Roger L. Simon

Clinton Book Advances: Are They Payola or the Most Expensive Door-Stoppers of All Time?

Even with the announcement by HarperCollins that they are creating a division to (essentially) do away with the venerable author’s advance, I can’t say I was stunned by the size of the advances offered the Clinton’s — a total of some 30 million, 15 of which went for Bill’s My Life. (He did very well with Giving too. I guess what goes around comes around.)

Now I am no judge because I hardly ever read books by politicians (the exceptions being Churchill and Moynihan). You would have had to pay me to read The Audacity of Hope on the basis of the cliché-ridden title alone – and that was before I learned its words came from “The Quotations of Chairman Wright.” And you can consider me jealous, since I am the author of ten books (an eleventh in the hopper) and only one of them had an initial advance in excess of fifty grand, even though they appeared on best seller lists, were made into movies, translated, reprinted, won prizes, etc. So I’m just envious but…

I would love to see the Clintons’ royalty statements. I would faint if one of the tomes involved here came within a country mile of earning out their advances. When I read that My Life had a fifteen million dollar advance – read that and weep, Stephen King – I could only roll my eyes. The number of books that would have to be produced and sold is staggering. Call Al Gore. On ecological grounds alone, it’s a major disgrace.

So what was Alfred Knopf (or rather Random House and its owner Bertelsmann) thinking when it shoveled this giant – until now hidden – sum of 15 million in Clinton’s direction for his book? What were they financing? Why not make a direct donation to Clinton Foundation and save all the paper? Beats me.

UPDATE: I have been informed in email by a fellow author that the Clintons did earn out their advances. If true, this unfortunately speaks yards about the reading habits of the American public. Frankly, I prefer a good Jacqueline Susann novel. [I loved Valley of the Dolls. -ed. There’s a new Special Edition of the movie.]