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Monday, June 17, 2024

How to Create a Liberal Best-seller

By Jennifer NixGreenwald sat down to write. There was a printer to find, a distributor to lure, an editorial team to assemble, and all of it managed by a quickly-formed publishing division at the San Francisco headquarters of Working Assets. After some very long days, we delivered the book to the printer on April 24. The day before, I sent digital manuscripts to seven bloggers I’d been working with and asked them to post about the book, if they found it worthy. Within days How Would a Patriot Act? rose from obscurity to number one on Amazon largely because those initial blogs ignited a wildfire of mentions and purchase links throughout the blogosphere. The book stayed there for nearly four days. This sent a shock wave through progressive publishing circles and got stores around the country interested in making Patriot buys. The book’s publication date was May 15 and since then has hit the Washington Post and New York Times bestseller list.This book rose to best-sellerdom primarily because of the pre-launch push from progressive blogs. Later came a front-page San Francisco Chronicle piece, some trade coverage and small mentions in New York Times and New York Observer, but this book has received very little mainstream coverage. No TV, a little radio–mostly Air America. Working Assets did send an e-mail blast about the book, and we got some help from a few organizations, like Drinking Liberally, American Constitution Society, Independent Press Association, and NDN/ New Politics Institute. But the book has not received help from the big membership groups.This is a success story and a tipping point for the blogosphere. Greenwald went from first-time blogger to best-selling author in a little over six months on the strength of his ideas, which were formulated online, and the distribution power made possible by the Internet. And Greenwald’s success was fueled by the passion of the blog communities.This story is also a lesson for progressives. At a time when the right is insisting that the left has no ideas and mainstream media seem unwilling or unable to cover progressive ideas intelligently, we must create our own vehicles to carry our ideas to the American public. And we must build upon what we know is possible when the blogs work together. Progressive membership groups should join in, and help to lift up new voices and ideas. It’s not about just selling books. It’s about making our ideas successful in the marketplace, so that more Americans can hear about them. Successful ideas spread, as we’ve seen with the collaborative promotion of documentaries from Robert Greenwald (no relation to Glenn) and Al Gore.There are plenty of other important books progressives should get behind, like Eric Boehlert’s Lapdogs, David Sirota’s Hostile Takeover and J.R. Norton’s Saving General Washington With the savvy leveraging of our assets in the blogosphere and the success of Glenn Greenwald’s book, perhaps the time has come for progressive ideas to get fair hearing in the national debate.As a book publisher, it is the best phone call you can make to an author: “Hi, there. Just wanted to let you know that your book has hit the New York Times bestseller list!” I made that call to Glenn Greenwald, author of How Would a Patriot Act?, on June 1, after getting the best call a publisher can receive.From the perspective of an independent, progressive publisher, this victory also illustrates a new model for creating chartable vehicles to package progressive ideas. This three-week ride on the bestseller list is a success story that should be replicated–early and often.How Would a Patriot Act? was developed, written, edited, published, distributed and ushered onto the bestseller list in exactly three months. I met Greenwald during a fellowship offered by Working Assets, the progressive, 20-year-old telecommunications and credit card company. Working Assets president Michael Kieschnick had charged me in January with studying the progressive blogosphere to identify emerging talent and ideas.Note: The article was first published on The Nation website.

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