"True Compass," the greatly awaited summation of his life and career, comes out Sept. 14 with an announced first printing of 1.5 million copies. Kennedy, diagnosed with a brain tumor in May 2008, just months after his book deal was announced, died Tuesday night at age 77.
"He worked valiantly to finish the book and make it the best it could be," publisher Twelve, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group, said in a statement. "As always, he was true to his word. The result is a great and inspiring legacy to readers everywhere, a case study in perseverance."
By late Wednesday morning, "True Compass" was in the top 75 on Amazon.com.
Kennedy collaborated with Ron Powers, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and co-author of "Flags of Our Fathers," but "every word" is Kennedy's, according to his literary representative, Robert Barnett.
"Happily and amazingly, he was in good enough shape to finish it," said Barnett, a Washington attorney whose clients include President Obama and former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. "It's his book. He wrote and approved every word."
Barnett said he had known Kennedy since the 1970s and for years had discussed a possible memoir. In 2007, Kennedy was ready.
"He told me that he very much wanted to tell his story, not so much because of him, but because of his family, his kids, the causes he championed and fought for," Barnett said Wednesday. "I've found over the years that people who write these types of books just come to a point where they say, `Now's the time.'"
Well before he started his memoir, Kennedy was collecting his thoughts. According to Twelve publisher Jonathan Karp, Kennedy had been keeping a personal journal since John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign. In 2004, he began an oral history project through the Miller Center of the University of Virginia and incorporated that material into his book, for which he reportedly received $8 million-$9 million.
Publication was originally planned for 2010, then moved up to October and finally to Sept. 14.
"It got done faster and better than expected, so it was moved up," Barnett said. "And, of course, many of us hoped he would live to see the celebration that will surround the publication."
Kennedy's other books include "America Back on Track" and a children's story, "My Senator and Me: A Dog's Eye View of Washington."