Leak prevention in a Twitter world

Last week a publishing CEO typed a few excited words about a celebrity manuscript into his Twitter feed. Although he seemed a little nonplussed when Publisher’s Weekly reported and pored over the entry, you didn’t hear Lynne Spears or her agent complaining.

The discussion since has centered on Twitter’s potential as a buzz-builder, but online small talk, especially pre-deal, is a double-edged sword.

When former Gawker writer Emily Gould’s proposal was being shopped around recently, her agent, Melissa Flashman of Trident Media, tried to prevent leaks by requiring editors who received the submission to share copies only by courier. (Despite the restrictions, roughly a quarter of New York City was soon in possession of the document, but it never did seem to make its way to Gould’s ex-boss.)

Apparently no one thought to put constraints on Twittering. Shortly after the manuscript went out, HarperCollins publicity manager/memoirist Felicia Sullivan said she was “trying hard to be objective whilst reading a proposal from a certain NY media hyped author.” (On her blog that same day, she decried blog stars and the “hurt circus” that is the Internet, so it wasn’t too hard to figure out whose book she meant.)

By Thursday afternoon Sullivan was shut in her office, kicking stuffed animals. “If it’s a million, I’m breaking out the shovel and a 12-gauge,” she wrote, a few hours later. In the end Gould’s manuscript sold for a rumored low six figures, presumably immunizing the HC offices against a shooting rampage.

Was Sullivan’s post behind the $1 million rumor that spread through New York media even as she was proclaiming triumph? If so, I guess it was good for business. But I’ll be curious to see how agents will try prevent leaks in an increasingly-Twittering publishing world.

Update: Galleycat’s Ron Hogan hopes Twitter will bring down the media embargo.


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