H’wood looks to new books

First Lady tome creating a buzz at BEA

Who said Hollywood people don’t read?

Producers scurried around the floor of book confab BEA this weekend looking for the next big thing.

And it may turn out to be an anonymous tell-all.

Whispers of a juicy title by a former first lady had movie execs buzzing. The novel — or “novel” — being shopped is said to involve a tale of intrigue inside the White House, possibly written by a former first lady and based on real-life details.

Story has yet to sell to a publisher but that hasn’t stopped staffers from some of the major studios and shingles from buzzing about it. One exec described it as “‘Primary Colors’ meets ‘Desperate Housewives.'”

Also a big topic for producers at the fest was the surprise appearance of “Tuesdays With Morrie” author Mitch Albom, there to flog new book he just delivered to publisher Hyperion. Tome, titled “For One More Day,” was being shopped to producers, with the sale expected to come as early as this week.

But the biggest media-world player to get a launch at the confab was Anderson Cooper, who turned up at the show Sunday morning to emote on the destruction of Hurricane Katrina and his own psychological trauma, like that caused by his brother’s suicide. “I wanted to go places where the pain I felt outside matched the pain I felt inside,” he said, describing his motives for becoming a war correspondent.

Cooper has been packaged by CNN as an empathic, Oprah-esque anchor, and from BEA event it was clear that the confessional style of a book tour will jibe with the CNN campaign — and possibly pay dividends for net.

Anchor is next great hope to redeem CNN ratings, and Cooper made subtle connection between the book and the net when he told crowds that he had worked on the book seven hours a day even as he anchored “Anderson Cooper 360,” then quipped, “which is kind of why my shows sucked the last couple months.”

Confab, taking place in Washington, D.C., also wound down Sunday with Random House big bet Charles Frazier (“Cold Mountain”) trying to show he’s no one-hit wonder and holding a packed signing for upcoming release “Thirteen Moons.” Publisher is hoping the surprise author appearance — and unexpected appearance of copies of the new book — will propel sales of the release and justify a reputed $8 million investment.

Meanwhile, a nasty turf war has broken out between British and American publishing execs, with each side saying the future of the industry is at stake. One American told show auds that British houses are “involved in a land-grab in continental Europe,” as passions came to a head at one panel.

Debate centers on whether rights sold to U.K. houses should automatically include English-language rights in the rest of Europe. U.K. publishers have begun pushing for the dramatic change because they say without it, books from competing publishers in other European territories will flow into the U.K and undercut sales.

“The British market is on the verge of being destroyed,” said British publishing exec Tim Hely-Hutchinson. “If we don’t shut the barn door we will very quickly regret it.”

But American insiders say they should have the right to sell publication rights to European territories separately from U.K. rights on both legal and practical grounds.

“The market is speaking to us, and it tells us it wants to be open,” said Carolyn Reidy, prexy for CBS-owned Simon & Schuster.

And some even argued for the publishing equivalent of day-and-date — and against the general idea of different publishers bringing a tome out at different times in different countries. Sounding like Todd Wagner arguing against an exclusive theatrical window, American exec David Wolfson noted, “When consumers want a book they want it now, and they don’t care about our outdated traditions.”

On Saturday an unlikely group of Frank Rich, Pat Buchanan, Ariana Huffington and Andrew Sullivan sat on a lunch panel to flog their books, where camaraderie mixed with snippiness.

Huffington called Hillary Clinton “triangulating and calculating,” and Rich, touting his anti-war book, “The Greatest Story Ever Sold,” threw a surprising bone to George Bush. After enumerating a laundry list of flaws, he allowed that, “We don’t have the vantage point” to judge Bush, and that “history will have to tell us if he saw something we didn’t see.”

More Scene

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content