Being honest is a good starting point in building trust. - Sarah Palin
On a Barnes & Noble display table I came across yesterday, a short stack of the paperback edition of Sarah Palin's Going Rogue.
(You know how at a Barnes and Noble, or at any big bookstore, they have all those books displayed on tables? No one who works at the store decided to put those books where they are. Book publishers pay a great deal of money to have their books so displayed. The closer the table is to the front of the store, the more it costs. Rather than honest recommendations, those books represent paid advertising space. Isn't that... special?)
I've never before looked at Palin's book. But in passing it yesterday, I noticed that on its cover, following Palin's name, there was no "with" or "and."
You know, as in "with Lynn Vincent," or "and Lynn Vincent." As in acknowledging Lynn Vincent, who was Palin's co-author on the book.
Everyone in the book business knows that Lynn Vincent had a great deal to do with writing Going Rogue. And few if any of them at all sweat that; they all know that it's practically unheard of for Famous People to write their own books. Writing is, after all, exceedingly difficult -- so difficult, in fact, that it's a given that no one has time to master writing and do whatever they did to make themselves famous enough for a publisher to gamble that they can make a lot of money from a book with their name and face on its cover.
Besides, who really cares about the writing of a book? That's a detail handled readily enough. You can always hire someone (like me, actually) to tend to that for you.
Though a book's denoted author and publisher might naturally enough care to downplay the fact that it had a co-author, they always at least acknowledge that co-author. You see it on the cover of countless books: [Famous Person -- in big type] with or and [person you've never heard of -- in small type]. (By the way, there's a world of difference between that with and and. But... too much detail, I'm sure.)
If a publisher and author really want to hide a co-author's involvement with a book, they can include the co-author's name nowhere on the book besides its copyright page. But that's the bare minimum acknowledgment. Outside of using invisible ink, there's no lesser way to include a co-author's name.
Lynn Vincent -- who, again, was, shall we say, extremely instrumental in the writing of Going Rogue -- didn't even get that. Her name's most definitely not on the book's cover -- and on the book's copyright page (which you can view right here) it says nothing but "Copyright, 2009, Sarah Palin."
That's it. One author listed. (And that is the author's call, by the way. If Palin wanted Lynn Vincent's name on the cover or copyright page of her book, you can trust it would be there.)
It's no secret that Lynn Vincent's writing was literally indispensable to Going Rogue. While Vincent was working on that book, she and I were both on the "faculty" of a Christian writer's conference. She was the full-on rock star of that conference: she was collaborating on Sarah Palin's much-awaited book!
She actually knew Sarah Palin! In fact, she had actually left being holed up with Palin to attend the conference! Sarah Palin was actually waiting for her to get back!
Can you imagine what that's like to a bunch of would-be (Christian) authors? People were positively swooning around Ms. Vincent, who seemed a nice person. Very sweet.
She did, however, tell us in no uncertain terms that she wasn't free to say much if anything about Going Rogue. She intimated that its publisher had made it very clear she'd be in hot water if she did.
Here is Lynn Vincent's personal Web site, which she uses to promote her services as a co-author.
The most famous book she's ever worked on -- one of the best-selling books in the country -- isn't even listed.
I'm no particular fan of Sarah Palin's; I think she's no more suited for public office than I am to being a prison guard. And if she ever gets elected to anything more than winkin' slogan-slinger, I'd be very happy to be proven wrong about that.
But this is a woman who sells herself on how forthright, and morally upstanding she is. And yet, she's very clearly done virtually all she can to take full credit for a book she didn't even write -- one that's all about her.
Palin has a new book out next month: America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag. It "celebrates the enduring strengths and virtues that have made this country great."
Though acknowledging that America by Heart will have a collaborating writer, this time around HarperCollins (who also did Going Rogue) is keeping entirely mum about that writer's identity.
They do, however, assure us that the book is written in Palin's "own refreshingly candid voice."
[Update: I've just learned that Lynn Vincent's name does appear in Going Rogue. At the end of the book, under Acknowledgments, in the middle of the fourth paragraph down (after Palin has thanked thirty-seven other people -- and a few sentences down from "I appreciate the opportunity to write a book!"), we read, "Thanks as well to Lynn Vincent for her indispensable help in getting the words on paper." I'm actually astounded more by such a buried, cursory, and calculatingly dismissive reference to the book's ghostwriter (what a difference there is between writing and helping to "get the words on paper"), than I was to think that Palin had chosen to simply ignore Vincent altogether.]
John also blogs at JohnShore.com.
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