When Your Book Gets Scooped

When the media leaks valuable information from the unique contents of a nonfiction book, like Bob Woodward’s State of Denial or Carly Fiorina’s Tough Choices before that book is published, will it hurt sales? Or will the publicity generate more sales?

What happens to sales when a nonfiction book’s contents are revealed in the media before the book is published?

Two new books contain unique information that is of high interest to the public, and therefore, of high interest to the media-at-large:

  • Tough Choices by ousted Hewlett-Packard head Carly Fiorina
  • State of Denial by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward

Newspaper journalists were able to obtain copies of these books prematurely, and published big articles revealing the contents of these books.

How do such news leaks affect sales?

If the book contains other information that has not been scooped, or if the topic is so hot that the public cannot get enough about it, the sales could increase despite other negative ramifications. A premature revelation may serve to whet the public’s appetite for the main course even as it costs in other profits.

Apparently this is the case with Tough Choices, because the publisher upped the first print run from 150,000 copies to 175,000 copies released. The book’s publisher is holding bookstores to their planned release date of Oct. 9, and will remove the books from any bookstore that sells copies earlier.

Update, Sept 2009: Ted Kennedy’s embargoed autobiography, “True Compass,” was scooped 11 days prior to the official store sell date. We’ve heard that Hachette, the publisher, has hired a private detective to find out who leaked the copies early. A lot is at stake with a reported 1.5 million copies in print.

Copyright 2006 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.


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