NEW YORK (AP) _ Former White House counsel John Dean, President Nixon's main accuser in the Watergate scandal, actually initiated the break-in himself and masterminded the coverup without consulting his superiors, a book released Monday charges.

The authors of ''Silent Coup: The Removal of a President,'' charge that Dean was motivated by a desire to collect dirt on the Democrats to boost his influence in the White House.

As the scandal grew, Dean repeatedly lied to Congress and the Watergate prosecutors and shifted blame onto the president to protect his own skin, the authors said.

In the book, Dean denies the allegations.

The book was written by Len Colodny, a Democratic political consultant and professional investigator, and Robert Gettlin, a former national reporter in the Newhouse Newspapers' Washington bureau who spent seven years on the project.

''Dean probably at some point will go down along with Benedict Arnold in our history books,'' Colodny said.

Attempts to reach Dean on Monday were unsuccessful. A telephone number for his law firm in Studio City, Calif., was disconnected. The secretary to Dean's former literary agent, Irving Lazar in Los Angeles, said Dean told her a few weeks ago that he did not want to give any interviews.

The book also repeats a previously made charge that Alexander Haig was ''Deep Throat,'' the principal White House source to reporter Bob Woodward of The Washington Post. The book adds new information to back it up.

In 1969 and 1970, Woodward, then a naval officer, routinely briefed Haig at the White House on sensitive matters, the book said.

That conflicts with Woodward's public statement that he never met Haig until 1973. Woodward also has tried to conceal his military background, the authors said.

Woodward did not return two messages left Monday. In the book, Woodward denies being a Navy briefer for Haig, who worked then for National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger.

But the authors quote Adm. Thomas Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird as saying Woodward briefed Haig several times.

Those interviews were tape-recorded, the authors said.

Benjamin C. Bradlee, the Post's executive editor, declined to comment on the book because he hadn't read it.

Woodward's reporting partner on the Watergate story, Carl Bernstein, refused to be interviewed for the book, which he called ''off the wall'' and ''wildly inaccurate.''

Haig, who now heads a Washington-based international consulting firm, was traveling in Europe and unavailable for comment. In the past, he has denied being ''Deep Throat.''

His associate, Woody Goldberg, issued a statement calling the book ''preposterous.''

Tom McCormack, chief of St. Martin's Press, held a news conference Monday to promote the book, due in stores next week. He said he wanted to quash a ''campaign of whispered falsehoods'' meant to cast doubt on the book's veracity.

He said rumors were circulating about why Time magazine decided not to excerpt it and ''60 Minutes'' canceled a piece on it.

Time spokesman Denis Pringle said the book proved to be too complex and too interwoven to excerpt.

''60 Minutes'' spokesman Roy Brunett said correspondent Mike Wallace was ''unable to independently corroborate or verify allegations in the book.''

Both said that their decisions weren't intended as attacks on the book's credibility.

The book involved more than 150 on-the-record interviews with key players including Dean, Woodward, former Attorney General John Mitchell, Nixon counselor John Ehrlichman, White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, and White House employee G. Gordon Liddy.