Photo on 2010-09-01 at 23.04

Received The Dreaded Letter today from HarperCollins—one no author ever wants to receive. The ol’ publishing house has (egad) 23,202 hardcover copies of my Roger Clemens biography, The Rocket That Fell to Earth, sitting around, and they’re offering to sell me a bunch at $1.55 per copy before shipping them off to be peddled in $1 bins nationwide.

In other words, the book pretty much tanked.

Well, sort of. It’s probably sold about 15,000 copies, which would be excellent for most. But when a company invests largely in a book, and that book fails to meet expectations, you take a hit. It’s inevitable.

Luckily, my track record as a sports biographer is—I must say—pretty darn good. Four books, two NYT best sellers. I’m no Rowling or King, but I’m probably (and, admittedly, this is a guess) one of the, oh, top 10 best-selling sports authors out there right now (in terms of sales). The two books that sold the best, Mets and Cowboys, were built on funny stories and dogged reporting. The two books that flopped, Bonds and Clemens, were damned by bad timing and steroid fatigue. Both received excellent reviews but, hey, shit happens.

I’m in the midst of writing book No. 5, and while one can never guarantee sales, I do know that:

A. The guy I’m writing about didn’t take HGH.

B. Nobody else is doing the same book.

PS: Above is a photo of me with the box of free books Harper sent me. It didn’t sell well, but I love those guys.

PPS: People ask, “Why write about stuff like this?” Answer: Because honesty is liberating, and there’s nothing wrong with falling short—as long as you learn from it and move forward. I have.

9 thoughts on “23,202”

  1. Sure I’ve said this before, Jeff, but I came away with a whole new appreciation of BB and RC from your biographies of each brilliant but flawed person. Just fuels anticipation for the next one!

  2. You don’t need me to tell you this, I’m sure, but I read and thought you did a great job on the Clemens good. Own a copy of the Bonds book and look forward to reading it soon.

  3. Jeff, I don’t think you should for one minute consider this any sort of personal failure. If the book tanked, it had more to do with the subject than the author. It’s fun learning about the 86 Mets and the Cowboys – less fun spending time with shitty people like Clemens and Bonds who we’ve hated to watch for years. It doesn’t mean that the book was anything less than great, just that people didn’t want to spend time with the subject.

  4. Jeff, I know we’re not on the best of terms right now, but gotta say, even I, your dumb former friend, hate to see a fellow writer achieve less than he should. You worked your butt off — as always — on that Clemens book, and it was darn solid.

    That said, your Cowboys book was awesome. Grew up in a family of rabid Cowboys fans, and like all kids, imitated Emmett Smith and Michael Irvin in backyard football games for years. Crazy learning about the other sides of them.

    Haven’t read the Mets one yet, but I should.

    Looking forward to your next book, too. Have always been a fan of the subject, even though I never actually saw him play. Heard and read lots of great things about him from people who did. Can’t wait to read his story.

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