Jen Bergstrom on How to Keep a Secret.

By Ethan Comment

madonna.jpgToday is the publication date of Christopher Ciccone’s Life with My Sister Madonna and I had to ask Jen Bergstrom, VP and Publisher of Simon Spotlight Entertainment how they did such a great job keeping this publication a secret.

GC:Was the book deal done “under the table” so to speak with no announcement made?

JB: I first met Christopher and his literary agent in October of last year. We met privately and spoke at length about why he wanted to write his memoir and what his personal expectations were. After meeting with him, we moved very quickly to close a deal. When you “click” with an author on a project, negotiating the deal is easy and fast. We all wanted the same thing. There was nothing “under the table” about it except that it happened privately. We chose not to announce it because we wanted to develop and hone it first.

GC: Once the book was acquired, who knew about it and was it kept out of the schedule or listed at a TK title as a placeholder?

JB: It was listed internally as “untitled by anonymous.” We always knew we wanted to publish it this July so it was more than just a “placeholder.” It was a real book, our lead title, on our summer list. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary for us at SSE. We work on a lot of celebrity memoirs and most of our projects are handled with great care and discretion.

GC: Once the manuscript was delivered, was it embargoed in house with limited access?

JB: Yes but key people read the manuscript and worked round-the-clock to get it perfect. We were never lacking great input.

GC: Was part of the secrecy to prevent Madonna from taking legal action early in the process thus preventing publication?

JB: No, the secrecy before publication was to ensure that we didn’t unveil the book before it was ready. The embargo was to prevent those in the media from leaking it, or covering it, before we had books in stores. Some have alleged that we crashed this book in record time. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We published this book the old fashion way: Lots of author meetings, editorial discussions, rewrites, and hundreds of cover designs. When we were ready to speak to the media about it we approached those here and abroad who we knew we could trust to keep our plans private until our publication date.

GC: Who were the inner circle that kept this secret for so long?

JB: Christopher’s phenomenal editor, Tricia Boczkowski, our S&S UK publisher and his team, our legal team, myself and our publicity director, Jennifer Robinson.

And, despite the better efforts of Madonna’s rep Liz Rosenberg to thwart the media attempts of SSE and Ciccone as reported by Gawker , or as speculated by Slunch, the possibility that her recent divorce announcement is a way to take away coverage, here’s the media line-up for the book:
Good Morning America. 7/14 and 7/15
EXTRA 7/14 and 7/15
Inside Edition 7/15
Fox News Channel’s Hannity and Colmes 7/15
CNN Headline News’ Showbiz Tonight 7/15
E! News Daily 7/15
Logo 7/15
US Weekly -first print interview (out 7/17)
Premiere Radio Networks – interview to feed to all affiliates
Westwood One Radio – interview to go out on entertainment feed
E! Chelsea Lately – 7/23