Weeks after Bill Clinton was first elected president, Simon & Schuster was among the publishers pawing around for a book on First Cat Socks. Cat books are one of the few safe bets in publishing, but this feline-elect was off-limits.
Six years later, however, children's letters to Socks and Buddy, the family dog acquired in 1997, are being gathered into a Simon & Schuster book that will carry the byline of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The publishing house announced Wednesday that it will bring out "Dear Socks, Dear Buddy" in November in an arrangement that will direct all author earnings from the book to the National Park Foundation, a nonprofit supporter of the National Park Service.
The book, aimed at children and parents, will feature a few dozen photographs of the first pets in action and an introduction by the first lady on the importance of encouraging youngsters to write.
"Some of the kids' letters are hilarious, some are sad, some are inquisitive; all of them are interesting," said Robert Barnett, a Washington attorney who specializes in high-profile book deals and represented Hillary Clinton.
Linda Kulman, a Washington-based journalist, is collaborating on the project.
The first lady's first book with Simon & Schuster, "It Takes a Village," focused on children's needs and ways to improve family and community life. Published in 1996, the book spent months on the national bestseller lists and has more than 500,000 copies in print.
The Clintons have paid taxes on earnings from "It Takes a Village"--author profits totaled more than $1 million through last year--and given the balance to charity. All royalties and ancillary author earnings, such as book club proceeds and magazine excerpts, from the Socks-Buddy book will go directly to the National Park Foundation, which will hold the copyright.
This could be a big seller, if recent presidential history is any guide.
Barbara Bush "helped" two of her family's dogs to write books. The second memoir, "Millie's Book," earned the former first lady $900,000 in charity-bound royalties in 1991 alone.
Audio Book Awards: Burt Reynolds didn't win an Oscar for his nominated role in "Boogie Nights," but the actor's reading of Erskine Caldwell's "God's Little Acre" for Dove Audio has been judged best abridged fiction on tape by the Audio Publishers Assn.
The nonprofit association presented its third annual Audie Awards at BookExpo America, the publishing industry trade show, last weekend in Chicago. Other winners among 400 audio books from 1997 submitted for consideration include:
* Best unabridged fiction: Kit Denton's "The Breaker," read by Terence Donovan (Bolinda Audio Books).
* Best mystery: "Vintage Crime Stories" (of Ruth Rendell, Graham Greene and other authors), read by Patrick Malahide (Tangled Web Audio).
* Best abridged nonfiction: Faith D'Alusio, Peter Mendel and Naomi Wolf's "Women in the Material World," read by Greg Daniel, Amy Hill and others (Audio Literature).
* Best unabridged nonfiction: "James Herriot's Animal Stories," read by Christopher Timothy (Audio Renaissance).
* Best in self-help: Jacquelyn Mitchard's "The Rest of Us," read by the author (Penguin Audiobooks).
* Best children's title: Brian Jacques' "Redwall--Complete Set," read by the author (Listening Library).
The Audio Publishers Assn. says that more than 60 million audio books are sold annually, and the market will approach $2 billion in sales this year.
The average age of audio-book listeners is 45, general fiction is the leading category, and 72.6% of listeners say they do so in the car.
The Manhattan Beach-based association offers a complete list of winners, as well as a deep list of available titles, at http://www.audiopub.org. Oh, yes--it's June. Happy Audio Book Month.
Mega-Merger Looks Certain: The giant merger of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group and Random House appears on track for midsummer.
The Federal Trade Commission has cleared the deal in which Bertelsmann A.G., the German media conglomerate that owns BDD, will buy Random House from Advance Publications Inc. for an estimated $1.3 billion.
The Authors Guild and the Assn. of Authors' Representatives had filed objections with the FTC, charging that the combined companies would have too large a hold on the bookstore, or so-called trade, market.
In a statement Tuesday, Peter Olson, who'll become chairman and CEO of Random House Inc., as the merged companies will be known, said, "We look forward to working constructively with authors, their agents, booksellers, and to [providing] readers with a tremendous diversity of publishing and reading choices."
Focus on New York: In a distinguished career as an author and curator specializing in New York City's ethnic history, Allon Schoener has produced important books about the Lower East Side and Italian Americans and was responsible for the landmark "Harlem on My Mind" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the late 1960s.