Petraeus book shows that scandal sells

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking at biographies a little differently now.

The relationship between CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell (not to be confused with the actual writer of the biography, Vernon Loeb), has me wondering what might have happened between other biographers and their living sources.

Is the Petraeus/Broadwell affair a fluke? Most certainly . . . but I can’t help but wonder if joining Biographers International Association (BIO) and adding biographies to my writing credits might improve my social life.

Real writer was “dumbfounded”

While the Petraeus/Broadwell (and now Jill Kelley/Gen. John Allen) affair was a surprise to even writer Loeb (“I was dumbfounded,” he writes in The Washington Post), it probably thrills Penguin Press, the publisher of All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.

The book released in January is currently at 167 on the Amazon sales list, yet has more one-star than five-star comments on the retail site. The average rating, out of five max, is 2.8. And yet, it’s pretty close to being one of the top 100 sellers today (and might have been in the top 100 earlier this week).

That, my friends, is the impact a good scandal can have on your book sales. Which makes me think that joining BIO might help my social life and my checking account. Petraeus will need a true biography at some point, so I’d like to be well-positioned for the assignment by then. I’ll just have to advise him not to expect a happy ending.

Off-topic, but worth discussing: Do you think that Holly Petraeus will stay with her husband?


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  1. You’re so right about the power of scandal. Nothing gets people talking and speculating like focusing on somebody else’s missteps.

    As for Holly Petraeus staying with her husband? Absolutely. She’s gone over bumps in the road with him before, undoubtedly. She’ll come to terms with this and keep her lifestyle.

  2. Sandra, all I can say is “huh”?

    What is a biographer if it isn’t the person who writes the book? Is this a common practice, to have both a biographer and an author?

    How do I get an assignment where I get to write a biography without having to do something as tedious as writing?

    This scandal is no surprise to his wife. Whether he is off in Afghanistan or “working” with his biographer, she has a life that doesn’t involve him except for financial support.

    The wife has long known that something was going on when he was spending all that time with a biographer who doesn’t write.


    1. “Huh?” is right! As soon as I heard about her background, I thought, “She’s not a writer. She must have had a collaborator on this.” And yup, she did. But no, I don’t think it’s common practice. This is a little different because she had such, um, unfettered access to the general. It reminds me of the more conventional ghostwriting deal where the content expert has the knowledge and the platform, but can’t write or doesn’t have the time for it, so a ghostwriter is hired.

      As for the wife…it will be interesting to hear her side of the story. I’m sure one of the TV networks will eventually get that scoop. How unfortunate that her humiliation and disappointment are so public. I’m sure she deserves better than this.

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