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Guest Column: Adios, Book Deal

My first book came out last week, but there was just one problem: It was about Rick Perry. My co-author and I had to self-publish it, because when his campaign cratered, our publisher dropped us faster than you can say, “Oops.”

By Jason Stanford
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My first book came out last week. The subject is constantly in the headlines, and the first review called it “wickedly witty” and “engaging, imminently readable.” It even had a controversial title that the New York Times refused to print — and more penis jokes than you find in your average Judd Apatow movie. You might expect it would be kind of a big deal.

There was just one problem. The book was about Rick Perry. And when he plummeted in the polls, our publisher dropped us faster than the governor could say, “Oops.” (Granted, that took almost a minute.) Adios, Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush is now out as an e-book and will soon be in paperback, but now without a publisher.

It’s just my co-author, James Moore, and me. You probably read another book he wrote (along with Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News) called Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential. That book got him on the Today show, Real Time With Bill Maher, and the New York Times bestseller list. Someone even made a film version. Writing a book with Moore and losing your publisher because the world suddenly stops caring is like making an album with Keith Richards, only to be forced to ask your mom to pay to have the CD pressed and then hoping she’ll listen to it so at least someone will.

It’s hard to remember when there was once a bidding war for Adios, Mofo in New York. Six publishers made our agent promise to give them a chance to bid on the proposal once Perry announced for president. When he rocketed to the top of the Republican field and looked like a tea-vangelical Ronald Reagan from the red states, a heartthrob for the angry mob, Moore and I ended up with a book deal that made national news.

And then Perry opened his mouth. Bless his heart.

Apparently he's found a new way to screw Democrats. He's run such a bad campaign that we lost our book deal. Heck, he's run such a bad campaign that he made Adios, Mofo look positively professional in contrast, even though most days I just sat at my desk wearing boxers and an undershirt. Of course, while Perry was stepping awkwardly on his own one-liners, I was writing jokes that our one review called “seasoned with biting humor and chortle-inducing details.” You take your wins where you get them, even if it’s a single review that you quote obsessively for comfort.

Now I’m spending Thanksgiving in Los Angeles with my brother. He once wrote a screenplay that was made into a feature film starring Glenn Close, Ralph Fiennes and Allison Janney. You probably didn’t see it because the studio decided not to spend a dime on publicity. It spent two weeks in theaters, making less at the box office than a decent car costs. Perhaps while we’re in L.A, we’ll also see our cousin, the singer-songwriter. His major-label debut album came out in 2008. A month later, his label dropped him. So I’m not even the first person this has happened to in my own family, and I probably won’t be the last. But next time, please let it happen to a Republican, or at least not a relative.

It’s hard to walk through an airport and see the bookstores that will never stock Adios, Mofo. Soon I’ll hope to be able to watch The Daily Show and not feel a pang about what might have been. There will be no book tour, no reading at Powell’s Books back home in Portland, no bestseller lists — not even an Adios, Mofo ball cap to remember this by. I hope this is what Perry feels like when he sees the polls that have him flirting with Rick Santorum in single digits.

People are reading Adios, Mofo and enjoying it, but its ultimate prospects are tied to Perry’s fortunes. That is, they stink. It’s selling well on Kindle, the e-book version of your band being big in Belgium. If Perry makes a comeback in Iowa, Adios, Mofo will be a different story, putting this Democrat in the horrible position of profiting from his potential success.

But don’t cry for me, Waxahachie. I wrote a funny book with a good friend, and that ain’t nothing. After 20 years of putting words in politicians’ mouths, I got to have my own say about Texas. And no publisher or politician can take that away from me.

Democratic strategist and blogger Jason Stanford managed Chris Bell's run for governor in 2006.

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