Clinton Publisher's Campaign Strategy
By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 9, 2004; Page C01
The marketing masterminds at Alfred A. Knopf are doing everything in their power to orchestrate the publication of "My Life," by Bill Clinton.
It's a big-time book by a big-time public figure. And the publishing firm, a division of Random House, wants to get maximum bada-bang for its book.
"You want to whet people's appetite," says Knopf spokesman Paul Bogaards.
The official publication date is June 22. That's when the 900-plus-page tome, with a retail tag of $35, will be in stores and on the desks of reviewers. But the promotional crusade -- which began last week when Clinton addressed the American Booksellers Association -- will intensify as the pub date approaches.
Here's the plan: On June 18, Infinity Broadcasting will begin playing excerpts from an abridged audio version of "My Life" read by Clinton. Over the next five days, Knopf plans to release one excerpt a day to Infinity. Those sound snippets, in the unmistakable drawl of the former president, will be incorporated into news shows across the nation, says Karen Mateo, Infinity's director of communications. The company owns 185 stations.
The audio bites will also be available over the Internet through America Online.
Intriguingly, Knopf has not sold first serial rights -- excerpts in newspapers or magazines -- to "My Life." Though one magazine reportedly offered $500,000 for the opportunity, publishing sources say there will probably not be any print excerpts before the book goes on sale.
"We've had a lot of offers and we haven't accepted any of them," Bogaards says. "People are going to have to come to the book."
Besides the money, there is little reason for Knopf to sell excerpts. "You go down the road of serialization when you're trying to maximize exposure for an author," Bogaards says. "In this instance, we are controlling the exposure for Clinton."
On June 20, CBS's "60 Minutes" will dedicate the entire show to Clinton. The network's news anchor, Dan Rather, will interview him in Arkansas and New York.
On June 21, Clinton will tape an hour-long conversation with Oprah Winfrey, to be broadcast the next day.
On that day, publication day, Clinton will make his first appearances in stores to sign his books. At 12:30 in the afternoon he will be at the Barnes & Noble book shop in Rockefeller Center. At 6:30 that evening, he will be signing books at Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem. A Hue-Man bookseller said that by yesterday afternoon, 625 people had registered to get their books signed.
The "Today" show and "Good Morning America" will broadcast interviews on June 23, Bogaards says. Clinton will sign books at a Borders bookstore on Wall Street at lunchtime that day. And Infinity and AOL will broadcast a live town hall meeting with Clinton -- and callers-in -- on June 24.
Knopf is printing 1.5 million copies of "My Life" the first time around. It has already received orders well in excess of 2 million. And it has reserved press time for reprinting the book.
Pre-publication orders of "My Life" have kicked it to the top of the bestseller list at Amazon.com.
Clinton's handlers don't know when he will come to Washington to sign books, but Politics & Prose is planning a late-night party leading up to the official pub date. A panel on the Clinton presidency will begin about 10 p.m., says Barbara Meade, one of the store's owners. "That will provide substance to the evening," she says, "before the festivities begin." And the book goes on sale at 12:01 a.m.
"Oh," she adds, "and we're going to have a saxophonist."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company