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Experts: Deval Patrick’s election defeat would doom memoir

By Jessica Van Sack
Tuesday, September 28, 2010 -
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A devastating Nov. 2 defeat could cost Gov. Deval Patrick more than his lofty position and promising political career - it could scuttle the happily-ever-after ending to his million-dollar “inspirational” memoir and turn it into a bookstore bomb, experts said.

“It would be a horrendous event,” said Hub book agent and attorney John Taylor “Ike” Williams. “The publisher would have a hard time with that book.”

The success of Patrick's 200-page autobiography - titled "A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life" and priced at $21.99 - hinges largely on the governor raising his national profile.

That's a far-fetched feat for an ousted, one-term wonder.

"I assume the senior editors are saying, `You told us this book would ride on the coattails of the Obama book,' " Williams said, noting the similarities between the rags-to-riches tales of Patrick and his pal, President Obama. David Drake, a spokesman for Patrick's publisher Crown Publishing, a division of Random House, declined to comment, other than to say the book is due out in April.

The publisher's initial optimism when the governor landed the deal in March 2008 was clear from Patrick's reported advance of $1.35 million - a staggering sum for a first-time author.

At the going rate, Patrick would earn out his advance - which is usually when royalties begin to kick in - after selling 450,000 hardcovers, a level few but the best-selling superstars reach.

"It's a pretty substantial risk," said Peter Burford, a veteran independent publisher in New Jersey. "Unless he has some other ace up his sleeve . . . I would say good luck to all of them."

Scott Hartwig of Calif.-based Rose Ave Press, which specializes in smaller-name memoirs, said he had misgivings about Patrick's sizable advance. "I question the logic of giving that big of an advance," Hartwig said. "Especially if he's not effective politically." He added that the niche industry relies on the author making headlines, or finding a way to be exceptionally relevant. Otherwise, he said, "It could look kind of silly."

With polls showing Patrick in a virtual dead heat with GOP rival Charlie Baker, Big Apple-based publishing consultant and author Michael Ellsberg suggested Patrick recast the book as a liberal manifesto: "Come read the book that the right wing doesn't want you to read." "The Tea Party is really starting to scare Democrats," Ellsberg added. "If they can paint it that he was the first hit, and he's going to rise up again and keep fighting, that would be a good angle."

For his part, Patrick said the fate of his book isn't on his radar: "I'm not thinking about that right now."

CAPTION: FIERY PITCH: Gov. Deval Patrick greets firefighters yesterday at the Milton Fire Department headquarters, where the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts officially endorsed the incumbent for re-election. STAFF PHOTO BY ANGELA ROWLINGS

Credit: By JESSICA VAN SACK

 
Political books - Sept. 28, 2010:
FIERY PITCH: Gov. Deval Patrick...
Photo by Angela Rowlings
FIERY PITCH: Gov. Deval Patrick greets firefighters at the Milton Fire Department headquarters, where the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts officially endorsed the incumbent for re-election.

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