A savvy publicity strategy and notorious author have led to a bracingly large amount of press for a new sports book and the unlikely publisher behind it.
For Pete Rose's My Prison Without Bars, in which the sullied star finally admits that he bet on baseball but does not reveal many details, Rodale Press went all out: a speeded-up pub date, a one-day laydown, a sales embargo and a media strategy that kicked off last week with Good Morning America and PrimeTime Live appearances.
The moves paid off, at least in terms of press. The book's publication drew out sermonizing newspaper columnists upset about profiteering (Rose is said to have received a seven-figure advance); Roger Kahn, the co-author of Rose's first memoir in 1989, who said he feels betrayed; and a host of TV commentators making bad gambling puns.
The book, the product of a two-year collaboration with coauthor Rick Hill, reportedly was signed with the knowledge that Rose would make the admission, a fact that seemed more likely after a 2002 meeting with baseball commissioner Bud Selig in which Rose is said to have admitted to betting on baseball.
But with a print run of 500,000 copies, the house is hoping that the book sells beyond the sports fanbase and is concentrating on literary merit as much as gossip. "This is not just a newsbreak," said editor Jeremy Katz. "It's riveting, and I think it holds interest beyond sports fans, for anyone interested in stories of forgiveness and the somewhat difficult life of one of the most iconic figures of American ethics."
Despite those subtexts, the book is part of Rodale's larger plan to extend beyond the fitness and self-improvement genres it is known for. The book is likely to raise the profile of the house among agents and authors for sports and narrative proposals no matter the sales figures. It is an early acquisition for Katz, a Putnam veteran who joined Rodale in 2002 and said he'd like the publisher to be "a go-to house for sports books."