Sarah Palin, the Truth Called. It Wants Its Books Back.

Sarah Palin, the Truth Called. It Wants Its Books Back. October 19, 2010
photo by Charles Krupa, AP

Being honest is a good starting point in building trust. — Sarah Palin

On a Barnes and Noble display table I yesterday came across a short stack of the paperback edition of Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue. (You know how at a Barnes and Noble, or at any big bookstore, they have all those books displayed on tables? No one who works at the store decided to put those books where they are. Book publishers pay a great deal of money to have their books so displayed. The closer the table is to the front of the store, the more it costs. Rather than honest recommendations, those books represent paid advertising space. Isn’t that … special?)

I’ve never before looked at Palin’s book. But in passing it yesterday, I noticed that on its cover, following Palin’s name, there was no “with” or “and.”

You know, as in “with Lynn Vincent,” or “and Lynn Vincent.” As in acknowledging Lynn Vincent, who was Palin’s co-author on the book.

Everyone in the book business knows that Lynn Vincent had a great deal to do with writing Going Rogue. And few if any of them at all sweat that; they all know that it’s practically unheard of for Famous People to write their own books. Writing is, after all, exceedingly difficult—so difficult, in fact, that it’s a given that no one has time to master writing and do whatever they did to make themselves famous enough for a publisher to gamble that they can make a lot of money from a book with their name and face on its cover.

Besides, who really cares about the writing of a book? That’s a detail handled readily enough. You can always hire someone (like me, actually) to tend to that for you.

Though a book’s denoted author and publisher might naturally enough care to downplay the fact that it had a co-author, they always at least acknowledge that co-author. You see it on the cover of countless books: [Famous Person—in big type] with or and [person you’ve never heard of—in small type]. (By the way, there’s a world of difference between that with and and. But … too much detail, I’m sure.)

If a publisher and author really want to hide a co-author’s involvement with a book, they can include the co-author’s name nowhere on the book besides its copyright page. But that’s the bare minimum acknowledgment. Outside of using invisible ink, there’s no lesser way to include a co-author’s name.

Lynn Vincent—who, again, was, shall we say, extremely instrumental in the writing of Going Rogue—didn’t even get that. Her name’s most definitely not on the book’s cover—and on the book’s copyright page (which you can view right here) it says nothing but “Copyright, 2009, Sarah Palin.”

That’s it. One author listed. (And that is the author’s call, by the way. If Palin wanted Lynn Vincent’s name on the cover or copyright page of her book, you can trust it would be there.)

It’s no secret that Lynn Vincent’s writing was literally indispensable to Going Rogue. While Vincent was working on that book that she and I were both on the “faculty” of a Christian writer’s conference. She was the full-on rock star of that conference: she was collaborating on Sarah Palin’s much-awaited book!

She actually knew Sarah Palin! In fact, she had actually left being holed up with Palin to attend the conference! Sarah Palin was actually waiting for her to get back!

Can you imagine what that’s like to a bunch of would-be (Christian) authors? People were positively swooning around Ms. Vincent—who seemed a nice person. Very sweet.

She did, however, tell us in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t free to say much if anything about Going Rogue. She intimated that its publisher had made it very clear she’d be in hot water if she did.

Here is Lynn Vincent’s personal web page, which she uses to promote her services as a co-author.

The most famous book she’s ever worked on—one of the best-selling books in the country—isn’t even listed.

I’m no particular fan of Sarah Palin’s; I think she’s no more suited for public office than I am to be a prison guard. And if she ever gets elected to anything more than winkin’ slogan-slinger, I’d be very happy to be proven wrong about that.

But this is a woman who sells herself on how forthright, and morally upstanding she is. And yet she’s very clearly done virtually all she can to take full credit for a book she didn’t even write—that’s all about her.

Palin has a new book out next month: America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag. It “celebrates the enduring strengths and virtues that have made this country great.”

Though acknowledging that America by Heart will have a collaborating writer, this time around HarperCollins (who also did Going Rogue) is keeping entirely mum about that writer’s identity.

They do, however, assure us that the book is written in Palin’s “own refreshingly candid voice.”

[Update: I’ve just learned that Lynn Vincent’s name does appear in Going Rogue. At the end of the book, under Acknowledgments, in the middle of the fourth paragraph down (after Palin has thanked thirty-seven other people — and a few sentences down from “Thank you for the opportunity to write a book!”), we read, “Thanks as well to Lynn Vincent for her indispensable help in getting the words on paper.” I’m actually astounded more by such a buried, cursory, and calculatingly dismissive reference to the book’s ghostwriter (what a difference there is between writing and helping to “get the words on paper”), than I was to think that Palin had chosen to simply ignore Vincent altogether.]


