In late 1964, Alex Haley was finalizing the galleys of his co-authored book, the highly anticipated The Autobiography of Malcolm X. At that same time, he was also in talks with book publisher Doubleday, Inc. about contracting his own memoir, Before This Anger (which would later be changed to Roots). Other than a rough outline, Haley had not written much but strongly pushed the idea about a black man tracing his family ancestry, at the time a novel concept.
Given Haley’s resume—he had published several articles in the nation’s leading magazines including Playboy, Atlantic, and Reader’s Digest—Doubleday was willing to take a chance and provided him a generous advance.
Haley promised his editors that the project would be completed in two years, one year of research and another to write it. After the successful publication of the Malcolm X memoir, Haley failed to keep his two-year promise to Doubleday.
It was expected that by the end of the 1960s, Roots would be published.
By 1972, the book, to the chagrin of his publisher, was far from complete. The research had been done, but Haley was only beginning to write it.
Yet, amid the constant badgering by his editors, Haley found time to take a break and appear on the popular television game show, To Tell The Truth.
Haley probably argued that his appearance on the show was part of a publicity tour for Roots. Doubleday was hardly convinced. Roots wouldn’t be released until 1976.