The Power of a Presidential Plug

This week the White House released President Obama’s reading list for his family vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, and it includes fellow crime writer and friend George Pelecanos‘s “The Way Home,” a fabulous book. The inclusion of a crime novel on the President’s list reminded me of the influence then-President Bill Clinton had on the career of Michael Connelly when he was photographed leaving Washington DC’s MysteryBooks with an advanced copy of Connelly’s Concrete Blonde.

Out of curiosity, and always seeking online procrastination, I checked out The Way Home’s Amazon rank in the hope Pelecanos got a similar bump: #400 after three months in print. Not too shabby. My father’s “Rain Gods” got a nice spike in sales last week after Bill O’Reilly plugged it on his show. My cousin Andre Dubus III got a super-ball-sized bounce when House of Sand and Fog made Oprah’s book club.

Given the power of a president’s or pundit’s plug, why are the backs of novels still filled with blurbs from fellow writers? Should publishers pursue praise from politicians and personalities instead? Sorry, I got carried away with the alliteration there, but I think I’m on to something.

People who aren’t in the business of books might be harder to lock in, and of course there’s no reason to think they know more about novels than respected authors, but if these are the blurbs that will bring books to readers, why aren’t publishers doing more of this? Especially when publishers increasingly share corporate links to the broader news, entertainment, and political worlds?

If you see some unexpected blurbs on the back of my next book, 212, you’ll know I took this little idea and ran with it. Do you think Dick Cheney might like my books?

In the meantime, did I ever tell you about the time Bill Clinton called me about my first novel? The man’s an avid mystery reader and apparently enjoyed Judgment Calls. Now only if I’d taken a picture….
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