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  • Cygnetbrown

    I heard that they have already got Sarah Palin’s tombstone bought and paid for and in place in a cemetery in Alaska. It will read: Here lies Sarah Palin, an able politician and a very honest woman. (I wonder who the other two people are that will be buried with Sarah?)

  • Mickey Bruce

    …that’s just weird. well, it’s disturbingly weird, too.

  • Alden

    I think they call it “ghost writing.” It’s nothing new. I’m sure she had an agreement with Palin and was paid for the job she did.

  • Too bad her followers suffer from uncritical allegiance.

  • kenleonard

    Yes, but for Palin, who claims to be this real and folksy kind of person, to do something like that just because it’s nothing new proves what a phony she really is.

  • So it does kinda make you wonder how many of these political types actually write their own books.

    On a side not, I just looked up what some ghostwriters can make. It can be quite lucrative, and getting credit for the work may not be that big a priority if one is making a steady paycheck.

  • Mark

    As I’m sure you’re aware, John, this is not the first time the ghostwriters or cowriters for the famous and powerful have gone unacknowledged. Clinton’s (Bill’s) “My Life” (sorry for the quotation marks — I don’t know how to italicize or underline), Clinton’s (Hilary’s) “It Takes a Village,” Reagan’s “An American Life.” Isn’t this a matter of calling out water for being wet?

  • Dee Robertson

    I tried to write a comment about her but I just don’t care enough. She’s such a BAD example of what a Christian should be. Ugh.

  • JauntyJohn

    Naturally all Politicians and even most celebrities claim to be “honest.” No doubt in some way many actually are. But (for me) the point is that Ms. Palin’s political identity, her coin, if you will, is this “Gosh darn it I’m completely authentic, not like the phony elites in Washington and/or the ‘lamestream’ media!” (And it seems that any media outlet which questions or criticizes can fall under that label). Yes, ghost writing is common — giving the star top billing and the “co-author” very small billing is a standard. But it says something that the “co” credit is withheld so fully on the first book, and is practically at government clearance levels on the second.
    It’s just another example of people who claim to be a symbol of a particular set of “Christian, American values” not walking that talk nearly as well as they might.

  • Before I comment further – Are you a conservitive? Are you a democrat?

  • Ace

    I’ve seen a lot of this in the political ads running on television. Both candidates claiming “that other guy/gal” is “right at home in Washington!” and that they themselves, on the other hand, are “not another Washington politician!” even though it’s so baldly a lie.

    Kinda drives me up the wall.

  • Christian Beyer

    The question that is bothering me – and it bothers me to no end – is who in the world would ever want to read anything that this vapid creature had a hand in writing/dictating/observing someone else make up about herself? Can anyone in their right mind take this dame seriously?

    Oh. Yeah.

    This really sucks.

  • Don Whitt

    What’s really scary and creepy is that there is a base of people who think she’s presidential quality, that they would love to live in a world run by her. John McCain is, whatever he was before, responsible for unleashing this Medusa upon us.

  • Anonymous

    I’m someone who appreciates the truth. Comment away.

  • Peet

    Sarah Palin is my favorite pinata. A vain and uneducated huckster with a chip on her shoulder, who gets away with murder because she is camera-friendly. While this story is yet more proof of her mendacity, I would put it in my “Pope is Catholic, sun rises in east” file.

  • Susan

    I love you John Shore and hope you never waste any more of your time, talent, blog space on this person, as it is exactly what she wants…ignoring her is the only chance in hell we have to make her go away..

    Less sarah palin…more para-sailin’…

  • Anonymous

    “Mendacity” is such a great word. I always forget about it—but it’s such a winner. Um. Which I guess has not much to do with much. But great word! Thanks, Peet!

  • Anonymous

    “Medusa”! Man, what kind of brainiac’s convention am I running on this blog, anyway? I love it.

  • Leslie

    All right, I know this will show off my nerd credentials, but I need to know. What is the difference between and and with?

  • Peet

    Sure. Start talking about Palin and I instinctively reach for the thesaurus.

  • JAy.

    I give a hearty “Thank You” to John and all the commenters on this blog post. I needed a good laugh this evening, and this fit the bill perfectly! My whole aura has been lightened several shades of grey.

    (Now if I could somehow simplify the world of AT&T billing, I could make the whole world happy. I mean, come on, I was trying to give them money, and it took me over a half hour to do it!)

  • Talia

    I find it hilarious that you edited my comment but left my compliment to you in.
    Just when you post something awesome, you go and get all non-awesome. 😐 Dislike.

  • Talia

    Good on you. YEAH.

