Clinton Striking it Rich

CNN Money — All the president’s money

Bill Clinton started promoting his autobiography with an interview on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” that ran the entire length of the show. The former president chose “My Life” as the title of the 900-page work. He might have called it “My Wallet.”

Clinton will continue to flog the book, due to go on sale in bookstores on Tuesday, with book signings and appearances across the country.

With a retail price of $35, publisher Alfred A. Knopf has enormous hopes for the book. The company has ordered a first printing of 1.5 million copies, and paid Clinton an advance of $10 to $12 million, according to Publisher’s Weekly, the largest ever for a non-fiction title. For Knopf to turn a profit, “My Life” must sell like hot cakes.

Thomas McCormack, a playwright and former CEO of St. Martin’s Press, estimated Knopf’s break-even point for the book is probably about 800,000 hardcover copies. “If they sell out the first printing,” he says, “they’ll make millions.”


For Clinton, the streets leading out of the White House are paved with gold, thanks to the book deal and a lucrative sideline: public speaking. He may be the highest paid speaker in the world right now, although that’s a “tough call,” said Mark Castel, CEO of Boston-based AEI Speakers Bureau. “He’s certainly up there among the highest paid,” said Castel, noting it depends how it’s measured: highest average fee, total annual fees or the biggest one-shot engagement.

According to Hillary Clinton’s 2003 Senate financial-disclosure form covering 2002, her husband had 60 paid speaking engagements that year, earning about $159,000 for each speech, on average, or $9.5 million in total.


Castel noted that Clinton benefits since he’s a scarce commodity on the speaking circuit: an ex-president. “Gerald Ford is pretty much retired,” said Castel. “Jimmy Carter does some engagements, but is very selective, speaking mostly to humanitarian groups. And George H.W. Bush has cut back a lot.” For organizations willing to pay through the nose for a presidential presence, that leaves Clinton.

Indeed. Still, $9.5 million a year–in addition to his presidential pension and perks–is a pretty handsome living. With the book revenue added in, he definitely shouldn’t have to scrimp on golf outings and Big Macs.

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The Sanity Inspector says:

    Remember how liberal denunciation of Gingrich’s whopping advance pressured him into giving it back?

  2. James Joyner says:

    True. Of course, Gingrich was actually Speaker of the House at the time. Clinton is at least cashing in from the outside.