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‘Tough sell’ Palin the biggest seller ever? Allow me to explain

Talk about timing. The same day the New York Post runs a piece claiming Sarah Palin is a tough sell on the lecture circuit (” . . . they think she’s a blithering idiot,” says a predictably unnamed “industry expert”), her book becomes a bestseller of unprecedented proportions, two months before it comes out.


Palin’s book doesn’t even have a cover design yet, although it does have a name, Going Rogue, which recalls her decision during the 2008 presidential campaign to stop taking advice from the clueless McCain campaign staffers and start following her own instincts.

Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have Palin’s book in the top spot, an absolutely unprecedented performance for a non-fiction book so far in advance of its release date, which is November 17. (That’s my birthday, by the way, hint hint . . .)

So, the Post’s piece is nothing but a made-up hit job, right? The book sales prove that Palin has a huge following, and it couldn’t possibly be true that she’s a tough sell on the lecture circuit. Right?

Not necessarily.

What the book sales prove without a doubt is that there is a huge audience of Americans who absolutely want to hear what Palin has to say. They want to know more about her story. They want to know more about her ideas. They’re tired of hearing all the attacks leveled against her and they’re eager to hear her side of the story.

Everyday Americans who appreciate Palin’s authenticity and commitment to good, responsive government also admire her grit for standing up in the face of the media attacks. They root for her. They love her. It is genuine and it is widespread.

That’s undeniable.

The lecture circuit is a very different story. If you’ve ever served on a committee that chooses speakers for events – and I have – you know it is typically a very establishment-oriented group of community dignitary types. The group will toss around lots of names. People will offer notes of caution about those who are suggested.

“He is very controversial.”

“She advocates a cause that’s strongly opposed by one of our major funders.”

“We would get a lot of criticism if we invited her. We don’t like criticism!”

Surely, the criticism would start with the fact that the speakers’ bureau representing Palin is asking $100,000 per speech. I have no doubt she can get that price often enough to make it worth having asked it, but it’s going to be too rich for a lot of groups’ blood, especially in a recession, and especially when we’re talking about ubercautious people who don’t want to take a lot of heat for their choice.

(Full disclosure: I am represented by a competing speakers’ bureau, which, for reasons not entirely clear to me, does not charge $100,000 for my speeches.)

The bottom line is this: The people who buy books and the people who book speakers are very different from one another, or at least they’re playing different roles. The people who will buy Palin’s book are everyday folks who just want to read what she has to say – simple as that.

Many of the people on the speaker-choosing committees might buy her book as well, as long as they’re not seen doing it. (”Special delivery instructions: Yes, Amazon, can you ship it in a plain brown bag? Some of my friends from the wine and cheese party might be hanging around my mailbox.”)

Palin’s book is a big seller because she is a smart, honest woman who does what she believes is right without regard for what others will say about her – and everyday people love her for that.

Palin may not get certain speaking gigs because the people who choose speakers are typically the opposite of that. Sounds like she’s selling enough books that a few missed $100,000 paydays won’t set her back too badly.