came out.
The only thing preventing Trump right now from adding his signature to tens of thousands more copies of “Our Journey Together” is, ironically, the supply chain issues for which Republicans have tried to blame his successor. There isn’t enough paper available.