Whoever said August is a slow news time for the book business has apparently not been paying attention to the stories about Miracle Cures and its author, Kevin Trudeau. In article after article doctors have been quoted debunking the bestselling author and infomercial pitchman's expertise and assertions, and both Trudeau and the publishing company he co-owns, Alliance Publishing, have been called to defend themselves.

The only absent voice in the cacophony is that of any of the usual publishing suspects. Usually, at times like these, competitive publishing folk like to come forward and opine about how you have to have systems in place to avoid such pitfalls. Except, of course, that a lot of the time, they don't.

Like many who've spent their careers at magazines, I was initially surprised to learn that while articles are almost always fact-checked line by line, the same is not true of books. You would not, as a writer at even the flimsiest of periodicals, get away with saying, as Trudeau did in his book, that "a hospital in Mexico has virtually a 100% success rate in eliminating cancer" with some crazy concoction; the research police would be all over you: What hospital?, they'd ask. Can we see the study?

But book publishing has no such researchers, and while virtually every house employs a legal department, one longtime publishing attorney explained to me that lawyers are not checking for errors of fact; they're looking for "anything libelous." If a house has fact-checkers, they're usually doubling as copy editors.

But just as the best security systems can't prevent all terrorism, even the most diligent lawyering can't eliminate an author bent on dissembling. Consider last summer's Honor Lost, a supposed firsthand nonfiction account of an honor killing in contemporary Jordan; published by Atria, the book was decently reviewed—until an Australian journalist discovered that the author, Norma Khouri, had not been to Jordan within decades of the alleged incident. And then there was 1999's Fortunate Son, an explosive biography of George W. Bush that St. Martin's withdrew at the last minute upon learning that the author, J.H. Hatfield, was a convicted felon and thus lacking in credibility. "When you think about it," the attorney told me, "the question isn't how did this book of allegedly false claims get published, but how many more are there that we never hear of?" Trudeau's executive consultant Reno Rolle told PW that "more than one editor" worked with Trudeau and that the book was reviewed by lawyers, but not fact checked, per se. In other words, it was treated, by self-publisher Alliance not all that differently from the way it would have been treated by, say, S&S or Random House or Rodale—except, that is, that those houses would never have published it in the first place. "Our books are usually by MDs," an editor from a prominent self-help house said, equating a medical degree with credibility. Most publishers would have checked out Trudeau earlier—and passed.

Clearly, the desperately seeking-miracles public, which has bought more than three million copies of Miracle Cures, is fed up enough with the medical establishment to want to hear from a telegenic health evangelist. Whether they'll want to hear from him again remains to be seen.

Now, Rolle says Trudeau's assertions aren't fact but "opinion," a distinction about which many readers seem not to care.

Let's hope that, profit-hungry as they may be, publishers will continue to note the difference.