Dear Bookseller:

Boy, do I have a secret for you.

Our house is about to publish a book that I know you're going to want to take a big position on. It's nonfiction, it's juicy, it has lots of never-before-seen material. It's going to be a blockbuster, I tell you.

What I can't tell you, though, is what the book's about, or even who wrote it. I will give you its ISBN number, so you can place your order, but don't go trying to psych us out by plugging that number into Amazon or BookScan or Ingram: there's no title or book description in any of those places, either.

I don't mean to be so secretive, but, you see, I kind of have to be: it's THAT explosive! And I know this kind of thing really annoys you, but if you think YOU'RE annoyed, imagine how the press is taking it: they always get furious at embargoes, but this one has really set them off. They're pestering the daylights out of my publicity department, and that's upsetting. My publicists are crackerjack, and while historically they haven't been above a little creative embargoing, this one is really driving them nuts; they know what the book is about, of course, but they're not allowed to say—and not because they're trying to trick anybody. The thing is, the title has a big serial deal in the U.K., where it's expected to be an even bigger blockbuster—oops, I'm verging on TMI here—but if they tell reporters that, they've given out a very big clue. So they're taking a lot of lumps for being manipulators, and they're worried about backlash.

I know this is frustrating for you, but please, don't hold it against us. It's not as if there's no precedent for this kind of thing. But at least when Christopher Andersen or Bob Woodward has a new book coming, knowing they're the authors gives you a ballpark idea of the topic. The closest thing to this I can remember is a couple of years ago when Putnam asked you to order a new book sight- and topic- unseen, and it turned out to be A. Scott Berg's bio of Katharine Hepburn, who'd died about seven minutes earlier. That book became a bestseller, so I'm sure you're glad you took a chance and ordered it.

Anyway, we have a pretty good idea that this one is going to be at least that big. The last book on the same subject by the same author (oops, more TMI) sold over 210,000 copies in hardcover since its publication in 2003, according to Nielsen BookScan, and probably a whole lot more because it's the kind of thing that tends to sell well at Wal-Mart, which BookScan doesn't track.

So what do you say? Are you in? If you are, I promise we won't do this to you again—at least not for a very, very long time.

Then again, if another one of the late Princess Diana's friends offers up some more royal tidbits, all bets might be off.

Oops, now I really have said too much.

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