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.