Former President Bill Clinton is going where dozens of high-profile authors, from wife Hillary to Bob Woodward, have gone before.

He will use television this week to sell his autobiography, “My Life,” in a tour shrewdly organized by publishing house Alfred A. Knopf. Viewers won’t be able to ignore Clinton: They will keep stumbling over him just as Dick Van Dyke falls over that ottoman in his old sitcom.

CBS’ Dan Rather landed Clinton first for an hour interview on “60 Minutes” on Sunday.

“We had a good team making a bid for it,” Rather said. “We proposed not just sitting him down, but going to Arkansas, going to his birthplace, going to Little Rock. In the end, who knows how they make these decisions?”

Paul Bogaards does. The executive director of publicity at Knopf explained the tour strategy.

“You look for pipelines to readership,” he said. “”60 Minutes’ gives you prime time, “Oprah’ gives you daytime, “Today’ and “Good Morning America’ give you morning. You’re covered.”

Bogaards sees “60 Minutes,” the highest-rated newsmagazine, as a vital showcase.

“You have to look at its recent history of launching books – three No. 1 best sellers,” he said, referring to Richard Clarke’s “Against All Enemies,” Woodward’s “Plan of Attack” and Ron Suskind’s “The Price of Loyalty.”

Clinton moves next to Oprah Winfrey’s syndicated talk show for a one-on-one interview, in front of a studio audience, to be taped Monday. The show will air nationally Tuesday, the day the memoir hits bookstores.

“‘Oprah’ has demonstrated, more than any other show in recent memory, an ability to galvanize her readership to get them to go buy books,” Bogaards said. “She’s a passionate reader. That makes a huge difference.”

She’s so passionate that her recommendation can put Leo Tolstoy and “Anna Karenina” on the best-seller list. A sit-down chat with her should help move Clinton’s $35, 900-page book.

On Tuesday, Clinton will sit for separate interviews with Katie Couric of NBC’s “Today” and Charles Gibson of ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Both morning programs will air the interviews Wednesday.

That’s a unique event for a book because the morning programs usually want exclusivity, said NBC News spokeswoman Allison Gollust.

“This interview is potentially newsmaking,” she said. “We want our viewers to see it regardless of who else has it.”

On Thursday, Clinton will grant a live interview to CNN’s Larry King.

The Clinton coverage slightly pumps up the big-book phenomenon that’s so familiar in American life, said Marvin Kalb, the former TV journalist. He’s now a senior fellow at the Shorenstein Center, a research center on the press.

“We are in a season of big books, and big books become big because their sales are big,” Kalb said. “My own feeling is that it is not unusual nor does it put huge ethical shackles on the media in reporting the story.”

The deals between publishers and news organizations aren’t unusual, either, he adds.

“There’s a deal on almost everything,” Kalb said. “There’s a deal on when you buy a car and when you buy a book. Clinton is part of a massive sales effort. They are aware if they start out like a house afire in the United States, it will draw big bucks in Europe.”

Book industry leaders praise Knopf for placing Clinton – and the year’s most anticipated tome – in the strongest TV showcases.

“They’ve done a really beautiful job in getting the word out and building excitement,” said Mitchell Kaplan, president of the American Booksellers Association.

Kaplan owns Books & Books stores in Miami Beach, Fla., and Coral Gables, Fla. Clinton will visit the latter shop July 22, the last stop on a tour that will take him to a mix of independent and chain bookstores in selected states, as well as a Wal-Mart in Arkansas.

“On top of that, I’m sure they worked on making it a wonderful book,” Kaplan adds. “After all, it’s about the book. I believe it will be a great, great read.”

He has to hope. So far, few people have read the closely guarded “My Life”. If it is compelling, it could do wonders for booksellers across the land.

“I think it’s going to get a lot of people into the stores, and I think, as all the political books did in the spring, it’s going to get people thinking about the potency of books,” Kaplan said. “People tell stories in books. There isn’t a better medium to do that in.”

The lesson of next week might be: There isn’t a better medium than television to sell a book.

(c) 2004, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).

Visit the Sentinel on the World Wide Web at On America Online, use keyword: OSO.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-06-18-04 1702EDT

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