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Gary Younge
Book sellers gamble $8m on Hillary

Having paid a seven-figure advance for Hillary Rodham Clinton's memoirs, the former first lady's publishers are gambling on seven-figure sales when the long-awaited book hits the stands in early June.

Mrs Clinton, now a US senator for New York, received an advance of $8m (£5m) from Simon & Schuster for Living History, an account of her White House years. According to her lawyer, the initial print-run will be one million copies.

"That's a huge upfront and relatively substantial bet," a New York literary agent, Dan Greenberg, said.

The book, which took her two years to write with the help of a small team of former journalists, is billed as a "complete and candid" tale of her years as first lady, from her failure to introduce free, universal health care to the impeachment of Bill Clinton over the Oval Office scandal with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Yet the New York publishing world yesterday questioned whether the book could deliver on its promises.

Discussions as to what the book might include have been conducted gingerly and with discretion from the outset, when Mrs Clinton invited publishers to talk about the proposed project.

"Vince Foster's name came up, Monica Lewinsky's did not," an editor for a publishing house that ultimately chose not to bid for the book told the Washington Post. No synopsis was submitted and assurances about the content were vague. "There is a certain reluctance to ask a first lady the question: What in this book is going to earn $8m?" the editor added.

"She's a politician with a job now, so its unlikely that she'll say anything revelatory about the crisis that she went through," said one publishing source who did not wish to be named. "Readers, particularly women, will want to read about the cheating and the lying and I doubt they're going to get that.

"Publishers want her on their books because it looks good, but it can't just be a number one New York times bestseller. It will have to be reviewed, discussed and debated. It will have to be a blockbuster."

There is also concern that her accounts of events could differ substantially from those of her husband, who also has a memoir in the offing. Mr Clinton received a $9m advance, although his book is still far from completion. But while the former president has taken to the international lecture circuit, to pay off his legal fees from the Lewinsky scandal, his wife's national standing has grown substantially since she took office last year.

Even though she has made no bid for the Democratic party's nomination for the presidency, opinion polls show that she would receive more support from Democrats than the nine candidates who have put themselves forward so far.

The prospects for the book are heightened by the fact that she remains a controversial figure. "There is no middle ground on Hillary," says Dan Greenberg, a New York literary agent. "People either love her or hate her with a passion."

As first lady, Mrs Clinton produced three other books, It takes a Village - which was a bestseller - as well as Invitation to the White House and Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets.

This, however, would be the first insider account of her life in the White House.

"Only a small handful of books have a one million copy first printing. I cannot think of another non-fiction book in recent history that has had that large a first printing," said her lawyer, Robert Barnett.

The cover of the $28 book will apparently be a black and white photograph with the title in her handwriting in gold-embossed lettering.

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