Simon & Schuster's one-million-copy laydown of Hillary Clinton's memoir this week has become overshadowed by a media leak, publisher scrambling and a possible lawsuit.
Last week, the Associated Press created an uproar when it obtained and released a number of passages from the book ahead of publication date. Print and broadcast outlets picked up the story heavily, creating anxiety at S&S, which had devised a very careful publicity strategy, and giving rise to debate about the ethics and mechanics of the AP's move.
While several reports emerged about possible legal action by S&S, the company downplayed anything not related to its publishing strategy. "Clearly, we view what the AP did as an inappropriate action," said spokesperson Adam Rothberg. "But the silver lining to this cloud is that we've seen the incredible interest this one small piece has generated." Indeed, some even speculated that S&S was behind the leak, though there is no evidence to support that.
A suit remains unlikely, but the flap highlights a problem increasingly faced by publishers with a big book: the hunger for wide sales and distribution on the one hand and an increasingly coordinated, and often secretive, media strategy on the other. Scholastic will face similar issues when it releases the new Harry Potter later this month.
S&S publicity director Victoria Meyer declined to comment on any legal options, saying only, "We are holding firm to publicity plans," which include an interview with Barbara Walters. But the wide dissemination of the excerpts—at first only on the subject of Monica, but later including other information on Hillary's time at the White House—rippled through a number of media plans. Almost immediately, Walters began airing clips from the interview, and Time magazine reconsidered its serial. Asked if publication was going ahead as planned, Time spokeswoman Diana Pearson declined to comment. At press time it was not clear what would happen with the serial.
For her part, Meyer said that a lack of media was not a concern. "We have more demand than we can possibly satisfy," she noted. "If anything will fall out—and I don't expect that it will—we have more than enough we can fill in."