Deep Throat, Inc.

On May 31, when Vanity Fair broke the biggest media secret of the past 30 years-that Deep Throat, the confidential source to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during their investigation of the Watergate break-in, was W. Mark Felt, the No. 2 man at the F.B.I. at the time-there was one more thing the wide world didn’t know.

The Deep Throat futures market had already been constructed and sold.

Mr. Woodward, who had pledged to keep the identity of his source on the landmark Watergate story a secret until the source died, had already written the manuscript for a sort of memoir about his relationship with Mr. Felt. And the New York media business community-starting with Simon & Schuster, a division of Viacom-was primed to receive it.

That doesn’t mean anybody knew what was in it, or had any idea of Mr. Felt’s identity. But there was an asset waiting to be well harvested: a manuscript, and more money, and a property that would play through the entire media cycle of books, movies, TV, DVD’s and beyond. And possibly a cycle of profits as robust as Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein’s were in 1974 and 1975 from the books and movie that came from their Watergate work.

The new tale of W. Mark Felt was a journalistic and a business project for Mr. Woodward-and then, suddenly, after the story broke, for Mr. Bernstein as well.

But it hadn’t been for Mr. Felt. That was-it seems from the Vanity Fair piece and the Felt family’s statements, as well as from the statements of their New York agent, the former Vanity Fair, New Yorker and Talk magazine editor David Kuhn-why the whole ball got rolling.

Robert Barnett, the lawyer who represents Mr. Woodward in his literary and other endeavors, confirmed that his client “has written an amazing narrative that takes you through his personal journey that we all know from the outside, but have never before known from the inside.”

Alice Mayhew, Mr. Woodward’s editor at Simon & Schuster, said she had no free time to talk and referred questions about the book to the imprint’s executive director of publicity, Victoria Meyer. Ms. Meyer said that the book will be titled The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat. Details, Ms. Meyer said, are still being finalized: The book will run 256 or 288 pages, the tentative price is $23, the press run is likely 800,000 copies, and the publication date will be next month-probably early in the month.

The speed is unusual, but the scope of the project is not. Penciling in Mr. Woodward for $18 million worth of revenue seems to be a reasonably safe bet for Simon & Schuster; Ms. Meyer said that Mr. Woodward’s other recent books have had comparable print volumes.

After all, the fall of the Nixon White House was more than a pivotal moment in American history and constitutional law. The work of Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein demonstrated that workaday reporting could be leveraged into intellectual property: best-sellers, Oscars, speaking engagements. News could be transmuted into fame-better yet, into a brand.

Simon & Schuster publisher David Rosenthal said that the book “is in its final stages.” Editing on the book is complete or nearly so, though a source at Simon & Schuster said that the imprint is still working on finding a way to incorporate some contribution from Mr. Bernstein.

The Prospectus

The Vanity Fair piece, written by Mr. Felt’s lawyer, John D. O’Connor, served the role of a prospectus for an I.P.O. The article was short on information; with Mr. Felt mentally ailing and reluctant to unveil himself, Mr. O’Connor was left with a story largely describing the deliberations about whether to do the story. To space it out, there was Watergate boilerplate (” The Post’s exposés continued unabated in the face of mounting White House pressure”).

Still, the confession, or semi-confession, was enough to close an entire political cycle in American history-big enough so that Americans who had never, or would never, see a copy of The Washington Post, or who had never seen Richard Nixon live on television, knew that someone named Deep Throat had been uncovered and that a 91-year-old white-haired former public servant who stood on a front porch in California was the answer to a great American mystery.

For his part, it prompted Mr. Woodward to put the finishing touches on that $18 million memoir.

Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. said he had seen a copy back in March, when he and Mr. Woodward were planning what to do when Mr. Felt eventually passed a way.

By June 6, Mr. Downie said, Mr. Woodward was reviewing a freshly written tick-tock passage about the events of May 31, consulting Mr. Downie on “conversations between him and me to see if they were accurate.

“They were,” Mr. Downie said.

Mr. Kuhn had been engaged by Mr. O’Connor to represent him and the immediate Felt family for any book rights, for life rights and for the Vanity Fair piece, as well as for film rights-on which Variety has reported that he is co-agenting with C.A.A. in California. Mr. Felt’s daughter, Joan, had been quoted in the article explicitly saying, “Bob Woodward’s gonna get all the glory for this, but we could make at least enough money to pay some bills.”

Mr. Kuhn confirmed that he is representing the client for a standard 15 percent literary-agent’s fee.

Speaking on a mobile phone on June 7, Mr. Kuhn said that “I have no interest right now” in discussing the past or future prospects of Watergate as a publishing topic. Mr. Kuhn quickly said that that he was too busy to talk, that he had six meetings with publishers scheduled for June 8, that he hoped to wrap a deal up this week, and that he was heading into a subway.

But Mr. Woodward had preceded him and was moving faster. On June 2, he had published a 4,500-word first-person account of how he met Mr. Felt and got him to be a source. The piece was written for The Washington Post and was sold to the New York Post and other papers worldwide. In it, Mr. Woodward wrote that he recalled Mr. Felt “thought newspapers were too shallow and too quick on the draw. Newspapers didn’t do in-depth work and rarely got to the bottom of events.”

John Payne, vice president and general manager of the Los Angeles Times–Washington Post News Service, said that he couldn’t supply an estimate of how many publications had carried the piece, but that it had brought a rare volume of calls from subscribers wanting to know when the piece was coming and trying to arrange art. “This is the largest [story] in a while, certainly,” Mr. Payne said.

