‘DisneyWar’ rushed to stores

S&S speeds release of Mouse House tell-all

“DisneyWar,” James B. Stewart’s expose of Michael Eisner’s 20-year tenure at Disney, arrived in bookstores Wednesday — three weeks ahead of schedule.

Publisher Simon & Schuster, which had sought to preserve a publicity campaign tied to the original release date of March 7, decided earlier this week to accelerate publication.

Several Disney executives and reporters had seen early drafts of the manuscript, which paints a decidedly unflattering picture of Eisner’s time atop the Mouse House.

The leaks generated so much publicity for “DisneyWar” that industry insiders have begun to speculate whether the accelerated schedule was an elaborately choreographed PR stunt.

Sources at Simon & Schuster denied the publisher was behind the leaks. “We would never plan a campaign like this,” said S&S spokeswoman Rachel Nagler, adding that breaking a publication date can lead to plenty of confusion, particularly with regard to book reviews and TV appearances timed to the release of the book.

The publisher sent copies of “DisneyWar” to most media outlets on Wednesday and Thursday, receiving splashy coverage from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times on Thursday. The Journal published an extensive excerpt; the Times ran on the front page of the Arts section a long, lukewarm review comparing the book to “a PowerPoint boardroom presentation” and an analysis of Stewart’s findings on the front page of Business Day.

Shelves emptied

Some Los Angeles bookstores sold their stock of “DisneyWar” in one day, including Dutton’s locations in Brent wood and Beverly Hills, as well as Barnes & Noble at the Grove. Each bookstore got roughly 80 copies and has already put in a new order for the weekend.

“I wish we had more of them. We got some Wednesday and sold out within an hour,” Dutton’s general manager Ed Conklin said. “We got more in today, which also sold within an hour.

“We knew it would be a big book, but we had no idea it would be this big,” Conklin said. “Obviously, this is an industry town. People were buying multiple copies.”

Barnes & Noble in New York’s Union Square said Thursday the book was in the store but not yet on display.

Simon & Schuster spokeswoman Victoria Meyers said the crash publication schedule was motivated by rising demand from retailers. “Accounts were clamoring for it. It was really to meet the interest we felt was there among consumers as well as our customers.”

Shareholders interested

Rising interest in the book can be attributed in part to the Disney shareholders meeting, which gets under way this morning at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Stewart’s saga of corporate squabbles and mismanagement could be a point of reference during the shareholders’ question period in Minneapolis. The Barnes & Noble near the Convention Center did not have the book in stock on Thursday, but booksellers said numerous people have come there looking for it.

Stewart, who was skedded to appear for an exclusive interview on NBC’s “Today” in early March, began scrambling this week to revise his promotional schedule. He’s now expected to appear on “Today” next Tuesday and Wednesday.

In the past, publishers have threatened legal action against news organizations that ran early excerpts of embargoed books. Simon & Schuster threatened to slap the AP with a lawsuit after it published juicy tidbits of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s memoir in 2003.

The leaks of “DisneyWar” demonstrate that reporters have grown more intrepid about unearthing copies of embargoed books — and that the attendant publicity is a useful marketing gimmick.

“It’s very difficult to keep a book under strict embargo,” an exec at a rival publishing house said Thursday. “Publishers have become more nimble and adept at accelerating publication dates. And some embargoes are wink-wink nudge-nudge.”

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