Monday, October 03, 2005
Sources tell me that Judy Miller is telling friends that she has made a $1.2 million book deal with Simon & Schuster. I’ve heard from senior editors at the publishing house that the deal is still so hush-hush that word of it has not appeared in the memos that circulate among the editorial staff, keeping them updated on pending deals and acquisitions.
The new book will be edited by Alice Mayhew, the editor of Miller’s previous two books, “God Has Ninety Nine Names” and “Germs”.
Among other projects, Mayhew is currently editing Robert Sam Anson’s warts-and-all biography of Vice President Cheney (somehow I don’t think Scooter will be blurbing that one), and a book by Paul Bremer, who parlayed his botched efforts in Iraq into a Medal of Freedom. It’s interesting to note the relative value of failure on the open market: Miller’s miserable reporting on Iraq WMD put her on the road to a seven-figure deal; Bremer’s misbegotten time in Baghdad landed him a deal in what publishing insiders termed “the low end of the significant deal territory”.
Maybe he should have arranged for a little time behind bars before pitching his memoir.
UPDATE: Judy Miller’s Book Deal: Crunching the Numbers
I just talked to Carolyn Reidy, president of Simon & Shuster, who told me, “There is no signed deal for the book -- and no projected P & L.” (For those not steeped in publishing lingo, that’s short for profit and loss statement, the financial bottom line on a book). So if the $1.2 million figure is the amount that Judy Miller has asked for (and is telling friends she got), let me help Simon & Schuster crunch the numbers. My advice, as I wrote back in July is: Don’t do it. Smells like remainder to me.
That seems like an awful lot of money to pay a journalist with an iffy reputation whose cause never really became very celebre. A publishing insider crunched the numbers for me: “In order to recoup that kind of advance,” the insider told me, “they’d have to sell 300,000 copies at $27 a book. Ain’t gonna happen. I can see the thinking: Simon & Schuster is a Viacom company, so they could line up the big “60 Minutes” push. It worked for Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neill, right? But, in both those cases, those guys could be portrayed as heroic -- or at least good guys taking on the powers-that-be to expose the truth. What would Miller’s angle be? I helped the bad guys sell a bogus war that led to tens of thousands of deaths, then went to jail to protect my neocon pals?"
Still doing unpaid due diligence for Simon and Schuster (after all, they did a great job publishing my biographies of Callas and Picasso), I called a high-powered New York book agent and asked what would happen if, by the time the book comes out, Miller’s attempted transformation from discredited neocon shill to journalistic martyr has had its Cinderella midnight moment -- poof! “Hmm,” he said, after thinking for a moment. “She could always turn it into a confessional. Confessionals sell well.”
A Judy confessional? I can’t wait to see the chapter headings:
WMD? Boy, Did I Screw That One Up
How I Turned the Paper of Record Into a Laughingstock
About Those Aluminum Tubes…
Chalabi, Cheney, and Me: We Had a Three-Way, You Got Screwed
I Hate To Make John Bolton Mad But…
Scooter & Pinch: My Thing for Men With Silly Nicknames
We eat like a pig.
We like to play chicken.
You can get someone's goat.
We can be as slippery as a snake.
We get dog tired.
We can be as quiet as a mouse.
We can be as quick as a cat.
Some of us are as strong as an ox.
People try to buffalo others.
Some are as ugly as a toad.
We can be as gentle as a lamb.
Sometimes we are as happy as a lark.
Some of us drink like a fish.
We can be as proud as a peacock.
A few of us are as hairy as a gorilla.
You can get a frog in your throat.
We can be a lone wolf.
But I'm having a whale of a time!
You have a riveting web log
and undoubtedly must have
atypical & quiescent potential
for your intended readership.
May I suggest that you do
everything in your power to
honor your encyclopedic/omniscient
Designer/Architect as well
as your revering audience.
As soon as we acknowledge
this Supreme Designer/Architect,
Who has erected the beauteous
fabric of the universe, our minds
must necessarily be ravished with
wonder at this infinate goodness,
wisdom and power.
Please remember to never
restrict anyone's opportunities
for ascertaining uninterrupted
existence for their quintessence.
There is a time for everything,
a season for every activity
under heaven. A time to be
born and a time to die. A
time to plant and a time to
harvest. A time to kill and
a time to heal. A time to
tear down and a time to
rebuild. A time to cry and
a time to laugh. A time to
grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones
and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a
time to turn away. A time to
search and a time to lose.
A time to keep and a time to
throw away. A time to tear
and a time to mend. A time
to be quiet and a time to
speak up. A time to love
and a time to hate. A time
for war and a time for peace.
Best wishes for continued ascendancy,
'Thought & Humor'
P.S. One thing of which I am sure is
that the common culture of my youth
is gone for good. It was hollowed out
by the rise of ethnic "identity politics,"
then splintered beyond hope of repair
by the emergence of the web-based
technologies that so maximized and
facilitated cultural choice as to make
the broad-based offerings of the old
mass media look bland and unchallenging