Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming is on track to become the most successful memoir in modern publishing history, selling more than 10m copies to date, as life after the White House continues to prove commercial gold for brand Obama.
Thomas Rabe, chief executive of German media group Bertelsmann, the parent company of Becoming’s publisher, Penguin Random House, said the title was the book giant’s biggest success of the last year. “We believe that these memoirs could well become the most successful memoir ever,” he said.
Penguin Random House won a bidding war for the rights to Barack and Michelle Obama’s autobiographies in 2017, paying more than $65m, a record for US presidential memoirs, beating rivals including Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins and CBS-owned Simon & Schuster.
Becoming has been a global sales juggernaut since being launched in 31 languages simultaneously in mid-November last year. The audiobook, read by Obama, has become the fastest-ever seller put out by Penguin Random House.
Obama has been promoting her memoir with a hugely popular global tour. Tickets for her first live appearance in the UK, at the Royal Festival Hall in December, sold out in minutes. She is set to return on 14 April at the 20,000-seat The O2 in London, a venue more used to hosting concerts by global pop stars.
Her tour has also taken in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Paris and Amsterdam as well as a string of events across the US and Canada.
Overall UK sales of Obama’s book currently stand at more than 600,000, ranking it 11th on the list of bestselling memoirs and biographies since sales records began in 1998, according to Nielsen BookScan.
While Becoming is proving a modern bestseller, it has some way to go to match the lifetime performance of The Diary of Anne Frank, which was first published in English in 1952 and is estimated to have sold more than 35m copies in 65 languages.
Life beyond the US presidency has proved lucrative for the Obamas. Last year, the former president and first lady struck a deal with Netflix to produce TV series and films for the streaming service.
The Obamas are not the only former White House residents jumping on the book bandwagon at Penguin Random House. The publisher said that The President is Missing, a thriller by former US president Bill Clinton and James Patterson, has also proved to be a bestseller.