The Obama name is golden right now in book land. The President is leading the hit parade: Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope are on both the New York Times' hardcover and paperback best-seller lists, no mean authorial feat. (Dreams is No. 1 on the paperback list after a staggering 133 weeks.) Books by more than a dozen other authors on the Times lists retell the tale of the Obama campaign, evaluate the man or set out his life story. There's no mystery as to why new Obama books keep popping up in the nation's bookstores; at this time of declining book sales, that is one brand that's virtually guaranteed to sell.
So is Mrs. Obama's turn coming soon? "Publisher interest in a Michelle book would be enormous," says Michael Coffey, executive managing editor of Publishers Weekly. "She's a figure of interest to political people, to women, to the African-American community, to the international community." Last March, before her husband had even won the Democratic Party's nomination, the New York Observer reported that Michelle Obama had been approached by "over a dozen" publishers to write a book. Calls were going through Washington superlawyer Bob Barnett, who represented the President for Audacity. Interest has only intensified since then, but the First Lady's office is in lockdown when it comes to that subject. "There are no book deals in the works" is all that her spokesperson would tell TIME. (See behind-the-scenes pictures of the Obamas on Inauguration Day.)
In the absence of a book by the First Lady herself, publishers are relying on Michelle-themed tomes by other writers. Michelle, a biography of the First Lady by Washington Post staff writer Liza Mundy, was one of the first out of the gate; a New York Times best seller, the book has an impressive 170,000 copies in print after seven printings. The Mundy book proved Michelle Obama's international appeal; there are now 15 foreign-language editions of the book, including Arabic, Portuguese and Polish.
Mundy was dazzled by Michelle Obama's story right off the bat. "You could just track the changes in our country, in terms of opportunity, for African-American citizens by tracking her life," she says. "To contemplate the social changes that had taken place during her lifetime, and the way that she as one individual had traveled through these landscapes and lived through these changes, I just found it endlessly interesting." One thing that was endlessly frustrating to Mundy, though, was Michelle Obama's lack of participation. Mundy had interviewed the future First Lady in 2007 for the Washington Post, but by the time the author was writing her book in 2008, the wife of the then candidate had become "controversial and somewhat polarizing," Mundy says. Mrs. Obama's campaign staff "had just become much more careful about her, and made the decision not to cooperate." (See pictures of Michelle Obama's fashion looks.)
Other writers have also limned the First Lady. There are at least three admiring biographies (Michelle Obama: An American Story by David Colbert; Michelle Obama: First Lady of Hope by Elizabeth Lightfoot; and Political Profiles: Michelle Obama by Jeff C. Young). There is also a volume of letters, Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women Write to the New First Lady. At least two more books are in the works, one about her style, and one about the First Spouse and the "cultural moment." A Michelle Obama coloring book has just arrived in stores, and a comic book is not far behind.
But nothing, says Publishers Weekly's Coffey, can take the place of a book by the woman herself. "The real goal is going to be a book that either is authorized or by Michelle, or ghostwritten with her," he says. A wonkish book about public education or women in the workplace, a tell-all campaign memoir, a heartwarming tale of raising two girls no matter. Says Coffey: "In this situation, which is still in the early morning of what might be a long historic journey for the Obama family, I think publishers would be really eager to win the rights to whatever book Michelle wants to write." Fire up those cash registers, booksellers; the day will arrive, perhaps someday soon.