CQ WEEKLY – VANTAGE POINT
June 23, 2012 – 11:27 a.m.
By Anna McGeehan, CQ Staff
On the best-seller lists, as it is with politics, it’s all about
Amazon’s top 20 list in June, according to Publishers Weekly, included: Edward Klein’s “The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House” (No. 6), Glenn Beck’s “Cowards: What Politicians, Radicals, and the Media Refuse to Say” (No. 14), and David Limbaugh’s “The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama’s War on the Republic” (No. 17). The New York Times put Klein and Limbaugh at Nos. 1 and 2 on its June 24 hardcover nonfiction list.
“Barack Obama: The Story,” by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Maraniss of The Washington Post, was released June 19 and rose to No. 9 on Amazon’s Hot New Release List within three days. Although the 672-page biography provides an exhaustive look at Obama’s lineage, the blogosphere has obsessed over a section of the book that details Obama’s pot-smoking days and past relationships.
Media pile-on? Not really, says Jim Milliot, co-editorial director at Publishers Weekly. “Right now, books about Obama, both pro and con, will dominate the list. Without question, there will be more books written about the party in control.”
With Mitt Romney not sewing up the Republican nomination until last month, authors and publishers haven’t had as much lead time for him.
‘Thrill of Exposure’
Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, two Boston Globe reporters, haven’t yet hit the best-seller list with their January book, “The Real Romney,” which portrays the former Massachusetts governor as both an inspiring paragon and curious enigma. But they’ve received favorable reviews from The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and USA Today.
Klein, a veteran New York journalist who has written best-sellers about the Kennedys and
Don’t look for these books to have a significant impact on the presidential race, says H.W. Brands, a history professor at the University of Texas, Austin. “Because of the lag time in producing books,” he says, “the revelations are usually old news by the time the book appears.”
What the successful authors have figured out is how to sell “the thrill of exposure,” according to David Blake, an English professor at the College of New Jersey. “The publishers’ marketing plan hinges on the ability to sensationalize politics and give readers the feeling that they are getting secret insights into the presidential candidates. Some of these books are very well-researched, others are rooted in polemic and fantasy. The common thread in all of them, however, is their intensive focus on personality.”
Perhaps no one has perfected the art of political hype and insight better than the candidates themselves. For example, Romney’s 2010 book, “No Apologies,” achieved top status the week it was released, igniting a 19-state book tour and appearances on national talk shows. It earned an estimated $50,000 to $100,000 in 2011.
Still, that's a far cry from Obama’s 1995 book, "Dreams From My Father," which remains pre-eminent in the world of political publications. The 2004 version spent more than 156 weeks on The New York Times' paperback nonfiction best-seller list. The book, which Time magazine in 2006 called possibly "the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician," and his 2006 follow-on, "The Audacity of Hope," earned Obama almost $4 million in 2007, when he was seeking the presidency.