Boris Johnson could be paid over £1million for his memoir, according to publishing insiders. But anyone expecting a kiss and tell may be disappointed as industry professionals have said he is unlikely to open up about his personal relationships.
One editor, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Guardian that while it was ‘far too soon for anything concrete to happen or be submitted’ they would be ‘amazed if he didn’t sign up somewhere for memoirs at some point in the fall”.
Martin Redfern, executive director and literary agent of Northbank Talent, told the trade magazine the bookstore that he thought the book would command “north of £1m”.
However, he didn’t think Johnson would “change the lifelong habit and divulge the details of his colorful private life.”
Johnson announced last week that he was stepping down as leader of the Conservative Party, and a fierce contest is underway to name his successor.
There has been speculation that Johnson, who worked as a journalist before becoming prime minister, could return to writing, publishing a book about his time in charge of the country and earning a hefty sum.
A literary agent said they thought “for a memoir like his, it would be a six-figure deal, maybe even a seven-figure deal”, with the serial rights, in particular, being “very lucrative”.
The agent said that although Johnson was a divisive figure, they thought the memoir would sell well, adding, “I think it would be popular because of its controversy: people would read it even out of sheer curiosity.”
It’s unclear when a memoir by Johnson might be announced, but one of the biggest publishing fairs, the Frankfurt Book Fair, will be held in the fall. Many agents and publishers wait until the end of the event to announce big books, hoping to generate more excitement.
Recent prime ministers are all thought to have earned six-figure sums or more for their memoirs. David Cameron’s For the Record was sold in a “highly contested and significant” deal, while Gordon Brown’s My Life, Our Times was sold for an “undisclosed sum”.
Tony Blair’s A Journey was reportedly sold for an advance of around £4.6 million, although any money it made was donated to the Royal British Legion.
Besides Blair, Johnson is arguably the most internationally famous British prime minister of recent times, and agents have predicted interest beyond the UK if he penned a memoir.
Juliet Mabey, publisher at independent Oneworld, told the bookseller she thought “a fair number” of UK and US publishers would be interested in Johnson’s memoir.
Johnson had a long career as a journalist before becoming prime minister, working as editor of The Spectator from 1999 to 2005 and as a columnist for the Telegraph. His previously published books include The Churchill Factor, a bestseller published in 2014 which looked at the career and success of Winston Churchill.
Johnson was also set to write a book on Shakespeare, for which he was reportedly paid £500,000 as part of a deal he signed in 2015 with publisher Hodder & Stoughton.
Shakespeare: The Riddle of Genius remains undelivered. In 2019, Johnson said being prime minister meant he wouldn’t be “able to quickly finish a book on Shakespeare that [he had] in preparation for”.