The Big Book Business

<B>Andy Rooney</B> On Richard Clarke's Bestselling Book

There are very few people who don't plan to write a book someday - just as soon as they have time. This makes me mad because I write books, and I don't like the suggestion that it's easy, because it isn't.

People never say they're going to do some brain surgery or play a violin concert when they find time. Why does everyone think they can write a book?

People think everyone who writes a book gets rich on it too, and that isn't true, either. I've written 14 of them. I spent a year on this last one and it was a Worst Seller. Good thing I have a day job.

The book people are buying now is Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies." The subtitle is "Inside America's War On Terror." I don't like that title. "Terror" means fear and we're not afraid. We're at war with terrorism, not with terror.

Just a few months ago another Clark -- Wesley, the general -- wrote "Winning Modern Wars." He used "terrorism" properly in his subtitle: "Iraq, Terrorism, and the American Empire."

I don't like books with subtitles anyway, though. I don't read books with two names on the jacket either because usually one person wrote it and the well-known person just put his name on it. When it says something like "Written with..." you know that "with" actually wrote the book.

At least Clarke wrote his himself.

The price inside says $27, but in most stores, you can get it for $20. The bookstore gets half of $27, no matter what they sell it for. Big bookstores also often get money on a dirty deal they have with publishers who pay them to display their books in prominent places up front in the store.

The writer gets 15 percent of the list price, so Richard Clarke would make about $4.00 on each book. It'll probably sell close to 1 million copies, and he could make about 25 times what he made in a year in his old government job.

Americans spend four times as much buying books as they spend going to the movies -- a surprising figure -- so books are big business. Of course, people buy more books than they read. I know that.

Simon and Schuster, who published Clarke's book, is owned by Viacom. Viacom also owns CBS Television, which owns me, of course. So I can't decide what I think about Richard Clarke, but don't expect me to agree with President Bush that "Against All Enemies" is a bad book.
Written By Andy Rooney
  • Rebecca Leung

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