Monday, October 24, 2011

'American Grown': Exclusive Details About Michelle Obama's New Kitchen Garden Book

Publisher promises First Lady will go on an "extensive author tour;" behind the scenes details...
UPDATE, May 29, 2012: CLICK HERE for a full post about the book
UPDATE, March 22, 2012: Publication delayed again
UPDATE, Jan. 30, 2012: Publisher changes publication date and book cover
First Lady Michelle Obama's glossy forthcoming book about her Kitchen Garden, first announced last March, will be titled "American Grown: How the White House Kitchen Garden Inspires Families, Schools and Communities." It will be released on April 10, 2012, The Crown Publishing Group announced today, when releasing the cover photograph for the book. A different source from Crown has informed me about far more book details that have not yet been announced, including information about the author tour, the advertising campaign, and the professionals who assisted the First Lady in telling her story. (The cover, above)

In the book, Mrs. Obama will describe how daughters Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10, "were the catalysts for change for their family's eating behavior which inspired her national initiative to address childhood obesity and resulted in the idea to plant a vegetable garden on the South Lawn," according to Crown. The book will include recipes from the White House chefs, as well as resources on gardening and other food access projects.

Expected to be a bestseller, the book supports the messages of Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! initiative. The planned national advertising push will ensure that her childhood obesity campaign, which will be in its third year when the book is released, will have much renewed attention.

Crown is an imprint of Random House, Inc., and booksellers are being promised "an extensive author tour" in "markets to be decided" to support the book, as well as a massive advertising effort that will include extensive television, print and internet advertising, and a social media campaign. The book will be 256 pages long, and priced at $30 in the US market, according to my source.

To create her book, Mrs. Obama has had some of the best help available in the publishing business: Experienced Washington correspondent Lyric Winik served as ghostwriter. Winik is the go-to scribe for political memoirs after working with First Lady Laura Bush on her bestselling memoir "Spoken From the Heart" and with Sen. Scott Brown on his bestselling memoir "Against All Odds." Australian food/lifestyle lensman Quentin Bacon, in high demand by A-list chefs, photographed the project. (Above: Bacon at work with Mrs. Obama at the White House)

The ad campaign: "Perfect gift for Mother's Day"...and the East Wing's dress rehearsal
Crown is advising booksellers that Mrs. Obama's book is "the perfect gift for Mother's Day," thanks to the April publication date. The publisher, according to my source, is promising a "Major national television campaign" and a "National and regional NPR [National Public Radio] campaign," as well as "National review and feature attention." The advertising campaign will include announcement ads in the New York Times and Washington Post, and banner ads on major dot coms such as USAToday.com.

There will also be a "social networking campaign" on Twitter and Facebook, with "outreach" to "news, parenting, gardening and food blogs." The White House has been doing a dress rehearsal for this by establishing a new media presence on Twitter and Facebook for Mrs. Obama. The First Lady sent her first "official" Tweet last week, and last Monday she also hosted her first-ever round table at the White House for "digital media reporters." The East Wing also invited guests to the most recent Kitchen Garden Fall Harvest to participate in the first-ever Let's Move! Tweetup. That Harvest event is included in Mrs. Obama's book, the First Lady's Press Secretary, Hannah August, told me.

The ghostwriter...
Mrs. Obama's prose helper, Lyric Winik, doesn't have a food and gardening writing background, but she's an award-winning author who has written about politics for many outlets, including a regular stint at Parade, and pieces in the New York Times and The Daily Beast. Like Mrs. Obama, Winik is a Princeton graduate, and they seem to have had one year's overlap while at college. Mrs. Bush and Sen. Brown both praised Winik in their books, thanking her identically for helping "put my story into words."

"Lyric is a talented and beautiful writer who worked tirelessly..." Mrs. Bush wrote in her acknowledgments.

Mrs. Obama, President Obama, Sen. Brown, and Mrs. Bush are all represented by Bob Barnett, the legendary Washington power broker/agent who announced the First Lady's book deal last March 16th, after the Spring planting event in the Kitchen Garden. Barnett also represents Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Tony Blair, both Clintons, and many, many others for their books.

More on Bacon...
An Australian based in New York, Bacon has photographed books for celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Ina Garten, and loads of other chefs, as well as done endless editorial work for magazines. According to Bacon, his first visit to the White House to photograph Mrs. Obama was in March, on the day the book project was announced. He photographed Mrs. Obama for the cover on May 30th, when the temperature in Washington was hovering around 100 degrees. Bacon shot the White House beehive for the book in April, putting on special beekeeping coveralls to do so (above).

Bacon was also on hand to capture the action at the most recent Fall Harvest; thanks to the event being included in the book, Mrs. Obama sat down to have a garden-side picnic with her child helpers at the event, something she hadn't done since the Spring Harvest in June of 2009. Bacon and his two photographer assistants buzzed around, capturing the images.

The publisher describes Bacon's images: "The print edition will be a gorgeously illustrated four-color hardcover that includes stunning photographs of the White House garden and Mrs. Obama throughout the seasons, as well as other community and school gardens from around the country." (Above: Bacon in the Kitchen Garden during the most recent Fall Harvest with Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass and Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses)

Mrs. Obama "accepted no advance for the book and will donate all net or after-tax author proceeds to a charity or charities to be named later," according to Crown, which added that "Random House, Inc. will also make a donation to an appropriate charity to be named later."

*Cover photo courtesy of Crown Publishing Group; Bacon photos courtesy of Quentin Bacon; last photo by Helena Bottemiller for Obama Foodorama