People at the Hachette Book Group building winced this morning as the New York Times published a highlight reel from the embargoed Ted Kennedy memoir that Jonathan Karp will be publishing through his Twelve imprint on September 14th. The Times story, which was posted online last night, was picked up widely, and by this afternoon Andrea Mitchell was on NBC proudly holding up a copy of True Compass of her very own and reading substantial excerpts from it on the air.
Neither the Times nor Ms. Mitchell were clear about how they were able to get a hold of the book so far ahead of its publication, saying only that they had “obtained” it. NBC spokeswoman Lauren Kapp said this afternoon that the network had obtained their copy by going into a bookstore, finding the book on a shelf, and buying it from the clerk.
Picking up the Times story, The Washington Post quoted Twelve publicity director Cary Goldstein in the third paragraph as saying that the publishing house felt “regret that the New York Times did not respect the September 14th release date.”
Mr. Goldstein reiterated that sentiment to the Observer this afternoon.
“We’re dismayed, to be sure,” Mr. Goldstein said. “We expected the book to leak, but we did not expect it to leak this early.”
But, he said, Twelve still has “every intention” of adhering to the planned publication date.
“We don’t need to crash this book,” he said. “This is our plan and we’re committed to sticking to it.”
When we asked Mr. Goldstein why Twelve wouldn’t just want to get True Compass into stores as soon as possible at this point– aren’t readers going to run to Barnes & Noble now only to find that they can’t buy the book?– Mr. Goldstein said it was because the publication had been “carefully coordinated” with the Kennedy family.
“We have a business plan in mind and we feel it’s a sound one, and we plan to execute on it,” he said.
Part of that business plan, he said, involves publicity. And though he wouldn’t comment on what specifically Twelve had in store for the True Compass media campaign, one can safely assume that he has carefully engineered an elaborate one that would basically be ruined if bookstores were given the green light to sell it before the original pub date.
Adam Nagourney, who got a reporting credit on last night’s Times story for helping to comb through the book in search of newsworthy tidbits, said this afternoon that it was not up to him or his colleagues to cooperate with any publicity campaign.
“I’m not speaking on behalf of the paper, I’m just speaking as a reporter, but our responsibility is not to help– who is it, Random House? – to market the book,” Mr. Nagourney said. “Our responsibility is to get news out. I’m a big book person and I don’t even think of it in terms of the book publishing company at all. That’s not our job and it shouldn’t be our job.”