Is Valerie Plame’s $2.5 Million Dollar Book Advance a Practical Business Decision?

Saturday, May 06, 2006
The New York Times announces this unsurprising bit of news.

“Valerie Wilson, the former Central Intelligence Agency officer whose identity was publicly disclosed three years ago, has agreed to sell her memoir for a little more than $2.5 million, according to people involved in the bidding process for the book.

The book, whose working title is "Fair Game," is scheduled to be published in the fall of 2007 by Crown Publishing, an imprint of Random House. Steve Ross, senior vice president and publisher of Crown, said the book would be Ms. Wilson's "first airing of her actual role in the American intelligence community, as well as the prominence of her role in the lead-up to the war."

I am very cynical about some of these book deals. Is it likely that the publisher will ever earn a sufficient return on their investment? How many books must be sold merely to cover a $2.5 dollar advance? Am I right to suspect that this is merely a tacit way to reward a hero of the liberal establishment? So what if it loses money. The publishing house is often owned by a major corporation which can readily write it off for tax purposes.


CF said...

(1) Lucianne who is in the business warns that these reports advances are generally way overblown..not what is reported; (2) since it isn't scheduled to appear until after the libby trial it would seem to be a feckless business decision, and (3) you are right they tend to be payoffs to anti-Administration critics--see Viacom's performance before the 2004 election.

terrye said...

It would seem there might be some conflict here with the Libby case pending. I guess not.

Fresh Air said...


First off, $2.5 million is a HUGE advance for a rookie author, almost unheard of for what is surely a non-blockbuster story that will be even older and colder when it finally comes out. Lucianne is probably right. IIRC, Hillary only got $1 million or so.

To earn out her advance at this level, assuming the book retails for $24.95 hardcover, she would have to sell maybe 1 million copies, a virtual impossibility unless she slept with John Kennedy when she was 12.

Yes, many (probably most) of these political books are financial losers. Yes, the editors at most houses are as liberal as the NYT newsroom. Yes, political bias overrides good business sense. But the "editorial function" must be given free rein, doncha know?

Crown Forum, I would point out however, is known primarily as a conservative imprint. I'm not sure what they would be doing with Ms. Flame's book. Maybe it's some kind of joke.

Peter UK said...

Will it be sold under plain covers?

Luther McLeod said...

Odd, indeed. Conservative publisher, that is. For 2.5 million I would expect the entire Kennedy clan, perhaps even both genders. Is their a larger story behind this?

Welcome back PeterUK. Your humor has been missed. Did you drag Buddy back with you?