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Books Planned on Perpetual Election

December 5, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ We’ve talked about it, read about it and watched it on TV. But will anybody want to buy a book about this year’s unending presidential election?

Some publishers apparently think so.

CNN analyst Jeff Greenfield, one of many in the media to prematurely call George W. Bush the next president, next spring will publish ″`Oh, Waiter! One Order of Crow!’: Inside the Strangest Presidential Election Finish in American History.″

Expected around inauguration time is a book from Salon.com political writer Jake Tapper. ABC analyst and New Yorker correspondent Jeffrey Toobin next fall will publish an election book, currently untitled. Toobin has written best sellers about the O.J. Simpson case and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Journalists James Carney and Claire Shipman are writing a book tentatively titled ``Assumption of Power.″

Three other campaign chronicles already were in the works: ``Smashmouth,″ by Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank; a book from U.S. News & World Report correspondent Roger Simon; and an instant e-book from Simon & Schuster, to be published as soon as a winner is decided.

``Look at the whole George Bush situation: That’s a fascinating family drama. People would be very interested in that,″ said Karen Jenkins Holt, managing editor of the industry newsletter Book Publishing Report. If Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris wanted to write her story, ``she’d probably be pretty successful, but she better do it quick.″

No exact figures have been announced for any deal, but Rafe Sagalyn, the agent for Shipman and Carney, said they received six figures from HarperCollins. Tapper reportedly got comparable money from Little, Brown. And Toobin, because of his previous successes, probably got six figures from Random House.

Since Theodore White’s ``The Making of the President, 1960,″ election books have been a mini-industry, with Joe McGinniss’ ``The Selling of the President″ and Timothy Crouse’s ``The Boys on the Bus″ among notable titles.

Compared with the Simpson trial and the Lewinsky scandal, the presidential election of 2000 looks pretty mild. There’s no sex or violence. No characters rival Lewinsky or Simpson for tabloid curiosity.

``I don’t know if this is sexy enough for publishers,″ said Stephanie Oda, co-publisher of Subtext, a publishing newsletter. ``I don’t think it’s going to grab the attention of the ordinary man. It’s too far removed from the ordinary life.″

There is also the question of timeliness.

``My fear is that by the time you could publish a reasonable, thorough book, I wonder if the American public will have read every word it could possibly want to read,″ said Jonathan Segal, a vice president and senior editor at Alfred A. Knopf.

It’s doubtful any of these publications will create the sensation of Simpson’s memoir ``I Want to Tell You″ or Lewinsky’s ``Monica’s Story,″ best sellers so in demand journalists raced to obtain embargoed copies.

A few political books, written before the election, have been selling well in recent weeks: Molly Ivins’ ``Shrub,″ an irreverent look at Bush; ``To the Best of My Ability,″ an illustrated collection of essays about American presidents; and Gore Vidal’s historical novel ″1876,″ the year of another disputed presidential election.

The election will probably lead to two tiers of books: ``instant″ publications such as Simon & Schuster’s e-book, and more scholarly and investigative works that will come in the months and years to follow.

``Historians only write after events have taken place,″ said Eric Foner, president of the American Historical Association and author of an acclaimed best seller about Reconstruction. ``Real historians will not write about this for some time.″

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