Bad Timing for Now Outdated Joe Paterno Biography

When sportswriter and biographer Joe Posnanski started writing a book about Penn State football’s former coach Joe Paterno this past January, it began as a story about college football’s winningest coach, who was forced to deal with a massive scandal toward the end of his life.

But six months later, the story of Joe Paterno has changed dramatically, and yet Posnanski’s biography of the coach, entitled Paterno, is still set to come out next month. According to The New York Times, publisher Simon & Schuster is now limiting its press for the biography, cancelling events from the tour and interviews with the author.

After all, most of the information in the Paterno biography is now out of date. Earlier this month, the Freeh report, released by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh, found that Paterno failed to report accusations of child sex abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky as far back as 1998. As a result, the Joe Paterno statue was removed from the outside of Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, and PSU suffered a number of sanctions, including vacating Paterno’s wins from the past 14 years — meaning Paterno is no longer the winningest coach in college football.

But with Simon & Schuster already acquiring the book for $750,000 and printing 75,000 copies , it’s too late to make any changes. Simon & Schuster is now defending their decision to move forward with the book, as Julie Bosman explains.

If Simon & Schuster were to lose close to $1 million on the book, it would be an unpleasant but not particularly significant sum for an imprint of its size.

[Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan] Karp heatedly defended his author, pointing out that the book had been under a strict embargo and that review copies had not been distributed. Few people, he said, have read it.

“I will say this — I think there has been a lot online about this book,” Mr. Karp said. “And I’m amazed by some of the vitriol with regard to Joe Posnanski, who is a truly gifted writer. People can pass all the judgment they want about Joe Paterno, but Joe Posnanski deserves a chance to be read.”

According to the article, however, some smaller bookstores have already decided not to carry the book.

This is not the first time a quickly-written bio has faced bad-timing issues. Earlier this year, a number of Jeremy Lin books were written, prior to his trade from the New York Knicks. Those books were soon outdated.

Will Simon & Schuster be able to take the blow? Probably. But it’s not going to do much for Joe Paterno, except for remind people of the scandal that has stained his career.

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