News & Politics

How Much Could Michael Cohen Actually Get for That Book Deal? We Asked Literary Agents.

We also asked about Robert Mueller and Roger Stone.

Photograph by Evy Mages

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee hammered Michael Cohen Wednesday about the most nefarious thing one could possibly do in Washington: get a book deal out of service to the President. “You’re set to go to jail for a couple years. if you come out with a book deal, that’s not bad living,” Representative Michael Cloud of Texas said. “Do you plan to pursue another book deal about your experiences?” Representative Carol Miller of West Virginia wanted to know.  “I would presume this book would be a little different than your latest pitch, but your new angle might please some new fans. Anything to sell books.”

Cohen had, in fact, shopped a book around before: His presumably pro-Trump book Trump Revolution: From the Tower to the White House, Understanding Donald J. Trump won him an offer of around $750,000 from Hachette, he told the committee. But that deal fell through as controversies mounted around the President’s former lawyer.

We asked book agents what Cohen could expect this time around. Few wanted to assign a value to anything he’d write without knowing  what it might be. “The biggest mistake agents make is selling a name rather than a smart book concept in addition to a name,” says Keith Urbahn of the Alexandria-based literary agency Javelin. “Editors want to know that the book has been thought out and has a clear audience.”

Others were more willing to speculate—assuming the scenario included expectations of just how revealing a book might be.

DC literary agent Howard Yoon says that if Cohen could deliver a narrative—say, a post-prison memoir—it could go for upward of $1.5 million, especially if Cohen’s narrative involved his search for redemption. He’ll also need to pay some bills: “Now that he’s disbarred, he has to be thinking, ‘How am I going to get some cash back into my family life?’ ” Yoon says. If Cohen could ink a deal while behind bars for three years, that would allow him “plenty of time to work on a story.” While a million-plus may sound amazing to many authors, Yoon says, it’s important to remember that Cohen’s probably not going to get that rich off any deal: “Somebody in his situation needs to support his family. He’s not going to buy a house in Malibu off [a book]—he has to put food on the table. And lawyers are expensive.”

So what about other players in the Washington circus these days?

Robert Mueller will have the most sought-after nonfiction book of 2019,” Urbahn says. If he makes the uncharacteristic choice to step into the limelight, he could expect a seven-figure deal. New York agent Larry Weissman speculates that a hypothetical offer would be even higher: “Mueller would never do it, but he could get eight figures.” Yoon pegs a Mueller paycheck at $2 million, which, if he combined it with a return to private practice, could make for a quite pleasant landing for the 74-year-old.

How about Rod Rosenstein? Yoon says the deputy attorney general could make anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million, and that other members of Mueller’s team could be looking at $100,000-to-$500,000 advances if they “strike soon” and can clear juicy confidential info through the Department of Justice’s prepublication review process. (Recently, former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe complained he was being “singled out for irregular, unfair treatment” as his review pushed the launch date of his tell-all from December to February.)

And of course, there’s Roger Stone. Urbahn says the erstwhile Trump adviser may not be of much interest to publishers: “Stone has published a book almost every year for the past five years, none of which have sold well, and it’s safe to say that no major publisher is going to take a big bet on his PR rehabilitation project.”

Staff Writer

Brittany Shepherd covers the societal and cultural scene in political Washington. Before joining Washingtonian as a staff writer in 2018, Brittany was a White House Correspondent for Independent Journal Review. While she has lived in DC for a number of years now, she still yearns for the fresh Long Island bagels of home. Find her on Twitter, often prattling on about Frasier.