The Buzz

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Kurt Eichenwald, the New York Times investigative reporter, has a just-out tome called "Conspiracy of Fools" that retraces the Enron debacle. But this is something one couldn't judge by the book's cover, since a crucial word is absent from the front and the back. (Hint: Five letters; begins with "E.") This presents problems, judging from the experience reported by a pal of The Buzz: You go to Barnes & Noble. You ask them for the new Enron book. You get a blank stare. Why not tell readers what's what?

"It was a very conscious decision. But not for the reasons everyone thinks," says Eichenwald. "When you say, `It's an Enron book,' people say, `Oh, I know what that is.' What they are doing ... is they are marketing a nonfiction book the way they market a novel." (The cover blurb: "Behind thick corporate walls/In the shadows of Wall Street, along/The corridors of political power,/A scandal is brewing . . .") The point, he says, is that the story, not the subject, is what sells. "Barbarians at the Gate" succeeded not because "so many people wanted to read about RJR Nabisco. It was a hell of a read. That's how they marketed it." A rep for his publisher couldn't give sales specifics, but predicted a "healthy position" on best-seller lists. And anyway, says Eichenwald, "if anyone out there is really looking for the Enron book, I think they'll find it."

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