Jack Romanos, CEO of Simon & Schuster

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, June 16, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: You know, there’s no debating that Senator Hillary Clinton had a story to tell, but the $8-million question: Would people buy it? Well, Simon & Schuster, Mrs. Clinton’s publisher, was banking people would, and now that publishing giant is cashing in big-time.

Joining me now, the president and CEO of Simon & Schuster. And he’s the crazy guy who thought an $8-million advance to a former first lady would pay off. Everyone called him nuts then. I don’t think they’re calling him nuts now. Jack Romanos.

Good to see you, Jack.


CAVUTO: You had a hunch that this would do well. Why?

ROMANOS: More than a hunch. I mean we really were banking on what we perceived as a predictable fan base for Senator Clinton, and I’m happy to say they all showed up.

CAVUTO: Yes, but $8 million was a big chunk of change. I mean you’d have to get a lot of books off a lot of shelves a lot fast.

ROMANOS: It’s not that we wanted to pay $8 million.

CAVUTO: Right.

ROMANOS: You’ve got to remember there were other publishers willing to pay close to that. It was an auction for the rights to the book.

CAVUTO: And a lot of people said no because they didn’t think it would. Now I was asking during the break whether there was sort of an unwritten kind of an understanding that she was going to talk about Monica Lewinsky, that she was going to talk about her husband’s private life in more detail. Was that just understood?

ROMANOS: It was understood from the beginning, right.

CAVUTO: So, if she did not include that in there, would you have just said holy fire.

ROMANOS: We knew it was going to be in there.


ROMANOS: She made it very clear when we met with her early on to discuss what she wanted to write and how she wanted to deal with the issues that it would be there.

CAVUTO: Did you ever tell her, you know, it’s got to be more than just a passing reference?

ROMANOS: No. Yes, we were confident -- remember we had done other books with her. This wasn’t our first.

CAVUTO: You know, because there was criticism, Jack, as I’m sure you’re aware, that Sidney Blumenthal’s book gives a somewhat different portrayal of what she knew about Monica, when she knew it, and how she acted after it, sort of a competing sort of who’s telling the truth here. Is it a big deal?

ROMANOS: I’m just a publisher, not a detective.

CAVUTO: Do you believe her?

ROMANOS: Absolutely.

CAVUTO: You do. So you don’t believe Sidney Blumenthal?

ROMANOS: No comment.

CAVUTO: OK. Let me ask you a little bit about the pressure this likely puts on your industry now. You’ve proven that an $8-million advance -- you can make that back. But others are going to expect big money up front, other politicians, other big celebrities.

ROMANOS: Well, put it in perspective. This is the fastest-selling non-fiction book in the history of our industry. It remains to be seen -- we’ll know certainly by the end of the year -- whether it is the best-selling non-fiction book.

But, at this point, we estimate we’ve sold over 600,000 copies in less than a week. We’ve printed a million 600,000. We’ve gone back to press off the initial printing of a million by 600,000 more. It’s a truly unique opportunity.

CAVUTO: But you were savvy enough early on to catch on and get the syndication deals and the serialization deals that really is what iced the cake for you here, right?

ROMANOS: We got a lot of rights. We were able to lay off a significant portion of the advance against translation rights, first serial rights, but I wouldn’t want to bet on a regular basis on my ability to do this again, and I think publishers are smart enough to know that this is a unique situation.

CAVUTO: But, you know, there are a lot of publishing houses that have cut down, first of all, not only on advances, but even on the number of authors under their roster.

Does this sort of put new life into the industry, they’re thinking, all right, maybe we can be a little more generous, maybe we can include some more authors, maybe we can take more risks, or are people going to go back and say, no, no, only on the Hillary Clinton-type books, only under those type of circumstances?

ROMANOS: It’s an aberration.

CAVUTO: It is? So the industry still is kind of iffy?

ROMANOS: I think the industry will continue on the track that you just described.

CAVUTO: Really?

ROMANOS: Cautious.

CAVUTO: Where are you most cautious, on new authors or on those who have unproven records at least in the publishing realm?

ROMANOS: Both. I mean, certainly, new authors with no track record, existing authors with a spotty track record are where you take the greatest risk.

CAVUTO: Do you know there are some stores now where you can already get the Hillary book at a 30-percent discount and all of that stuff? Is that normal?

ROMANOS: Actually, most of the retailers went out the door with it discounted. It continues to be discounted.

CAVUTO: Why is that?

ROMANOS: I believe they felt it was the best way to generate the store traffic that we needed to achieve the sales levels that we’ve gotten so far.

CAVUTO: I know you don’t have the Bill Clinton book when it come out, what, early 2005.

ROMANOS: That’s what I hear.

CAVUTO: Now is he going to be able to justify the $12 million or so that he got?

ROMANOS: I don’t know.

CAVUTO: Seriously. I mean you’re pretty good at this. I mean what would he have to say or do to get the same type of buzz that she’s getting? He can’t talk policy, right?

ROMANOS: He’d have to do something sensational.

CAVUTO: Like what?

ROMANOS: Between the covers. I mean what he wants to talk about. I think he needs a bigger trigger to have the same kind of success with his book than it is generally the case with presidential memoirs.

CAVUTO: All right. Jack Romanos, thank you very much. So they’re not calling you crazy anymore, right?

ROMANOS: Not anymore.

CAVUTO: All right.

ROMANOS: Thank you.

CAVUTO: All right. The man who runs Simon & Schuster.

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