Memoir: November 2008 Archives

Laura Bush to write memoir; W will wait

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By FRAZIER MOORE
and HILLEL ITALIE

First lady Laura Bush confirmed to The Associated Press that she is planning a memoir and has met with publishers.

''I've been talking to some publishers, but nothing has happened yet -- just a few visits,'' she said in a telephone interview Tuesday to discuss her upcoming special about the White House on cable's History channel.

Earlier this month, the AP reported on Bush's proposed book, citing three publishing executives with knowledge of the discussions who asked not to be identified because talks were in the early stages and highly confidential. The executives said that Bush is being represented by Washington attorney Robert Barnett, whose many clients include former President Clinton, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Barnett, who worked with Bush when she and daughter Jenna collaborated on a children's book, declined comment Tuesday when contacted by the AP.

A memoir from Laura Bush could be the political version of ''Garbo Speaks.'' The public has long been fascinated by the first lady, if only because she has said so little about herself, and her life is already a best seller in fictional form, in Curtis Sittenfeld's novel,
American Wife.

While Nancy Reagan famously settled scores with old foes like former White House chief of staff Donald Regan in My Turn, one publishing executive with knowledge of the meetings with Laura Bush said the current first lady has vowed to write a positive book, with a minimum of criticism. The executive asked not to be identified, also citing the confidentiality of the discussions.

Publishers have a much higher regard for the first lady, a former schoolteacher known as a passionate reader, than for President Bush, and a book deal -- even during a dire economy -- would likely be worth at least as much as Hillary Clinton's $8 million for the memoir Living History. Books by recent first ladies, including Laura Bush's mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, have had more dependable commercial appeal than those by former presidents.

President Bush said recently that he, too, wants to write a book, but has yet to shop a proposal. Publishers, noting his poor approval ratings, have urged him to wait.

Publishers are betting that the market for a memoir by Laura Bush is much greater than for her children's book, Read All About It! -- published last spring by HarperCollins with an announced first printing of 500,000. Although the book was launched by a mother-daughter appearance on the "Today" show, only 77,000 copies have sold so far, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of industry sales. American Wife, released in September with an announced 100,000 printing, has sold 66,000 copies, according to Nielsen.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Read All About It! ranked 19,975 on Amazon.com; ''American Wife'' was 586.

AP

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