Why big publishers are ‘shying away’ from Theresa May

Small publishing houses have been snapping up deals for a biography of the new PM, so when will the traditional political publishers join the race?

A week is a long time in politics, but a year can go in a flash in the publishing world, where it is becoming apparent that there is currently no biography of our new prime minister, Theresa May.

The big publishers are increasingly “shying away from” books about contemporary politicians, says Iain Dale, managing director of Biteback, who snapped up a biography as May approached the Palace. (He also adds that “In the last Labour leadership contest we had biographies of Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn ready to go”.) Rosa Prince, author of Comrade Corbyn, “suggested a biography of May a few weeks ago and today we signed a deal,” he said. Theresa May: The Path to Power will be published in January 2017.

Currently just ahead in the race to the market is John Blake Publishing, with a biography by the Express columnist Virginia Blackburn, also signed on Wednesday, which is due on 1 September.

But bigger publishers are not yet in the running. “I don’t think anyone dared hedge publishing bets on Tory leaders’ or any politician’s fate,” says one. Traditional political publishers Orion and HarperCollins confirm that they have nothing planned, though rumour has it that both James Hanning, the biographer of David Cameron, and Sonia Purnell, Boris Johnson’s biographer, might be available.

Not everybody is in a hurry, though, according to Alan Samson, publisher at Weidenfeld & Nicolson (which publishes both Alan Clark and Denis MacShane): “Although May has already proved herself to be one of the most significant figures in British politics … I believe it is a little premature to publish a biography that would do justice to her, now that this key episode in her life has commenced so dramatically.” He says he has received two pitches in the past week, both of which he will be declining.

Katy Guest

The GuardianTramp

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