Publishers Overpay for Obama-Related Memoirs

President's obscure half-brother the latest to cash in on Obama publishing phenom

Aspiring writers, fear not: a string of recent book deals show that anybody -- anybody -- can become a published author. The only thing you need is some tenuous connection to best-selling author Barack Obama.

George Obama, the president's half-brother and a man whom he barely knows, recently signed a book deal with Simon & Schuster -- one that's rumored to be in the six-figure range. And what did he do to earn this book deal? He did a whole lot more than being the president's half-brother whom he barely knows, that's for sure!

"Even had George Obama not been our President's half brother, his story is moving and inspirational," David Rosenthal, Simon & Schuster publisher and executive vice president, said in a statement Sunday. "It is an object lesson in survival, selflessness and courage."

OK, fine. President Obama's long-lost, impoverished brother probably does have an interesting story to tell. But let's not kid ourselves. A lot of people have interesting stories, and they do not have their incomplete memoirs acquired by major publishers -- generally, because they are not related to famous people with stellar book sales.

Will George Obama's memoirs sell as well as, say, President Obama's half-sister's picture book, or Michelle Obama's brother's inspirational book, or for that matter President Obama's dog's book for children? Maybe! Unlike Maya Soetoro-Ng and Craig Robinson, George at least has the Obama name to splash all over his book cover.

The guy can't be faulted for trying to cash in -- after all, he doesn't exactly live in the lap of luxury, and maybe his story is as "moving and inspirational" as promised. But publishers can be blamed for a certain lack of imagination. These days, if you want to get your memoir or your children's book into stores, you'd better be able to prove how it relates to Barack Obama. Otherwise, no dice.

So, for the foreseeable future, the book lists are flooded with Obamabilia. And once we get sick of this president, as we get sick of all presidents eventually, what alternative nonfiction options will we have? Oh, right: a string of books by a bunch of Republicans.

Maybe people will finally start reading fiction again.

Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette when she isn't working on her inspirational memoir about how watching Barack Obama on the television changed her life.

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