When I heard the news about the Rolling Stones article on Stanley McChrystal my first thought was not, "What an idiot," or even, "what was he thinking?" No, my first thought was, "He's going to get a huge book deal out of this."
It's one of the most frustrating things about my industry. Anyone who makes a splash in the headlines for good or bad reasons is made rich by some publishing house. Make an idiot out of yourself on some reality show? There's a book deal in it for you. Did you mess up an answer during a beauty pageant? Book deal. Did you have sex with a married politician? Take a lot of drugs while in public office? Rig an election? Book deal, book deal, book deal. And if you can't actually write a coherent sentence, no problem. That's what ghostwriters are for.
There's something wrong with that. And of course the publishing houses wouldn't be handing out seven-figure book deals to these people if their books weren't selling. We seem to live in a world where we reward people for screwing up. And I'll admit, I read How To Rig An Election by Allen Raymond and it was an interesting exposé but even as I read the book I wondered, "should I be supporting this guy with a book purchase?" I mean even if he was scapegoated as he claims to have been he did do some pretty awful stuff. Should his crimes earn him a six-figure advance? Shouldn't the exposés be coming from our media and printed in our newspapers and magazines rather than coming from the criminals themselves and printed inside a cute hardcover?
By the way, I'm not suggesting that McChrystal is a criminal and if he had left his post without controversy he would still have been able to get a book contract if that's what he wanted. But his latest error in judgment makes him more marketable, not less.
And once again I've got to say, there's something wrong with that.
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So Much For My Happy Ending
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