After daylong negotiations, former Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro last night was close to completing an $800,000-plus deal for a book, in which she plans to tell the personal story of her historic bid for the vice presidency.
Sources close to the negotiations would not reveal which publishing houses remained in the bidding into the evening.
One executive of a New York publishing house that dropped out of the bidding early said that Ferraro had indicated in preliminary discussions that "she had a few debts to settle, specifically with Archbishop [John J.] O'Connor and Rupert Murdoch."
O'Connor became involved in the campaign when he publicly criticized Ferraro, a Roman Catholic, for her stand on abortion. The New York Post, which is owned by Murdoch, ran a story shortly before the election asserting that Ferraro's parents had been arrested on a gambling charge in upstate New York 40 years ago. Ferraro was reportedly furious over that story, as well as other New York Post campaign coverage.
The same executive also said that those representing Ferraro made it clear they were interested in a money-making proposition, and the figure of $1 million as a base for negotiating was sought. Late yesterday, it was not clear if bidding would actually reach that figure.
"This is not a sentimental, gooey kind of deal," the executive said. "They are going for money . . . In the end, we were not sure that she would reveal enough to make the book newsy . . . She wants to run for the Senate and needs to keep her options open."
Publishers were invited to submit their bids by letter yesterday. By noon, they were told by phone that the highest bid for the first round was $800,000 and some dropped out. Bidding had initially been scheduled for today, but was moved up a day without explanation.
According to one close to the deal, the book will not be a diary, but a personal account of the campaign. Most of the research will be based on recorded tapes and notes Ferraro made of her experiences during the year.
Linda Bird Francke, who assisted Rosalynn Carter on her book, "First Lady From Plains," will ghostwrite Ferraro's.
Ferraro's search for a publisher and an agent began about a month ago, when her lawyer, Robert Barnett of Williams and Connolly, invited publishing houses and selected agents to meet with Ferraro.
Esther Newberg, a literary agent with International Creative Management in New York, was ultimately selected by Ferraro and handled the bidding yesterday.
Publishers who were interested met with Ferraro in her Queens office several weeks ago to discuss what she had planned for the book.
Expected to be prominent in the book is an account of how the campaign took its toll on her family, specifically the media's pressure on Ferraro's husband, John Zaccaro, to release his tax returns and the suggestions of possible connections between organized crime figures and her family.
"She made it clear that she liked Fritz Mondale, and so there would be nothing critical about him," said an editor who was present at one of the meetings. "She said it would be a personal account of what she went through -- how a housewife from Queens got that far, and how it all unraveled."