Though U.S. senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash three years ago, two university presses are betting that his political following is still strong enough to support two trade paperbacks this fall, both by the same author, and both topping their publisher's lists. But will the audience that made George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant! a bestseller rise again in a non-election year?
University of Minnesota Press is convinced it could happen. The press has set a 30,000-copy first printing for the activist primer Politics the Wellstone Way: How to Elect Progressive Candidates and Win on Issues, edited by Bill Lofy. Meanwhile, the University of Michigan Press will print 5,000 copies of the biography Paul Wellstone: The Life of a Passionate Progressive, also written by Lofy, who is the communications director for Wellstone Action!, a political education group with more than 100,000 members founded by Wellstone's two sons. Both books are due out next month.
Though the presses have separate promo campaigns for the two titles, their similar efforts take a page from Chelsea Green's playbook for Lakoff. They are reaching out to progressive Web sites, including Wellstone.org, MoveOn.org and commondreams.org, as well as to labor unions, bloggers on Daily Kos and Buzzflash, and radio programs on NPR, Air America and community radio stations.
The books will also get what amounts to a national tour. Michigan is sending Lofy to Washington, D.C., for a September 6 appearance at the Women's National Press Club, while Minnesota has booked an event at Micawber's Books in St. Paul on September 25, to coincide with the dedication of the new Wellstone Memorial. Later, Lofy will crisscross the Midwest, promoting the bio at bookstores, colleges and libraries, while Jeff Blodgett, Wellstone Action!'s executive director and a contributor to the political primer, will also make tour stops around the nation. The two colleagues will even make separate appearances at some of the same Minnesota venues, such as Carleton College, where Wellstone taught political science for 23 years.