Allies of former President Donald Trump are trying to rip up the traditional book publishing paradigm in politics by setting up a publishing house of their own. And they have the ex-president helping them do it.
Trump announced last week that he was publishing a coffee table book of photographs from his time in the White House — just ahead of the holiday gift rush — with Winning Team Publishing. The outfit is a new imprint with a decidedly MAGA flavor, run by former Trump campaign aide Sergio Gor and Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
The book, titled “Our Journey Together,” was marketed at $74.99, or $229.99 for a signed copy. But despite the high price tag, Gor said they already have exceeded sales of 70,000 copies in the first week of the preorder.
Trump has not yet written a post-presidential memoir. And part of the reason, sources in the industry say, is that some of the major publishing houses have recoiled at the prospect of having to fact-check his work or the social backlash that would ensue.
With allies setting up their own publishing house, the president could potentially circumvent those hurdles. It allows Trump confidants to run everything from publishing to marketing in house, while keeping data on purchases. But it also has left the impression in the industry that the former president has given up on trying to score a deal with one of the “Big Five” houses.
“My suspicion is Trump is self-publishing because he doesn’t want the humiliation of getting a smaller advance than he has before or anyone finding out that it is smaller than Obama’s,” said one publishing executive. Former President Barack and former first lady Michelle Obama reportedly sold their book rights to Penguin Random House for over $60 million. “I imagine that’s as big a part of it as anything.”
The foray of Trump Jr. and Gor into the publishing world follows the recent announcement about Trump’s own coming media venture: Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG). TMTG has not launched a single product but is reportedly valued for billions, according to Forbes. A publishing company launched exclusively for Trump and pro-Trump content could be similarly lucrative, according to publishing industry experts.
“There has been a proliferation of imprints and ventures to capitalize on a broader economic trend which is the segmenting of our economy into partisan tribes. Publishing is following that route,” said Keith Urbahn, president and co-founder of Javelin, a literary and creative agency. “It may be the future in terms of post-presidential publishing especially for Republicans who feel persecuted by big media, big tech, and New York publishing houses. This is their way to do it.”
Other conservatives have gone the route Trump is taking. Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire media company launched its own publishing arm, for example. But sources in the publishing world say that these cases are the exception to the norm and that, more often than not, book authors will need to work through more traditional publishing companies because they lack a megaphone like the former president’s.
“I think that makes all the sense in the world for him because he doesn’t need any help promoting his book,” said Thomas Spence, president at Regnery Publishing. “When you have the platform he has and can promote the book and take care of the things most mortals need a publisher to do for them then why hand over the lion’s share of the proceeds to the publisher?”
Winning Team Publishing has been in the works for half a year, according to Gor, who helped Trump with crafting his most recent photography book. And there are big ambitions for the pro-Trump imprint. Donald Trump Jr. will be working with the house on his third book, and Winning Team Publishing is planning to announce a “best selling” conservative as an author soon.
“Publishers have become stagnant in their ways. We are incorporating the best of business, data, politics and media to reach a wider audience than ever before. We are striving to become the largest conservative publishing house,” said Gor, president of Winning Team Publishing. “There isn’t anyone more in demand than President Donald Trump, and we are thrilled to have him as our first author.”
Publishing conservative authors has become a public relations headache for some major publishing houses. After the Capitol riots on January 6, Simon & Schuster cancelled plans to publish a book by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), and faced backlash for its decision to publish a book by former Vice President Mike Pence.
Despite the public sensitivities to publishing some right-wing authors, there remains a huge appetite in the industry to publish conservative authors and Trumpworld figures. Jared Kushner is writing a book with Broadside Books, a conservative imprint of HarperCollins, and Kellyanne Conway is expected to release her book next year from Simon & Schuster. Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and former trade adviser Peter Navarro also have books from All Seasons Press, which was formed this year by two former publishing executives who wanted to welcome “those authors who are being attacked, bullied, banned from social media, and, in some cases, outright rejected by politically correct publishers.”
Winning Team Publishing joins other conservative publishers like Regnery Publishing and All Seasons Press, although its focus at the beginning is strictly on Trump. Their website is 45books.com.