A NonReview of Yves Smith’s Econned, Plus Some Questions About Selling Books
I’ve been swamped – a lot of work at work, deadlines for my book (more on that below), and family issues to contend with so for the past few weeks I’ve been cooped up with zero downtime. Friday I managed to crawl out of my hole… at least for the time being. I remembered that Yves Smith’s book, Econned, was due out. Yves’ blog, Naked Capitalism is one of my daily reads and I’ve been looking forward to her take on the whole Great Recession.
Long story short, I visited two bookstores – both had sold out. I placed an order for the book at Barnes and Noble and was told it would be available this week.
All that is a good sign for Yves Smith, and I wish her well. But I was wondering… what can one do to make one’s book more likely to do well? Obviously, with a book coming out later this year – in August – its something I have an interest in knowing. (The book is already for sale at some online locations. Here’s the Amazon link to the book. As an FYI, given how little the bio of me is, there’s a surprising amount that’s incorrect.)
The book is – we think – a bit unique. We looked at a how a large number of issues – from abortion to crime to the economy – evolved over the length over each administration from Ike to GW. (In a few instances, where the data is reliable, we go back to Hoover.) And we let the data speak, as regular readers can imagine from the posts I’ve written. I’ll give you an example – my own political views, as one can imagine from the fact that I occasionally post at Angry Bear, are generally slightly left of center. And when this project started some years ago, I hewed closely to what one might term a slightly left of center view on crime, namely that the way to reduce crime is to focus more on rehabilitation. But the data shows that the Presidents under whom crime fell by the most were the ones who, once you account for demographics, put cops on the street, locked people up, and threw away the key. And that is precisely what we show.
I’m not sure I’m happy that the results on crime are what they are. Philosophically, I’d be a lot more comfortable being able to state that we should spend more time and effort and resources on rehabilitation relative to punishment, but the data shows what it shows. And my comfort level, frankly, is irrelevant, when it comes to determining what reduces crime. And the one thing my co-author and I agreed on from the start was that we would post the data (in a nice graphical format thanks to Nigel Holmes, a brilliant artist the publishing company hired to make our graphs look nice), whatever it showed.
Now, that is going to cause a major problem. See, on some issues, there doesn’t seem to be much of a relationship between a governing philosophy and outcomes. For instance, stock market performance seems to be unrelated to the president’s party, or even to how well the economy did. But (its not exactly a surprise to readers of this blog) on a lot of issues, particularly the economic ones, Democrats tend to outperform Republicans. And we think we’re able to nail the cause of this disparity. We also feel we’re able to do a good job of showing that the cause is related specifically to the occupant of the White House, as opposed to, say, Congress, God’s will, the public’s voting patterns, or whatever else.
And as regular readers know, stating that politicians that followed a certain policy produced better economic outcomes than politicians who followed the opposite policies seems to leads to uncomfortable conclusions for some people. As uncomfortable, for instance, as my epiphany on looking at the data on crime. But some people simply refuse to give up cherished beliefs. Its easier to attack the messenger. So though we call it like it is, and we call it for Republicans when Republicans have the better argument, I have zero doubt whatsoever that our book is going to labeled “liberal.” Which is a pity, because the book is not intended to cheerlead. In fact, its intended to poke and prod both sides into keeping what works from their side and giving up what doesn’t.
OK. So there it is. That’s what the book is about. How do we sell it? Anyone have concrete ideas? Bear in mind, this has to be something we can do. People always tell me to go on the Daily Show or some similar program. I don’t exactly have any media exposure (my co-author does), but I’d love to do it. However, there are a lot of people trying to go on TV to peddle their wares or their opinion. Heck, even people who know they’re going to get publicly humiliated by Jon Stewart show up with big smiles on their face. And my guess is that a lot of people think, like I do, that they have something unique that can change the world if word gets out. So what do I do from here?
A few minor steps I’ve taken…
1. I took out websites in my name and the book’s name. What should go on them at this time?
2. I took out twitter accounts in my name the book’s name. I’ve never used twitter before in my life. What do I do with these now?