  • Anonymous

    Sigh. I edited two things out of your comment. The first was a suggestion you made for a change in my text. I liked your suggestion, and took it. I then deleted that suggestion from your comment, since thereafter it would be confusing for you to be suggesting a change that was already there. The other thing I edited out of your comment was a link you provided that was broken. Take away those two things, and we have what was left of your comment. Maybe you could consider being less quick to condemn.

  • Anonymous

    From the ghost or co-author, the quick answer is that “and” pays more; it carries more prestige. It connotes a higher level of involvement with the text of the book; it points more to a partnership than it does an assistant. Think co-star, as opposed to … accompaniment. So in publishing, it’s a definite thing people wrangle over.

  • Murf

    Let it never be said that I ALWAYS disagree with you, John. You’re right. Sarah Palin is not fit to govern and her character is reflected in her unwillingness to give Lynn Vincent her due. Sad.

  • Anonymous

    Proctology should teach any butt hole one truth. If they find themselves under the bright lights…they WILL be probed!

  • I was thinking Machiavillain maybe best describes this phenomena.

  • Brent

    I certainly agree with appreciating the truth and seeking it out despite media. Our core values tend to pull us towards different views of life from conservative to liberal which if not kept in balance can skew our vision a bit. I am reassessing my view of Sarah and finding less fact and more opinions. I apologize for being to forward in my original question. I will read on. It is a good article.

  • Brent

    I certainly agree with appreciating the truth and seeking it out despite media. Our core values tend to pull us towards different views of life from conservative to liberal which if not kept in balance can skew our vision a bit. I am reassessing my view of Sarah and finding less fact and more opinions. I apologize for being to forward in my original question. I will read on. It is a good article.

  • Marcelo

    How can I be so entertained and yet so repulsed at this spectacle known as Sarah Palin? Her entire persona is depressing, cringe-inducing, and hilarious, all the same time….

  • Mindy

    Why am I not remotely surprised about this?

  • Anonymous

    Now I have to wonder if anyone else who ever implied to be “real” or “in touch” with people, dared to have a book edited by a ghostwriter. I don’t think making such claims demands that they acknowledge their ghostwriters. While I’m definitely NOT a Palinite, I don’t necessarily think using Lynn Vincent’s talent to edit her book makes her a glaring hypocrite on that point alone.

  • Veneklasen4374

    Did any of you who know so much about Ms. Palin actually read the book?

  • Don Whitt

    Let’s not forget perspicacity. My personal fav.

  • laurie

    Like most accusations against popular conservatives, when you try to get the facts just the facts there is nothing. The only wrong doing by Ms. Palin that I can find in John’ article after reading it 4 times is that she didn’t acknowledge her assistant in the area where most people acknowledge it. Where is the crime in that. Before you started insinuating that she was dishonest did you contact her or the publisher to find out why? Isn’t it a violation of the golden rule to assume that just because the acknowledgement isn’t in the usual place that something dishonest is going on? Or do you assume that just because she doesn’t agree with your ideology and because people like her that there must be something nefarious going on?

  • Kara K

    The “wrongness” is that out of one side of her mouth she will say “Being honest is a good starting point in building trust” and the other side she (and her handlers) attempt to make us believe that she is capable of writing a book. It’s kinda like a woman stating she’s a natural beauty after 4 hours in the salon. Or responding “all of them” after being asked what publications she reads.

  • Mike Burns

    Of all the things that I dislike about Palin, her not acknowledging her ghost-writer is the trivial.

  • DR

    Dear Laurie,

    I don’t need to read Palin’s book because she’s made sure all of the information about her, her family and her politics has been available for the last few years. Plus, the conservatives in my life tell me to not to touch her with a ten-foot pole – I’m just following their lead.

  • DR

    Dear Laurie,

    Did you actually *read* the post? Meaning, read to understand the post? As for this comment, “when you try to get the facts just the facts there is nothing”, let me link you to about 13 conservative scandals where there was certainly “something” if you’re interested. If you’re going to blame conservatives getting busted on ethics violations, adultery scandals, sexual scandals, money scandals on the “liberal media” though, let me know and I won’t waste my time.

  • DR

    This is a general question based on Laurie’s comment: Do any conservatives who are reasonable and educated even *like* Sarah Palin? I have a ton of really wonderfully smart, sensitive, conservatives in my life who think she is the worst thing that’s happened to conservative politics in years. The Republican party has even distanced itself from her. But am I wrong?

  • Mindy

    Laurie, I’m curious. What is about Ms. Palin that appeals to you? I’m not trying to start an argument, I just want to understand it. I admit to being a liberal, but I am capable of respecting conservatives – I have conservative family members who can provide reasonable arguments for their positions. While we may not agree, we can discuss our positions and see where the other is coming from.

