Judging Presidential Candidates by their book covers

At time of writing, there are five candidates in the running to become the next President of the United States of America. The internet is crawling with pundits offering their advice on who we should chose and why. But no one seems to have judged them by their book covers. Until now. In this article we throw party politics to one side, avoid debating whether America needs to be 'great again', or 'whole again' and focus on the one thing that truly matters – the quality of their book covers.


The graph below shows that Trump stands out for the number of books authored – whatever your view on the size of his hands, there can be no doubting the size of his bookshelves.

Books Authored by Presidential Candidate

Note: I have not included transcripts of speeches, CD/DVD training packs or books where the candidate's contribution was a prologue, epilogue or editorial.

Subject Matter

The majority of books were biographies or memoirs. And given that there is nothing politicians like more than talking about themselves, it should not be a surprise that the majority of the books in this category are autobiographical. One exception is Kasich's Courage Is Contagious: Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things To Change The Face Of America. As the title suggests, Kasich profiles some twenty individuals who have in some way worked to improve the lives of those around them.

The business advice comes exclusively from Donald J Trump. While there are a number of titles, the subject matter, and anecdotes, tend to be repeated from one book to the next. As Carlos Lozada from the Washington Post notes that, "Trump’s books tend to blur together, with anecdotes and achievements enhanced with each retelling. Did you know, for example, that, Trump renovated the Wollman ice skating rink in Central Park in the mid-1980s? (If not, pick up any of his books and you’ll find the story there.)".

The political works all seem to wrangle with the theory that the USA is failing to live up to a rose-tinted vision. The titles are bizarrely homogeneous, including Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again - Trump; A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America - Cruz; American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone - Rubio; Stand For Something: The Battle for America's Soul - Kasich.

The 'Other' category belongs to Clinton. She has published on social science, looking at childrens' letters to pets and the lessons we can learn from children. Her book An Invitation to the White House: At Home with History is part political history and part recipe book.

The Book Covers

If you have looked at our flowchart for creating biography book covers, then you will not be suprised to see portrait photographs featuring heavily on the candidates book covers. Whilst Clinton and Trump mostly go for a formal, business pose, Cruz, Kasich and Rubio opt for a more casual pose. Sanders stands out with a defiant stance, in keeping with the title of his book.

Trump makes liberal use of gold on his covers, in keeping with his personal brand. Up until 2004, kept his titles simple, but then started to use subtitles. The wordcount on his book covers has increased over time, squeezing in as much information as possible.

Only Kasich and Sanders use reviewer endorsements on the cover, although none of the authors have been shy about celebrating their New York Times Best Seller status.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that there was nothing that really stood out amongst the covers – no radical ideas, no innovative techniques – but I guess that is kind of the point. And it's a point that I make regularly to my clients when I help them create their book covers too. Books covers need to make your book look like it belongs, just as much as they need to make it eyecatching. That's the reason the memoirs all conform to the rules of biographies and that's the reason the business books make effective use of teasers and taglines. The rules help your book look like it belongs, and more than that, the rules are tried and tested formulas for success.

Enough from me – let's take a look at the covers. Here they are, ordered alphabetically by surname. Let me know what you think in the comments box below.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Ted Cruz

John Kasich

Marco Rubio

Bernie Sanders

Donald J Trump