Black celebrities and authors, in general, have always had the back seat in book deals, but that is fast changing. In recent years, Black celebrities, already influential in their realms, are now making waves in literature by securing major book deals.
These deals offer them an avenue to make some big bucks and share their experiences and opinions minus the barrage of opinions they’re usually subject to on platforms like social media. Their entry into the literary arena brings forth a range of voices and stories that were historically underrepresented. From memoirs and autobiographies to fiction, these books reflect the multifaceted experiences of Black individuals, contributing to a richer cultural tapestry. Read on to discover some of the most lucrative Black celebrity book deals as of writing.
The Obamas: “Becoming” and “A Promised Land”
In 2017, the Obamas, Barack and Michelle Obama, made headlines for signing a joint book deal with Penguin Random House. They got a whopping $65 million for it! Michelle wrote Becoming and Barrack wrote A Promised Land. This deal became one of the biggest presidential book deals in history — beating the likes of JK Rowling, Pope John Paul, and Hillary Clinton.
The deal proved quite lucrative for the publisher. Michelle’s book became 2018’s best-selling in the US just 15 days after it came out. By March 2019, it had sold over 10 million copies in the US and 17 million worldwide.
Barrack’s book, The Promised Land, sold over 1.7 million copies by 2020. It also set a record for the most copies sold in the first week. Due to the demand, Penguin Random House had to increase the initial copy run from 3.4 million to 4.3 million due to demand. It even topped Michelle’s Becoming sales at some point.
Gabourey Sidibe: ‘This is Just My Face. Try Not to Stare’
Gabourey Sidibe, fondly known as “Gabby”, is an American actress best known for her debut role in the 2009 film Precious. Her role in the film was such a hit that it saw her win the Best Female Lead Award at the Independent Spirit Award and she was also nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe award. In 2015, Gabby signed a multimillion deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for her book, This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare. It was reported that she received a $2.5 million advance for the book published in 2017. The book features an assortment of autobiographical essays covering her various life experiences. She talks of her struggles with trying to please her father, her parents’ divorce, growing up Black and poverty. Gabby also tackles current social issues such as body positivity. It was received warmly and has over 1,300 reviews on sites like GoodReads and Amazon.
Tiffany Haddish: ‘The Last Black Unicorn’
From actress, stand-up comedian, and producer to a published author, Tiffany Haddish really can do it all. The actress published her debut book Layla, the Last Black Unicorn in 2017 with HarperCollins Children Book.
The book became a bestseller in 2017 and boasts over 13,000 reviews on Amazon. It tells the story of a unicorn who didn’t quite fit in with others and is mostly about self-acceptance. Tiffany also released her book of personal essays, also titled The Last Black Unicorn, in 2017, which was paid between $2 million and $3 million from the publishing house, per Page Six.
Black Influence on the Literary Landscape
The success of Black celebrity book deals is reshaping the publishing landscape. Given the success of the four Black celebrities above, it's safe to say publishers are increasingly recognizing the demand for diverse stories and are actively seeking out narratives that reflect a broader spectrum of human experiences.