    Politically, why do you support her?

  • Mindy

    What is frightening to me is this whole new crop of uneducated hucksters whose primary attribute seems to be their camera-friendliness. Bachmann, O’Donnell, Palin . . . . yikes.

  • jes

    If it’s a Machiavellian plot, who’s driving her?

  • John,

    Sarah seems to have the same impact as a car accident. You simply cannot help but stare. Unfortunately, my parents seem to absolutely adore her and think everything she says is the gospel, which, if I remember correctly, was also ghost written for God. But at least HE acknowledged the authors on their contribution.

  • laurie

    Mindy, thank you for your politeness. Before I answer your question, what do you know about Ms. Palin, that has come directly from her and not from the media?

    On another tangent, I believe it would be a really great idea in the spirit of Christian charity if people would only critique themselves and the politicians whose ideas they support. Not only would that make the world a nicer place and with better dialogue. For example, Why do we see no criticism on Christian liberal blogs of President Obama (as rep. of the U.S.) bowing to the Saudi King? Is that not a much more serious threat to American democracy than how much of a book is written by an assistant?

  • Christian

    I fear that there is no one at the helm. And she’s not even that hot looking, btw.

  • Don Whitt


    I’ll be your huckleberry…

    I’ve watched Ms. Palin’s speeches, appearances on TV and read a good portion of her writings and interviews. In my opinion, she’s a vapid high school mean girl and ex-beauty queen turned politico. She pitches stupid platitudes and tries to pass them off as folksy wisdom. And the continued support and promotion of a nitwit like Palin by “conservatives” causes our country’s credibility to sink lower and lower – it makes us a global laughing stock.

    And she’s a QUITTER. She took the support and trust of Alaskans – the voters who elected her to governor – and tossed it aside when it looked to be advantageous monetarily and politically. She is obviously a narcissist who can’t resist any chance to get more attention, regardless of her commitments. She is disgusting and loathsome.

  • Palin struck me as a grasping, narcissistic opportunist from the get-go. That’s sad and disheartening, but it’s not shocking. That’s just American politics in the 21st Century.

    That so many people buy into her exceedingly obvious, exceedingly shallow self-promotion is shocking to me, however.

    But then, as George Carlin once said, think about how dumb the average American is, and then remind yourself that 50% of Americans are even dumber than that…

  • Everyone’s books are edited, and many are co-written and some are ghost-written. The level of disclosure regarding the latter situation depends on the contract entered into by the parties involved. That’s just business.

    I think it would have helped Palin’s image a bit if she’d been more upfront about her book being co/ghost-written, but it’s not like anyone seriously thought she wrote that book all by herself, right…right…??

  • Anonymous

    It”s rare (as far as anything I’ve ever known or heard of) for book contracts to spell out exactly how a book’s co-author will ultimately be acknowledged on the cover of a book. (Ghostwriters, by definition, aren’t acknowledged at all.) What’s interesting about the Palin/Vincent deal is that it changed. Throughout the book’s pre-press and launch, HarperCollins didn’t at all try to hide Vincent’s work on the book. (I didn’t write it because I couldn’t recall for sure, but I believe at first “Going Rogue” was [naturally enough] featured prominently on Vincent’s personal web page.) Somewhere along the line, all that seemed to change: at some point, someone in power decided to virtually as far as possible minimize Vincent’s instrumental work. And we see that, for the second Palin book, HC is, from the get-go, remaining as silent about the book’s co-author as it possibly can.

    And yes, I think the majority of the million or so people who bought “Going Rogue” did believe that Palin wrote it: no one was telling them that she didn’t. That’s what makes it so venal.

  • jes

    So she’s more of a Flying Dutchman than a Machiavellian figurehead.

  • jes

    “For example, Why do we see no criticism on Christian liberal blogs of President Obama (as rep. of the U.S.) bowing to the Saudi King?” Probably because they were all awfully busy defensively pointing out all the times Bush kissed (cheeks and hands) and bowed to other world leaders.

    But if you really think that all liberals everywhere worship the ground Obama walks on, you’re just not paying attention. As with most political choices, many liberals think he’s (varying degrees) less bad than the Republican choices, but he’s far from fallible. Go check out how many liberals are criticizing him this week along over the DADT thing, for example.

    And for us sort of middle ground people trying to decide which way to vote, McCain had several points in his favor in my mind, until he made such a stunningly horrid choice of running mate, after which there was no way on this planet I was voting for him, for fear of what would happen if the VP had to take over at some point.