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Behind the scenes of an Amazon 'best-seller' by City Hall vet

A look inside the publishing world that produced "best-seller" Desiree Peterkin Bell's new tome. Plus, Minster Rodney Muhammad brings "clarity" to that $25,000 he received from Mayor Kenney.

Desiree Peterkin-Bell with former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Peterkin-Bell was part-author of a “best-selling,” if pricey (for her) book.
Desiree Peterkin-Bell with former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Peterkin-Bell was part-author of a “best-selling,” if pricey (for her) book.Read moreFor the Inquirer/Maggie Henry Corcoran

Clout today extends our warmest congratulations to Desiree Peterkin-Bell on her "best-selling" book — Women Who Inspire.

Bell, who served as communications director to Mayor Michael Nutter, contributed one of the 20 essays in the book, curated by Kate Butler, who runs a publishing firm in New Jersey. Bell hosted an event to celebrate the book at the Union League on Thursday.

We wondered how authors hit the top of the book charts these days. Who knows? Maybe we'll write Clout — The Untold Story someday. We could use some pointers.

Turns out, it can be pricey. For some. But not all.

Peterkin-Bell's book is the second in a three-part series. First came Women Who Ignite. Next up, in early 2018, will be Women Who Influence.

Butler is now recruiting 30 writers for that project. For $2,500, "core authors" are guaranteed "best-selling" status. "For the record, we have never had a book not hit #1 across multiple categories on launch day," Butler's website promises.

Dig a little deeper? For $6,000, "cover authors" get 100 copies of their own book. Big spenders who put down $12,500 are guaranteed a "customized media tour" with television, radio, print, and podcasts plus coaching.

Butler told us she used a different business model for Women Who Inspire, but declined to elaborate when asked if the 20 contributing authors paid to participate.

"It's different for every person," she said. "I really don't know how to answer that accurately."

What about just Peterkin-Bell?

"That would be a question that I would defer to Desiree for, depending on what she wants to put out there," Butler said.

So we asked Peterkin-Bell if she paid to participate in the book.

"No" was her terse reply in an email. Hey, best-selling authors must be busy and all.

Still, for someone known for a hashtag — #PurposeNotPosition — Peterkin-Bell was clearly thrilled by her new "best-seller" status. She tweeted on Sept. 26, the day the book dropped: "News Flash, I am a best selling author. Lesson: Never allow the insecurity of others 2 impede progress."

Probably the most interesting pitch on Butler's website was this: "Learn the algorithms of, how to sell your product, how to position your product in categories and how to soar to the top of the selling charts."

It must work. Butler sent us screen-grabs from Sept. 26, showing it in the number-one rank for the Amazon book categories "Spiritualism" and "Rituals & Practice." It ranked 179th in all books overall on in that screen shot.

It's tough to stay on top. The book was ranked at 42,881st overall on as we typed these words Thursday.

And now, a little ‘clarity’

Minister Rodney Muhammad, president for the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, took to the airwaves on WURD-900-AM Wednesday afternoon to "offer clarity" on the $25,000 he has been paid since April by Mayor Kenney's political action committee — as first reported by Clout two weeks ago.

Muhammad, who has not responded to Clout's requests for comment, told "Reality Check" host Charles Ellison he is not consulting on Kenney's controversial "soda tax," despite his very public support last year for the levy that adds 1.5 cents per ounce to the cost of most sugary and diet beverages sold in Philadelphia.

Muhammad, who was paid by Kenney under the name "Rodney Carpenter," was also hired in May and June of 2016 — as City Council was preparing to approve the soda-tax legislation — by a communications firm working for Philadelphians for a Fair Future, a group lobbying for the levy.

Muhammad said his work for Kenney focuses on campaign fund-raisers. Asked why he didn't disclose his 2016 payments from a pro-tax group, Muhammad said nobody asked him to do that.

Then there was this not-so-veiled threat, when Muhammad was questioned about the controversy that followed Clout's initial report, as other media picked up the issue. He claimed reporters were "getting calls to rev up a story" about him.

"But if it is to be that people want to make more of an issue of it, we could lay out a whole lot of folks that are getting consulting money for a lot of different things that someone could make look controversial, when it really isn't," Muhammad said.

Clout says: Start talking.


"What has really happened here is: We have a president who doesn't understand governance. Forget policy. He doesn't understand how the government functions." — Former Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to students Tuesday at the University of Delaware, about President Trump.

Staff writer Chris Brennan contributed to this column. Tips: