The art of publishing political books

It’s regular as the tide: a year before the presidential election, the influx of works written by women and politicians submerges the bookstores. Left, right, center or extremes. The range includes both pamphlets and behind-the-scenes programs or stories of power, more or less bitter, tasty or murderous. After a string of authors, including Philippe de Villiers (The day after, Albin Michel), Edouard Philippe and Gilles Boyer (Clear prints and lines, JC Lattès), Bruno Le Maire (The Angel and the Beast, Gallimard), Michel Barnier (The Great Illusion, with the same publisher), Arnaud Montebourg (L’Engagement, Grasset), Manuel Valls (Not a drop of French blood, Grasset), are expected by the end of the year a cascade of books signed by Anne Hidalgo, Fabien Roussel, Yannick Jadot, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Clémentine Autain …

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A quest for a “symbolic aura”

Why do they take up the pen? A book, for these authors, “It’s an aircraft carrier for remediation. An opportunity to come back under the light ”, says Olivier Nora, CEO of Grasset. According to Alexandre Wickham, director of tests and documents of Albin Michel, the exercise is part of a quest for“Symbolic aura, capital as much for the general public as for the Parisian microcosm”. Véronique Cardi, CEO of Editions JC Lattès, adds: “The sacredness that the French give to books is combined with a fascination for power. ” The objective sometimes appears much more pragmatic. “Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s program book, like his Notebooks of the future together, are used to find voices, popularize their ideas ”, thus ensures Hugues Jallon, owner of Seuil. In the case of program books, each line is abraded by the campaign team, and the publisher simply prints and distributes the manifesto.

In the eyes of Brice Teinturier, Deputy Managing Director of the Ipsos polling institute, the book of a political figure fulfills three functions: “It allows her not to be summoned to react to the news, to escape the emergency by taking the time for a more in-depth reflection and to register, according to the French politico-literary tradition, in the posture of someone who is able to wield the pen. “

This activity is not without dangers. “The exercise becomes commonplace and leads to a profusion of writings of various qualities”, emphasizes the analyst. To the extent that “The effort to write a good book is no longer so profitable for its author”, says Brice Teinturier, who notes that new criticisms are addressed to the politicians who are in office: they are criticized for writing instead of working. Finally, for those who tell a posteriori what they lived, “Some blame them for having had this book in mind from the start, with the underlying objective” to write a bestseller. In terms of pitfalls, Sophie Charnavel, director of Robert Laffont editions, believes that some books are only used to occupy the field and “Are formatted” so that their authors are invited in the morning hours of the radio stations. Marketing therefore. It certifies: “When you’re in power, you can’t say anything. “

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