High Stakes Publishing

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What do Bill Clinton and the Pope have in common? Big fat book advances, the kind that would topple down if you tried stacking all those dollars one on top of the other.

Adjusted for inflation, the Pope’s advance, an unprecedented eight and a half million dollars in 1994, just might beat the former president’s, a cool ten plus million dollars, landed just last week. Never mind that presidential memoirs don’t usually sell. Never mind that Knopf, the publishing house betting big on Bill, could face a financial tsunami if it’s wrong about the public’s seemingly insatiable appetite for Clintonian sagas.

What matters is that this is what publishing has become. A high stakes gamble where the only guarantee is that there are no guarantees.


Bridget Kinsela, Book News Editor, Publisher’s Weekly;
Eamon Dolan, Executive Editor, Houghton Mifflin.