Judy Miller, Anderson Cooper, and Me: The Truth About Book Deals

Is there ever going to be anything clear, honest, and direct involving Judy Miller?

After the Huffington Post inconveniently broke the story about Miller’s $1.2 million book deal with Simon & Schuster yesterday -- just as she was about to address her already skeptical colleagues at the Times -- Team Miller went into damage control mode.

First came the blanket denials from unnamed “reps” (as Rush and Molloy put it) at the paper and the publishing house. Then, according to the Times’ Kit Seelye, Miller claimed “she was uncertain whether she would write her own account, either in the newspaper or in a book”.

Sure. She's a writer but she's not sure whether she'll write about the experience. I can't for the life of me figure out how she and the Times can justify her recounting everything that took place between her and Libby to the grand jury and not sharing it with the readers of the New York Times. Isn't her first obligation to the readers her newspaper is dedicated to serving? Isn't that what journalists are in business to do? Tell the public what's going on? How can she not tell her readers what she already told the government when she testified in front of the grand jury? And if she doesn't want to do it because she's saving it for the book, shouldn't Bill Keller order her to?

Let me say it again: Miller has absolutely, positively been telling friends that she has a $1.2 million book deal. Period. The end.

Even the nicest of people -- and they don’t come nicer than Miller’s agent Amanda Urban -- are left scrambling. “As far as I know,” Urban told me in an e-mail, “Judy has not written a book proposal, and certainly I have nothing on submission to S&S or any other publisher.”

Who said anything about a proposal or submission? High-dollar book deals like this one are rarely done on the basis of proposals and submissions. I’ve written 10 books and I have found there is a simple rule: the bigger the advance, the less there is on paper before a deal is struck.

If you want to know how these things are done, check out Lloyd Grove’s item today on Anderson Cooper’s pending $1 million book deal. A publishing insider tells Grove that Cooper’s book is being sold without an outline, a formal proposal or even a paragraph on paper: “It’s ‘We saw you on TV, we saw you get very emotional, we love you, here’s the money!’” I can hear Alice Mayhew, Miller’s longtime friend, editor of her last two books, and jailhouse visitor, saying the exact same thing.

Cooper plans to donate a “significant portion of the proceeds” to charity. No word on whether Miller plans to split her take with the New York Times, which, after all, footed her legal bills. And I’m sure Chalabi would like a cut. Scooter, too. Boy, $1.2 mil doesn’t go as far as it used to.