Thursday, June 26, 2008

Obama's book deals

As I noted last month, Barack Obama appears to have gotten a sweetheart deal on his first book. Cal at DBAGD points out that the deal may have been even sweeter than suspected:
The NY Times reports that Obama's first agent (the one he dumped when he became a big name) forgave him for missing his first deadline at Poseidon Press (then a small imprint of Simon Schuster) and wrangled him a second contract with a $40,000 advance. . . .
But the Times article glosses quickly over an aspect of the story that Peter Osnos, who was then publisher of Times Books at Random House, filled in two years ago,
before anyone was paying attention:
"A book proposal by Obama about his life was submitted to publishers and a deal was reached with Poseidon, a small imprint of Simon & Schuster, for what is known in the industry as 'six figures' (about $125,000, I am told). Several years passed and Obama was too busy finishing law school and embarking on his career to get the book done. Simon & Schuster canceled the contract, which probably meant that Obama had to pay back at least some of what he had received of the advance."
So the "modest advance" was preceded by an extremely generous advance, but Obama didn't honor that first contract. While presumably (says Osnos) Obama had to return at least some of the advance, the Times leaves the first advance completely unmentioned. Thus, Obama took a six-figure advance, around $125,000, while still in law school, and didn't deliver a book. What did he do with the money? When did he return it, and how much?
Whoa! A six-figure advance for a 27-year-old law student with no significant previous publishing experience? Who ever heard of such a thing?

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