Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bobby E's Bookapalooza

OK, so…recently I stated that I wouldn’t blog about this particular subject. But I have always believed that, if fate stations you in front of a piñata and puts a stick in your hand, you’re obligated to take a swing.

For me, my piñata moment came when I went to my mailbox and found a copy of an invitation to the “special release party” for former Governor Bob Ehrlich’s long-awaited book, Turn This Car Around, courtesy of the Maryland Republican Party.

Recently the details of the book release party attracted a lot of speculation among politicos I interact with. Some told me the price to attend the event, scheduled for December 1st in Glen Burnie, was as high as $5,000. Others said the price of admission was a more modest $50.

Well, it turns out everyone was right.

The invitation includes a fundraising letter bearing an ersatz signature of newly minted author Ehrlich. Send the Maryland GOP a check for $50, the letter reads, and you will get an “advance, signed” copy of the new book.

Getting an author to sign a copy of his book usually boosts its value - intrinsic or otherwise. So inviting people already inclined to buy the book to shell out $50 to help the state’s ailing GOP and upgrade to a signed copy seems like a reasonable ask to me.

Also included in the packet was a printed invitation to the event itself. Tickets to the general reception are $125 per individual and $200 per couple. Each scenario comes with one signed/inscribed book.

Again, as fundraisers go, those ticket prices aren’t unreasonable. And, at least you get a souvenir to take home with you. Though, I wonder if couples attending the event will fight over who gets to keep the book.

But if you want to go to the “VIP reception,” the state GOP expects you to dig a whole lot deeper.

If you want a signed book AND your picture taken with the author, you have three scenarios to choose from:

  • A $5,000 “U-Turn” Sponsorship, which includes 10 event tickets and books;
  • A $2,500  “3-Point Turn” Sponsorship, which includes six tickets and books; and
  • A $1,000 “Swerve” Sponsorship, which consists of four tickets and books.

I can remember when Ehrlich personally signed copies of his administration’s glossy “legacy” book for free back during the 2007 Maryland State Fair.  What’s changed since then – except for another election loss and a few indictments?  

Depending on the scenario you choose, participation in one of the sponsorship deals pushes the price of each signed book into the $250 - $500 range. In order to gauge the fairness of this pricing, I decided to check out what gift shops at some of the presidential libraries are charging for signed books.

At the Bill Clinton Library in Little Rock, signed copies of his autobiography sell for $500, and his book Giving can be had for $350.

At the George H. W. Bush Library in Houston, copies of Bush 41’s book All The Best, George Bush sell for $650.

As for George W. Bush, his library is still under construction in Dallas. But, signed, slip-cased, hand-numbered copies of his autobiography retail for $499 at his father’s library.

For each of these pricey books, proceeds are going to support a cause. In the presidents’ case, the money is going to their presidential foundations.  

In Ehrlich’s case, the monies raised from the December event appear to be going into the coffers of Maryland's cash-strapped GOP.

Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing for those of us who believe in a competitive, two-party Maryland. But for me, this bookapalooza event raises two basic questions.

First, are people really going to want to shell out up to $500 per signed copy of Ehrlich’s book?

After all, he’s not running for office again, and the big money people expected to attend one of the sponsorship events probably already got their pictures taken with him multiple times in the past.

Second, does it send the right message for the state GOP to be charging up to $5,000 to attend a book signing during such dire economic times?

Lefties routinely accuse the GOP of being a party of elitists, and such an event seemingly gives them additional fodder to do so. So unless the event results in some giant cash windfall for Alex Mooney and company, I think that – symbolically speaking – it does more harm than good.

So, if I were the state GOP, I would have stuck with the general reception scenario. To do otherwise demonstrates a preccupation with the one percent who might pay instead of the 99 percent who will vote.

Or, perhaps I would have added a $16.30 “Tow This Car Away” option. That’s how much it costs to pre-order the book on Amazon without having to leave your home.


  1. Brilliant. Insightful. Humorous. As always!

  2. You missed the obvious question: Why is the state party doing this thing? Yes, I know, MDGOP needs money, but given that they are supposedly suing to overturn the congressional districts because they undercut minority voting strength, isn't it kind of stepping on the message for MDGOP to be doing an event for a guy whose campaigns specialized in confusing and suppressing the black vote?

  3. Hi Anon:

    Excellent point on the voter suppression irony issue.

    The timing of this thing intrigues me, too. The last I saw, the robocall trial was supposed to start in late November - the same general time as the book release. Is this an attempt to change the subject by the remnants of Team Ehrlich.

  4. Priceless: A signed copy of the book at the Court House w/ith a photo you, Bob, Paul & Julius at the Court House!