Remember R. Foster Winans? He was the reporter for The Wall Street Journal who tipped off former stockbroker Peter N. Brant about what would appear in the paper's "Heard on the Street" column. Brant would trade the stocks, Winans would get a cut of the proceeds, and everyone would be happy -- until they got caught. Now, Winans has written a book on the affair, called Trading Secrets: Seduction and Scandal at The Wall Street Journal.
Like a lot of people in his position, Winans would like to squeeze a few more bucks out of his crime. That's hardly surprising; his P&L so far looks pretty bleak. Losses: 18 months in jail on a conviction of conspiracy to commit securities fraud; sacrifice of job and reputation; legal bills totaling some $200,000. Gains: an estimated $30,000 from Brant's illegal trading. Can the book redress the balance? Just how much can you make from a book, anyway?
It's a little early to predict how the book will sell, but Trading Secrets has attracted some interest. Esquire magazine has run an excerpt, the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and two book clubs have picked it up, the British rights have been sold, and a paperback is planned. A Hollywood producer has purchased a movie-rights option. And none other than Gore Vidal has expressed interest in doing the screenplay.
Winans's agent wouldn't release the specifics of these deals, so INC. sought expert help from Richard Curtis, an agent himself and author of How to Be Your Own Literary Agent. Assuming sales of 40,000 hardback copies and 50,000 paperback -- reasonable numbers for a book that's had this kind of publicity -- Curtis speculates that Winans stands to gain the following amounts:
Even if these numbers are accurate, it may be years before Winans can pocket his proceeds. The New York State Crime Victims Board is investigating whether it can confiscate his profits under New York's so-called Son of Sam law, which prohibits miscreants from capitalizing on their crimes. If the board does so, anyone claiming to be a victim in the Winans case would have five years to seek damages. And even if Winans gets the money, he's still likely to face a hefty deficit -- at least until that movie version hits the theaters.