Fate and Timing of Mueller Report Is Uncertain, but Book Version Is a Hit Now
The legions of reporters and commentators following every move by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, do not know when he will finish investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. And it is unclear whether the report he is expected to file will ever become public.
That hasn’t stopped two publishers from setting a date, March 26, for when people can buy their book versions of the eagerly anticipated document. One online outlet is already describing one of those books as a bona fide hit.
Amazon’s listing for “The Mueller Report: The Final Report of the Special Counsel into Donald Trump, Russia and Collusion,” carries a “best seller” label based on pre-orders. On Barnes & Noble’s website, the publisher Skyhorse is promoting the $9.40 paperback — with Mr. Mueller and the Department of Justice as authors — as “required reading.”
For $10.50, readers can also put in an advanced order for “The Mueller Report” from The Washington Post and the Simon & Schuster imprint Scribner, which bills the report as “the most anticipated investigative document of this century.”
The question of when Mr. Mueller will file his report has been a topic of heated speculation for some time, with the fever rising in recent weeks. But his investigation is among the most tightly guarded government operations in memory. The “Game of Thrones” series finale probably has a better chance of being leaked than details from inside Mr. Mueller’s inquiry.
Do the publishers know something everyone else doesn’t?
It turns out, they do not. The publishing date for the Skyhorse book is “fluid,” Nick Magliato, a project editor for the company, said on Thursday. To clear up any confusion, the company plans to add a note specifying that the listed date is only a placeholder.
Mr. Magliato said those working on the Skyhorse project initially thought the Mueller report would come this week, giving them time to read, typeset and print a hard copy by March 26, with an e-book available in under 48 hours.
What if Attorney General William P. Barr chooses not to make large parts of it public? Will buyers of the Skyhorse book, listed at 960 pages, receive something the size of “Gone With the Wind” with many pages of shruggie emoticons? Or will the book perhaps be similar to another title now available on Amazon, “A Comprehensive Review of the Lies in the Mueller Report: Exhaustive Analysis of Each and Every Specific Lie,” which features more than 100 blank pages?
The listed page count of Skyhorse’s book “is a complete guess” and is subject to change, Mr. Magliato said.
And if the contents of the report are kept entirely confidential?
“Then we don’t publish it, unfortunately,” Mr. Magliato said. Advance orders would be canceled and payments refunded, he said. (That happened, he said, when the right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos lost his book deal with Simon & Schuster in 2017).
Brian Belfiglio, Scribner’s publicity director, said his company had also settled on March 26 as a placeholder date for The Post’s book because retailers planning to sell it wanted something specific for their online listings. If the report is made public sooner, he said, the book will be published sooner. If the results are delayed, the sale date will be pushed back.
The Post plans to supplement its version with reporting and commentary by the newspaper’s reporters. In a statement, Martin Baron, The Post’s executive editor, said the book would help “in providing context and perspective” during “a supremely important moment in American history.”
Skyhorse, an independent publisher, has lined up Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor whose criticism of Mr. Mueller’s investigation has won him praise from President Trump and disdain from the Martha’s Vineyard elite, to write an introduction. The publisher, whose recent titles include books about WikiLeaks, the video game Fortnite, slow cooker recipes and a sloth, previously published Mr. Dershowitz’s book “The Case Against the Democratic House Impeaching Trump.”
The Skyhorse website’s page has a section for reviews, which includes this blurb from the journalist Dan Rather: “There’s never been anything like this in American history.” The website does not say the quote is from a CNN segment in August, or that he was talking about President Trump’s political and legal problems.
Despite being listed by Skyhorse as an author, Mr. Mueller would not receive any profits from a book bearing his name. Under federal law, work prepared by United States government is in the public domain.
Books based on government reports are not unusual, and they sometimes gain commercial success.
In 1998, The Post and the publisher Public Affairs released “The Starr Report: The Findings of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr on President Clinton and the Lewinsky Affair,” a paperback version of the report prepared by Mr. Starr, the independent counsel.
The book, along with two other editions, hit the top of The New York Times’s best-seller list when it was released, said Jaime Leifer, the publicity director for Public Affairs. It has sold 160,000 copies to date.
Follow Tiffany Hsu on Twitter: @tiffkhsu.
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