The selling of the president, 1982, is off to a flying start.
There are nearly two months to go before Jimmy Carter's "Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President" and Hamilton Jordan's "Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency" hit the stores, but the promotional hypestakes and subsidiary-rights scrambles have already prompted a mini-boom on publishers' row, with volumes from Jody Powell and Zbigniew Brzezinski still to come.
Bantam Books, which will publish the Carter memoirs on Nov. 2, the sixth anniversary of his election, is well into "our largest budget ever for a hard-cover book," says president and chief operating officer Louis Wolfe. That includes one of the most unusual direct-mail promotions in recent memory.
Last week, Bantam sent out 6,000 tape cassettes of Carter's May 31 address to the American Booksellers Association in Anaheim, Calif. Speaking before a chronically skeptical crowd of book-biz veterans, Wolfe recalls, Carter had "completely mesmerized 1,700 people" with his often emotional preview of the issues, personalities and personal ordeals in the book. Wolfe says, "I thought, we've gotta do something with this." What he did was mail tapes of the complete talk to a list of erstwhile Carter supporters provided by the former president's office in Plains, Ga. The cassettes are accompanied by a pitch for two luxury models of the book: the $300, leather-bound, slipcased "presentation edition," 2,500 of which will be personally signed and numbered by Carter and accompanied by a "Certificate of Authenticity"; and the more modest $60 slipcased Deluxe Edition in blue buckram.
Carter reportedly received nearly $1 million for the book, and Bantam is printing 100,000 copies of the regular edition (480 pages, $22.50). Most of those have already been ordered by booksellers and foreign markets, says Bantam publicity head Stuart Applebaum.
"Keeping Faith" will be preceded on the racks by Jordan's 416-page account of the Iran hostage crisis and other events of the final Carter year. G.P. Putnam's Sons will publish about 50,000 copies of the $16.95 book at a still unspecified date in October. Bantam is not worried about competition. In fact, says Wolfe, when the Jordan manuscript was first being offered, "we were interested in acquiring his book also. We believed that it would be a different view of the Carter administration." Ditto for Putnam public-relations vice president Harriet Blacker, who says, "They're two different books. Carter's book is his whole presidency. Jordan's covers two specific events of the last year -- the Iran hostage crisis and the reelection campaign. And Jordan's book is anecdotal, impressionistic, a very personal account."
Both volumes have been taken by the Book-of-the-Month Club. "Each came to us with a great deal of secrecy," says Gloria Norris, BOMC's editor-in-chief, and "we think they complement each other beautifully." Jordan's will be a "special selection" in December; Carter's will appear as a somewhat more visibly promoted "featured alternate" in January. Blacker says that BOMC "at first wanted to make Jordan's book a full selection," but went for "special" because of scheduling problems.
Both newsweeklies have a piece of the action. Time won the rights to the Carter memoirs and will begin excerpting in early October; Newsweek took first serial on the Jordan book. The exact issues and number of installments are still uncertain at both magazines. Hence the yet-unnamed publication date at Putnam's, which cannot put its books in the store until the Newsweek excerpts appear. The same is true at Bantam, where Wolfe says that protecting the value of Time's first-serial investment -- as well as the presumed monetary value of the autographed special editions -- has obliged the house to take "the utmost care" in security efforts. The book "was typeset in pieces and small chunks," says Wolfe. "If we could avoid it, it was never all together in one place at the same time," and finished copies will be carefully watched in secure warehouse space.
The talk shows, too, have Georgia on their mind. "Today" has already agreed to take Jordan, and is expecting to hear from Carter. Emily Boxer, book coordinator for the morning show, doubts that the books will compete -- "anyone who buys one will buy the other" -- but is interested in seeing whether and how the volumes may disagree: "I think everybody's anxiously waiting to see what each of them says." Out at the "Donahue" studios in Chicago, executive producer Richard Mincer says that "Carter is tentatively booked on our show for early November." A Jordan date is still uncertain, and the "Donahue" staff has not seen the book. "We'll have to wait and see," says Mincer.
Both authors will tour at about the same time. Blacker says that Jordan has been penciled in for 12 to 15 cities. Carter will probably appear in a half-dozen major markets, including Washington, says Applebaum. The authorial road show is necessary because, despite the charisma of office, White House memoirs can be a hard sell, as Lyndon Johnson found out. LBJ proved a dependable trouper, however, even making personal appearances to autograph copies for individual buyers. Carter's tour will be for interview purposes only, but he is now hard at work hand-signing and numbering the front pages for the limited editions. And Bantam is banking on the former president's amenability to the demands of promotion. "He seriously wants this book to be a best-seller," says Wolfe, who first met Carter in February 1981. At that time, Wolfe says, Carter told him that "I wanted to be the commander of a nuclear submarine, governor of Georgia and president of the United States. And I'm going to work hard to ensure that people read this book."