When Publishers Marketplace broke the news that Kitty Kelley‘s biography of Oprah Winfrey – which has been passed on by numerous publishers and distributors for months – landed at Crown, the consensus reaction was surprise and disbelief. For one thing, not only was Kelley’s longtime agent, Wayne Kabak of William Morris, involved, but Larry Kirshbaum of LJK Management was retained as a “marketing consultant.” (Kirshbaum was not available for comment.) Signing on for editing duties is Peter Gethers – an editor-at-large with Random House as a whole who does not report to anyone in the Crown Publishing Group. When reached for comment, Gethers stated he would not be answering specific questions about the deal and referred me to Crown’s Vice President of Publicity, Tina Constable (attempts to reach her by telephone and email are still pending.)
For another, sources tell GalleyCat that there’s a good reason the deal language Marketplace quotes, where “Crown group president Jenny Frost takes responsibility for the buy,” is deliberate. Why? Evidently the deal was news to most of the Crown editorial staff. “Between this book and James Frey, she’s never going to touch another Random House author,” said our tipster.
Perhaps, but if the statement issued by Crown (which AP picked up) is to be believed, Kelley wants to portray Oprah in a more positive light. “[Oprah] has built an empire around her personality and has been one of American’s most admired business women and philanthropists,” Kelley said in her statement. “Oprah’s story is one of hope, promise and realization of the American dream.” To do so, Kelley “plans to interview hundreds of sources, many of whom have never before spoken on the record about her subject,” according to Crown.