The news that Today show producer Andrea Smith will leave her 15-year stint as the gatekeeper to one of TV's most coveted author venues by year's end has raised new anxiety among the industry's publicity directors. Many are keeping a wary eye on bookings they've made with the show through next summer, wondering if they will hold. Meanwhile, though most give Dateline producer Jaclyn Levin high marks, the jury is out on whether she can juggle what until now have been two full-time jobs if she takes on the author bookings for Today, as expected.

Though Today is still considered the second-best venue for authors, after the Oprah Winfrey Show, its power to sell books has been eroding as its programming has changed. "When a show starts focusing on sensational news, celebrity coverage and promoting its own reality shows, people who are interested in books don't watch as much as they used to," said a v-p at a major house.

The show's lackluster third hour is becoming a dumping ground for authors, according to some, but the right positioning can make a book with legs, like J.R. Moehringer's debut memoir, The Tender Bar, into a major bestseller. Sales tripled for the book after the author made his first TV appearance on the show's more heavily watched second hour on September 19, according to Hyperion publisher Ellen Archer, though she noted that it already had "huge momentum" following magazine and newspaper coverage in prior weeks.

Meanwhile, publishers are getting a barrage of e-mails from Good Morning America about how the show has "slashed" its ratings gap with Today and has lined up appearances by Alan Alda, John Berendt, Carole Radziwill and Patricia Cornwell. "They've been very aggressive with going after hot books they want," said Little, Brown publicity director Heather Rizzo. She credits producer Patty Neger with taking a chance on Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian by booking it before the June laydown. The appearance prompted a "second wave" of sales that kept it high on the bestseller list.

CBS's Early Show also gets high marks from publicists who value it for booking fiction authors at a time when Today is turning away authors who've appeared on the show many times before. And though Jon Stewart's Daily Show has less than half the viewers of the morning shows, publishers acknowledge its ability to create bestsellers. "The bottom line is that even the least of the shows, ratings-wise, still reach millions of people," said Random House executive v-p of publicity Carol Schneider, citing a 60 Minutes IIsegment on Robert Kurzon's Shadow Divers that ran shortly before the show was canceled and still put the book back on the New York Times extended list.

As TV possibilities get squeezed, publicists have also been putting more emphasis on radio shows hosted by the likes of Don Imus and Diane Rehm. "The combination of really great radio and fabulous print can work in your favor," said Rizzo. "Even if you don't have that one big get on TV, you can still see a nice trajectory."