May 31, 2008
Soros Publisher 'Shaped' McClellan's Hit Job: Other publishers don't recognize it as the same book
An examination of published reports reveals that Scott McClellan's kiss-and-smell betrayal of George W. Bush is a far cry from the book McClellan started out to write and was shaped into an offensive tome by a publisher with close ties to George Soros.
To understand how McClellan's literary knife-in-the-back evolved, one has to know something about the book industry.
Unlike fiction, a non-fiction book usually hasn't been written before it's sold to a publisher. The author normally puts together an outline and/or synopsis detailing what the book will be about and how it will be structured, and writes 1-3 sample chapters to show the author's writing ability. The author's agent then shops the proposal around to prospective publishing houses.
The agent actually lands the deal, so the choice of agents is crucial. Any author normally starts at the top of the A list and works his or her way down until--or if--they find an agent with whom they can work. According to an Associated Press article,
"McClellan's book does not fit the pattern of Washington megadeals. He was not represented by Washington, D.C., attorney Bob Barnett, whose clients include Tenet and countless political leaders, but by the much less known Craig Wiley, whose most famous client is actor Ron Silver."
Not to slight Mr. Silver, a gifted talent, but that's hardly the reaction one would expect to a proposal promising the kind of sensational accusations which have created a media furor and catapulted McClellan's book to the top of Amazon's charts. Oh, and put quite a bit of coin in Messrs. McClellan and Wiley's pockets. Agents are paid on a percentage of sales basis. The more controversial and sellable they think the book will be, the more likely they are to take it on.
Nor did publishers see enough in the proposal to jump at the chance to publish it.
"It was shopped around but, like others who publish in the category, we didn't even take a meeting...." said Steve Ross, who was head of the Crown Publishing Group at Random House Inc. at the time McClellan was offering his manuscript. This in an industry that, just like newspapers, appears to be dying a slow death at the hands of new media, print-on-demand, and other modern technologies, and is desperate for books that can add substantial numbers to the bottom line.
Again, agents start at the tope of the food chain and work their way down. McClellan finally reached a deal with PublicAffairs, which according to the AP "specializes in policy books by billionaire George Soros" and others.
Further, the unwritten book wasn't published based upon McClellan's proposal. "(Public Affairs founder Peter) Osnos said he didn't even read the proposal" the article reports. Instead, Osnos "sought out people who knew McClellan and said they regarded him as an honest man unhappy in his job."
In other words, Osnos didn't look at the proposal of the book McClellan wanted to write; he was more interested in confirming that McClellan was disgruntled with the White House.
PublicAffairs editor Lisa Kaufman confirmed to the AP that the proposal McClellan shopped around was nothing like the book that plunges the knife into his benefactor's back. "The original proposal was somewhat general," Kaufman admits, "so before making an offer on the book we talked to Scott at some length."
It takes little imagination to gather how the conversation between George Soros's publisher and a disgruntled former Bush administration official hawking his unwritten memoirs, still unsold after having gone through the tope tier of publishers, went.
But imagination isn't needed.
A book's editor and its author work extremely closely--with the author sweating over every word, every detail, and the editor helping shape the pacing and overall tone of the manuscript. Kaufman told the AP that as McClellan wrote the book the "tone began to be directed toward issues and events that some people would rather he not be straightforward and candid about." (Emphasis added.)
PublicAffairs reportedly paid McClellan a $75,000 advance. An advance is the only part of an author's financial deal with a publisher that's guaranteed. It is literally an advance on the author's royalties. If the book sells enough copies that the author's royalties exceed the advance, the author will make more money.
Some have argued that McClellan's small advance negates the financial incentive as a reason for McClellan to bring forward these charges, when the opposite is true. When George Tenet or Bill Clinton are offered millions in advances, they've already made their money. The books will probably not "earn out" (pay the author more than the advance) no matter how many copies are sold. With a small advance, the author is under pressure to sell as many copies as possible.
With only a $75,000 advance, and working with a publisher and editor who were more interested in producing a book written by a disgruntled former Bush staffer than they were in the book McClellan had proposed, McClellan had every financial incentive to give them exactly the book they wanted.
And he apparently did.
According to the AP article, "Rival publishers say they had no sense that McClellan would make such explosive observations."
Could that be because the proposal McClellan presented them, the book he set out to write before financial pressures and a left-wing publisher took over, didn't contain them? And how is the public now expected to believe them?
-Wm Tate is the author of the political novel, A Time Like This