What's inside Speaking Up, the postponed children's book about Sarah Palin.

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July 29 2010 9:58 AM

Was This Children's Book About Sarah Palin Unfit To Print?

We reveal what's inside the indefinitely postponed Speaking Up: The Sarah Palin Story.

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Since the explanation for Speaking Up's postponement can't be found among its glowing descriptions of Palin, why is publisher Zondervan keeping it off the market?

It's probably not Zondervan's relationship with Palin herself. Zondervan is a division of Going Rogue publisher HarperCollins, so despite the fact that Washburn didn't interview Palin for the book, the publisher presumably had, at least at one time, a positive connection with its subject. Zondervan published a Palin biography for adults in October of 2008. It was widely reported last year that Zondervan would publish a special Christian edition of Going Rogue, but in the end, the Michigan-based publisher only co-distributed the original HarperCollins book to Christian retail outlets.

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Publishing industry observers offered many theories on the postponement. Ron Hogan, the former director of e-marketing strategy for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and founder of the influential literary blog Beatrice.com, suggested that it might simply be a scheduling conflict. Palin's own book, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag—an anthology of her favorite readings, including "great speeches, sermons, letters, literature and poetry, biography, and even some of her favorite songs and movies"—is due out from HarperCollins in November. "My best guess is that somebody decided it was a bad move to have anything out ahead of Sarah Palin's own book that could possibly cannibalize sales," Hogan speculated.

But a publicist for HarperCollins said that the decision was Zondervan's. And others don't think this theory holds water. "I can't see a children's biography having any impact on sales of a book for adults," said Dara LaPorte, manager of the children and teens department at Politics and Prose, a well-known independent bookstore in Washington, D.C. "If anything I would think it would interest parents." LaPorte said children's biographies of President Obama, his wife, and their family were all strong sellers at her store.

Like Palin herself, the postponement seems to invite conspiracy theories. "It could be something political," mused Carolyn Kellogg, who writes about books and publishing at the L.A. Times. Perhaps Palin is about to announce she's running for office, so that by October, "she won't be just a Fox News commentator," Kellogg speculated. Bethanne Patrick, a consultant and editor of the WETA Book Studio who has blogged as "The Book Maven" for AOL and Publisher's Weekly, smells something fishy, too. "This just seems that it had to have been postponed because of Levi and Bristol," she said. "It seems like they wanted it to be held until the 'happy couple' was firmly established with going ahead with the wedding." But the Palin clan's dramas are constantly in flux; it seems unlikely such details could really delay the book.

In the end, perhaps the book's postponement can be seen as a fitting reflection of Palin, who stepped down as governor of Alaska almost exactly a year ago today: Speaking Up has a glossy cover and bewildering content, its plans changed suddenly without explanation, and no one should be surprised if it resurfaces sometime before 2012.

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Ruth Graham is a writer in New Hampshire.

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