Against all odds, the first book out of the gate on the 2008 election comes not from The Washington Post’s Daniel Balz, Time’s Mark Halperin, or Newsweek’s Evan Thomas, but Niall Stanage of Ireland’s Sunday Business Post, whose account of Barack Obama’s fight for the nomination and his victory in the general election has been available in bookstores on the other side of the ocean since early December.
Mr. Stanage, who regularly filed pieces from the campaign trail for this paper in addition to the reporting he did for the Sunday Business Post, said his book—entitled Redemption Song: An Irish Reporter Inside the Obama Campaign—is being officially released in the United States today.
How did Mr. Stanage get it done so fast?
"Around February, I realized that there was something fairly special going on with Obama," he said, "but I knew that no publisher would take it on until he was the nominee, or at least the overwhelming favorite to be the nominee."
In May, he secured an agent, and flew to Ireland to meet with publishers the following month after the primaries ended. A few were interested, according to Mr. Stanage, but in the end a decision was made to go with a relatively young but well-established independent house called Liberties Press.
"I started actually writing the book on the weekend of July the 4th, and by election day I had everything but the final chapter and the preface written," Mr. Stanage said. "Those were submitted exactly a week after election day."
The bulk of the editing was already done at that point, so Liberties was able to send the finished book to the printer around November 18th and have it in stores less than two weeks later.
Finding an American publisher who could move as quickly proved difficult, Mr. Stanage said, so Liberties linked up with the distributor Dufour Editions and just shipped the Irish edition here instead. This explains the subtitle—"An Irish Reporter Inside the Obama Campaign"—which Mr. Stanage, who has been living in New York for five years, said he would have preferred to scrub from the American edition because it makes the book sound like more of a niche product than it is.
"The ‘Irish’ thing is slightly odd," he said. "There’s only one chapter in the book that deals with Irish-related issues, and other than that it’s a pretty straight account from the 2004 speech to the night he was elected president. The Irish thing is quite a small component."
The alternative, Mr. Stanage said, was to wait until April or May, which would mean giving up a big chunk of his advantage over competing projects from Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas (which according to Amazon.com is out this week from PublicAffairs), Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson (whom Viking has scheduled for the second half of 2009) and Mark Halperin and John Heilemann (whose account of the election is coming from HarperCollins in the fall).
"It’s difficult for a book that is identified as being from an Irish writer from an independent publisher rather than one of the big corporations to make a big dent in terms of bestseller status," Mr. Stanage said, in response to a question about his expectations for the book. "That said, I don’t think it’s out of the question that it’ll do reasonably well. It’s a substantial enough book that’s out there early enough to do something."