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Booksellers salivating over Clinton’s ‘Life’

Memoir skedded for late June and 1.5 mil copies

The media biz just got its Fourth of July headline sensation — publication of Bill Clinton’s book, which will provide the first public accounting of his White House years and his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.

Alfred A. Knopf prexy and editor-in-chief Sonny Mehta announced Monday that the former president’s memoirs, titled “My Life,” will hit the stands in late June with a whopping first printing of 1.5 million copies.

“It is a riveting personal drama as well as a fascinating look at the American political arena over the past four decades. He talks with candor about his successes as well as his setbacks, looking at both his career in public service and his life,” Mehta said.

Announcement ended furious speculation that Clinton — known for being habitually late — was nowhere near close to being done writing, despite repeated assurances that the book would be released in mid-2004.

Publisher, which paid Clinton a $10 million-$12 million advance, said the author has turned in most of the manuscript and that the book will be published on a somewhat accelerated cycle.

Some Democrats have complained Clinton’s book could steal attention from Democratic prez candidate John Kerry just as Kerry prepares for the Democratic National Convention, which starts July 26.

Clinton will reach out to booksellers and publishing industry execs on June 3, when he’s skedded to appear at BookExpo America and give the annual confab’s opening keynote speech. This year’s BookExpo is being held in Chicago.

Otherwise, Knopf and Clinton’s attorney, Robert B. Barnett, have yet to announce what’s expected to be a busy book tour, including at least one or two major television interviews. Barnett said all the broadcast network news divisions are vying to secure the first interview with Clinton.

Neither Knopf nor Barnett is worried about book sales suffering from a summer release.

“It’s fair to say that there is incredible anticipation,” Barnett said. “You could release this book in the freezing of winter or the boiling of summer.”

Still, Knopf has much riding on “My Life” and is banking on the fact that Clinton’s book will stand above all other political books of the moment, some of which are bestsellers.

Last year, wife Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book, “Living History,” became an instant hit, selling 600,000 copies in its first week and quickly earning back its $8 million advance. It has sold more than 1.3 million copies to date in hardcover.

An abridged version of “My Life” also will be available from Random House Audio, read by President Clinton.

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