Woodward, Inc.

From the beginning, the story of Watergate, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein has been a story of large numbers. All the President’s Men and The Final Days were both immense runaway best-sellers; the movie of All the President’s Men, with Robert Redford standing in for Mr. Woodward and Dustin Hoffman for Mr. Bernstein, grossed more than $70 million. Both men became immense international celebrities, so much so that Mr. Woodward’s name on a book now guarantees a heavily reported best-seller. Ten different books with him as author or co-author have topped the New York Times best-seller list, a feat unmatched by any other nonfiction writer. If news is the first draft of history, then The Secret Man will be Mr. Woodward’s fifth draft on Watergate-revisiting events he’s already visited in All the President’s Men, The Final Days and Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate.

Mr. Bernstein, even in his late middle age, still carries an instant American brand-name recognizability, having been played in the movies both by Mr. Hoffman and-thanks to a movie from a comic novel by one of his wives, Nora Ephron-by Jack Nicholson as well.

But, in part because of the success of the first books and their ability to break news between hard covers, books have been the meat and potatoes of the Deep Throat industry, and will continue to be if it is to survive much longer.

Variety has reported that television might have more interest in The Secret Man or the Felt family’s story than the movie studios; after all, Warner Bros. still holds movie “life rights” to the story of All the President’s Men.

Mr. Woodward also draws five-figure speaking fees-between $30,000 and $50,000 if he travels from the Washington, D.C., area, according to a price schedule on the Web site of Leading Authorities, a speakers’ bureau that sometimes books his appearances. Matt Jones, a spokesman for Leading Authorities, said clients want Mr. Woodward for his “ability to discuss the issues of the day.”

What Mr. Felt has to offer, beyond his name, is less clear. Ronald Kessler, a former colleague of Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein, identified Mr. Felt as the likeliest candidate for Deep Throat in writing his own book on the F.B.I. But Mr. Felt, he said, was already losing his ability to recall past events when Mr. Kessler interviewed him in 2001. “He really has no memory of any of that,” Mr. Kessler said.

Mr. Kessler also said that, in the course of his own reporting in 2001, he kept crossing Mr. Woodward’s trail. “Woodward, I think, has a very fantastic book to come,” he said.

The prospects for a book from Mr. Felt, Mr. Kessler added, are less inspiring: “I just can’t see that any publisher would want to take it …. If they do take it, I think they’re making a bad deal, unfortunately, much as I would like Joan [Felt, Mr. Felt’s daughter] to make some money.”

Several publishing executives expressed discomfort over the way that Mr. Kuhn, and by extension Mr. O’Connor and the Felt family, were handling their book proposal. Ms. Felt’s admission that the family was seeking a windfall hasn’t sat well with the industry, which tends to reassure itself by pretending that money doesn’t matter.

There was also a perception that Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Kuhn had mishandled the process of shopping the story by allowing the news to break before a book was lined up. While it’s unclear how strong the public’s appetite for the story will still be in a year, Mr. Kuhn is currently racing around town trying to schedule meetings while Mr. Woodward’s book is heading for the printers and is due in bookstores next month. One publishing executive who wasn’t participating in Mr. Kuhn’s pitch meetings pointed out that even Jayson Blair (who, one might argue, is far less deserving of compensation for his notoriety than Mr. Felt is) was reported to have scored a six-figure advance with the assistance of his agent, David Vigliano-so surely the Felt family could have done better than the standard contributors’ fee from Vanity Fair. The publishing executive said that he found the situation too troubled to pursue an offer, although he added that it was likely that someone would probably end up buying the book.

According to another publishing-industry insider, Doubleday editor in chief Bill Thomas was expected to meet with Mr. Kuhn late last week. Mr. Thomas returned a call inquiring about the meeting by leaving a message that said, “We decided not to take the meeting with O’Connor.”

A source at HarperCollins said that the message had gone out that the Kuhn-O’Connor project was the domain of Judith Regan, and that other editors weren’t encouraged to pursue it. Jamie Raab, the publisher of Warner Books, met with Mr. Kuhn. (Ms. Raab didn’t return a call seek ing comment.) Mr. Kuhn was also scheduled to meet with Geoff Shandler, the editor in chief of Little, Brown. “(Mr. Shandler did not return a call from The Observer.)

Concerns also centered on the reliability of Mr. Felt’s memory, uncertainty over whether he’d kept diaries or journals through his early career to back up his recollections, the impossibility of topping the newsworthiness of his declaration this past week, and whether he’d be able to promote the book in a year or so.

Meanwhile, the Simon & Schuster machine has plenty of intellectual property to mine in addition to Mr. Woodward’s upcoming rush job.

Louise Burke, the publisher of the Simon & Schuster imprint Pocket Books, said that they were rushing out 350,000 mass-market copies of All the President’s Men, which would be shipping on Monday priced at $7.99, with a slightly updated softcover jacket.

“I’m 47 years old, so I remember it quite well,” said Ms. Burke, speaking of Watergate. “But there are plenty of people who don’t know about it. Plus, this book reads like a detective story. It’s as current today as it ever could be.”

Ms. Burke said that they didn’t normally feel the need to rush a book out quite so frenetically, but that “everyone felt strongly that now is the time to get it out there, and if we waited much longer, people will have read everything they need to read about it.”

Indeed, what more is there to say about Deep Throat and Watergate? “If I was asked that 10 days ago,” said Washington Post vice president at large Ben Bradlee, “I would have said the identity of Deep Throat was the only thing left.”

Deep Throat, Inc.