US newspapers thinking twice about book extracts?

Probably no book for a long time has had more pre-publicity than Tina Brown’s book about Princess Diana.

There is hardly a newspaper or magazine in the US – and probably as many in the UK – that has not carried interviews with the noted British magazine editor or quoted extensively from her book.

So much in fact that the question being asked: these day is: Do excerpts from a book really help sales? In the US, Vanity Fair, for example ran an 8,200 word extract. Although excerpts from talked-about books such as Tina Brown’s routinely appear in national magazines and newspapers, some publishers are having second thoughts about the strategy.

There is a growing fear that some readers might feel they have had their fill l- and never bother to buy the book.

‘The goal of any excerpt is to suggest to readers that here is a book that will interest them.’said Paul Bogaards, director of publicity for Knopf Publishing. ‘ But the key is not to sate them. You want the hunger and thirst to still be there.”

There is a risk, he added, that too much might steal thunder (and revenue) from the book.

At Doubleday, which is publishing The Diana Chronicles, they have no such fears – mainly because Tina Brown’s writing, in the words of one publicist, is so extraordinary.

Nevertheless there is a growing belief that television interviews are better these days than running extracts from a book. Others are turning to the authors and asking them to write an article about their book,.

And then there is a new problem: Not so many publications these days can afford to pay the high price for an excerpt that some publishers expect. In the days when Life, Look and the Saturday Evening Post vied for such excerpts it was big money, recalls Lynn Nesbitt, a veteran New York literary agent.

For example, it was not that unusual for $100,000 to be paid for a book excerpt. Nowadays,as protection, some publishers are trying to limit the size and scope of any excerpt a magazine or paper runs.

And sometimes now there is even a ban on the use of excerpts on a website. But a cover in Time or Newsweek is still prized.

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