The allegations by two women that Minnesota Senator Al Franken touched them inappropriately is reverberating beyond the corridors of Capitol Hill into the hallways of New York publishing. The politician and former comedian has seen the scandal impact the publicity schedule for his current bestseller, Al Franken: Giant of the Senate (Hachette/Twelve).
After the first accusation surfaced last week, Franken, whose aforementioned memoir was released in May, canceled two major appearances. He ducked out of a closing-night appearance at the Miami Book Fair (set for Sunday), as well as a Monday evening appearance in Atlanta at the Marcus Jewish Community Council (which was also a closing-night event of a book festival).
Juan Mendieta, the director of communications at Miami Dade College which hosts the Miami Book Fair, said Franken's publisher called on Friday to cancel the author's scheduled appearance. Mendieta said no reason was given for the cancellation. The event was free, but required a ticket for entry. The scheduled sales of Giant of the Senate at the venue did not take place.
A representative of the Marcus JCC said the organization received a phone call from Twelve on Thursday afternoon cancelling Franken’s appearance; representatives were still contacting ticket-holders on Monday afternoon and offering refunds for the sold-out event.
Paul Samuelson, Twelve publicity director, told PW that the publisher had indeed canceled Franken's appearances in Miami and Atlanta. Samuelson, who said Franken has no other author events scheduled this calendar year, declined to comment on whether or not Twelve will take any action involving the book in light of the brewing controversy surrounding Franken.
Despite the impact the scandal seems to be having on Franken's public appearances, booksellers in the politician's home state told PW that, for the moment, they are standing behind their highly-regarded representative.
All Minnesota booksellers who responded to PW said they are taking a wait-and-see attitude with Franken and his book, which has been selling well in the state. Giant of the Senate was also featured in this year’s Midwest Independent Booksellers Association holiday catalog, which recently was distributed to the 125 bookstore members of the organization. (Booksellers, in turn, distribute the catalog to their customers.)
“We’ve already had customers stop by and commiserate,” said Judith Kissner, owner of Scout & Morgan Books in Cambridge, Minn., which has sold 300 copies of Giant of the Senate. “I am stocking it as I would any other book, especially since it’s in our holiday catalog.”
“Sales of the book have come to a screeching halt,” said Sally Wizik Wills, owner of Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery in Park Rapids, Minn. Wills recently transferred Giant of the Senate to a bottom shelf in her store, noting that it "doesn’t have such prominent placement anymore, but it’s in our catalog.” Beagle and Wolf has sold 66 copies of the book to date which, she noted, "is a huge amount for us.”
In an email, Carrie Obry, MIBA’s executive director, said she felt it was "too soon to draw any conclusions" about Franken, especially since he "has apologized to both accusers and fully welcomed an ethics committee review of the allegations." In terms of his book, Obry said that "booksellers will decide for themselves. From what I've heard, most are choosing to carry the title because it is in the catalog. I suppose the sell-through depends on what happens in the news in the upcoming days and weeks.”