Multiple publishers vied for the rights to Thomas' autobiography, which he started writing in 2001, but Thomas liked the package offered by the New York-based HarperCollins, including the editor assigned to work with him, people in the publishing industry with knowledge of the deal said Thursday.
The amount of the deal was not revealed, except that it was in seven figures.
The book, expected to be released in 2005, will cover his life through his bitter 1991 confirmation to the Supreme Court. Thomas, 54, has already completed part of the writings about his childhood in segregated Georgia.
Other justices have written books, but none that lucrative. Most recently, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor reported last year receiving $83,000 in royalties from her memoir about growing up on an Arizona cattle ranch and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist received $50,000 from Alfred A. Knopf, publisher of several of his historical books.
Thomas is expected to do limited television and newspaper interviews to promote the book, making an exception to his usual policy of refusing to be interviewed by reporters. Someone familiar with the HarperCollins deal said that Thomas discussed with the other justices and book publishers his concerns that any publicity not hurt the dignity of the court.
Thomas earns about $184,000 a year on the court. Justices face limits on what they make for work away from the court, but there are no restrictions on book earnings. Thomas was worth between $150,000 and $410,000 in 2001, not counting his home in Virginia, making him the least wealthy of the nine justices.
By Gina Holland