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The inside scoop on the book world

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FACE VALUE: Think twice before getting romantically involved with Bright Lights, Big City author Jay McInerney — you just might catch the writing bug. Three years ago, McInerney’s first wife, Merry, wrote an acrimonious roman a clef, Burning Down the House. Now, current wife Helen Bransford has penned Welcome to Your Facelift — a soothing guide for fellow cosmetic-surgery patients. Bransford, 49, seven years McInerney’s senior, says she was inspired to go under the knife when hubby came home aglow after interviewing Julia Roberts and reassured his wife that he’d told the star ”all about you…everything but your age.” Ouch.

TYPECASTING: In 1996, Little, Brown looked outside the book industry when it needed a new publisher, appointing Newsweek‘s Sarah Crichton. Now Morrow has hired Betty Nichols Kelly — who for 14 years was the fiction and books editor at Hearst’s Cosmopolitan — as editor in chief of its adult trade division. At Cosmo, Kelly published the likes of Danielle Steel, Judith Krantz, Gail Godwin, and Joyce Carol Oates — ”a mix I’d like to continue at Morrow,” she says.

FIRST SCRIBES CLUB: Goldie Hawn apparently has an autobiography in the works tentatively titled How to Be Happy. According to one insider, Doubleday offered $2.5 million but was turned down by Hawn’s literary agent, Amanda ”Binky” Urban, as was HarperCollins, which bid $1.5 million. Finally, Urban approved a seven-figure offer from Broadway Books (a sister imprint of Doubleday). Will Hawn, who’s in negotiation to do the movie version of the Broadway musical Chicago, have time to write the book? Broadway editor in chief John Sterling had no comment. Urban didn’t return calls.

I RECKON NOT: Given his recent marital woes, Billy Bob Thornton’s memoir might be titled How to Be Unhappy. But contrary to a report in Hollywood trade mag Variety, such a book ain’t being offered. Thornton’s agent, Todd Harris, says that though a slew of publishers have been breathing down the actor-director-writer’s red neck, ”it’s not something he plans to do.”

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