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Now, one hint that a person may be running for president comes when he or she writes a book and then promotes it in - oh, I don't know - maybe Iowa or New Hampshire. Marco Rubio was in Iowa the other day hawking copies of his new work. Other potential GOP candidates also have new books out. NPR's Brian Naylor reports on this once-every-four-years phenomenon.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Rubio's book is titled "American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity For Everyone." Maybe not quite as catchy as Mike Huckabee's "God, Guns, Grits And Gravy." Huckabee appeared on NPR's All Things Considered a few weekends ago to discuss his book.
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MIKE HUCKABEE: I think some people hear the title "God, Guns, Grits And Gravy" and think that it is a recipe book of Southern cuisine, but that's really not the goal. There is cultural disconnect between the bubbles of New York, Washington and Hollywood versus the flyover country.
NAYLOR: And that's one of the reasons why candidates like to publish the free media associated with a book tour, which often coincides with the campaign tour. It's no coincidence that Rubio promoted his book in Iowa and has stops planned in Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina over the next few weeks. They're all states with early primaries or caucuses. But the book/campaign tour isn't the only reason candidates publish. Priscilla Painton is executive editor for nonfiction at Simon & Schuster. She's seen a lot of these books.
PRISCILLA PAINTON: There are many, many reasons why candidates publish books, political memoirs. But the one that's the most obvious is that they want to get their own version of their record and their ideas out there in an uncontested way.
NAYLOR: That's kind of what Ben Carson told us. He's written a number of books since retiring as a pediatric neurosurgeon and is among those considering a run for the GOP presidential nomination.
BEN CARSON: It's a very good way to get views out. And it's a very good comeback against the people who say, well, you just speak in platitudes and no one knows what your real views are. Well, my views are extremely well-documented in several writings.
NAYLOR: Carson's latest book came out last year. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has a new book written with his wife titled "Bella's Gift." Far from a campaign book, it details the couple's struggles dealing with their special-needs daughter. Priscilla Painton says the best candidates' books go beyond policy prescriptions and tell personal stories.
PAINTON: You sort of have to dig deeply into your own past and be honest about it for people to connect with you. And I think that's why a state senator from Illinois ended up having a huge best-seller when he wrote "Dreams Of My Father."
NAYLOR: "Dreams From My Father" was Barack Obama's first book published 1995, which helped raise the profile of the future president. It was followed by "The Audacity Of Hope," which came out as then U.S. Senator Obama was about to launch his campaign for the White House. In Iowa, they've seen plenty of presidential candidates and campaign books. Sue Davis is owner of River Lights, an independent bookshop in Dubuque.
SUE DAVIS: Is there a legitimately well-written book? Then it doesn't matter what side of the aisle you're on. They do sell.
NAYLOR: Davis says it helps if you're a potential candidate who already has a high profile.
DAVIS: Huckabee is always popular. Rubio and some of the lesser-known candidates aren't going to be huge sellers here because we're a little disconnected to some of the East Coast politics.
NAYLOR: And the remainder shelves are filled with political tomes that didn't sell, written by candidates who didn't catch on either. Priscilla Painton.
PAINTON: Whether it's Tim Pawlenty's "Courage To Stand: An American Story" or Herman Cain's "This Is Herman Cain: My Journey To The White House" - I mean, they come and they go, and there's a reason for that. I think at the end of the day, people want a good read.
NAYLOR: And we may be opening the book on a new trend. Last week, Jeb Bush released the first chapter of a new e-book, bypassing publishers altogether. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
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