(Update: I wanted to add an update to this post about something I find interesting relating to publishing. In twenty years of publishing I have never had anyone edit or write my bio, not even with pen names I have used sometimes. Maybe this is something more common in non-fiction?)
First, we all make mistakes. The point of this post isn’t political and it’s not to target Miriam Goderich for making a mistake twenty years ago when she was an assistant. And, I am not, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be a “Birther.” I find the entire “Birther” concept laughable at best.
I’ve been a regular reader of the Dystel & Goderich blog since it started. While I don’t always agree with their posts because they tend to be slanted at times, I do respect them as publishing professionals. And when I saw this article this morning, of course it caught my eye.
Obama’s former literary agency misidentified his birthplace as Kenya while trying to promote the then-Harvard Law grad as an author in 1991.
Miriam Goderich edited the text of the bio; she is now a partner at the Dystel & Goderich agency, which lists Obama as one of its current clients.
Here’s the bio:
Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii. The son of an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister, he attended Columbia University and worked as a financial journalist and editor for Business International Corporation. He served as project coordinator in Harlem for the New York Public Interest Research Group, and was Executive Director of the Developing Communities Project in Chicago’s South Side. His commitment to social and racial issues will be evident in his first book, Journeys in Black and White.
Clearly, this was a mistake. But I do think it’s interesting to point out that a literary professional allegedly made this mistake, especially since I’ve been harping about self-publishing always getting a bad rap lately. And this was a HUGE mistake. She fucked up a future President’s bio! (I guess she forgot all about it when he was elected?) I only write erotic m/m romance and I take great care to make sure my bio is authentic, as with everything else I post that’s personal on this blog. I would imagine most authors and agents do this…but then there was that incident with James Frey.
But the point is we all make mistakes, even the grandest of them all. And those mistakes should be forgivable. So the next time you see a self-published book that isn’t perfect, or has a few misspelled words, remember that it could always be much worse. You could be reading a book published by a large publisher you paid top dollar for, sold to them by a literary agency that didn’t get some very significant facts right. No one is perfect, including me.