If I Did It Publisher: It’s the Real Deal

By Neal Comment

When you’re running a weekly publication, you’re always going to have to deal with the possibility that the news is going to outpace your final deadline—hence last week’s Publishers Weekly editorial, in which Sara Nelson hoped nobody would publish If I Did It even as the magazine’s website was posting what few details Sharlene Martin had let out that morning about the deal she’d brokered for the Goldmans. With more information about the arrangement with Beaufort Books (reported here first) coming out over the next few days, Nelson was able to comfortably project a more up-to-date tone in this week’s editorial, in which she’s thankful it’s not a real publisher, citing Beaufort’s history of author-subsidized publication (which also framed the early response from GalleyCat readers).

eric-kampmann.jpgAs might be expected, the imprint’s CEO, Eric Kampmann (left), who became an independent publisher and distributor after working as a sales director for St. Martin’s Press and Simon & Schuster, wasn’t happy about being dismissed as “not one of us” in the industry’s leading trade publication (particularly ironic given that the editorial is flanked on the PW website by a huge Lulu.com ad; apparently not accepting so-called “vanity presses” into the community doesn’t extend to rejecting their money). When we spoke on the phone Tuesday afternoon, he began by talking about what Nelson’s editorial had gotten wrong about his company, starting with the fact that it is not a division of Midpoint Trade Books; although he runs both companies, and Midpoint distributes Beaufort’s titles, he had owned the imprint for over a decade before co-founding the distribution company in 1996. “To me, Beaufort is about trying to find good authors a place in the market when they can’t find it with the big publishers,” he elaborated. “A vanity press is one that publishes books which are unsellable. I wouldn’t get anywhere if I tried to publish books that wouldn’t sell.” With that in mind, he promises that If I Did It will be “a beautifully crafted book” that “we’ll bring to market in a totally professional manner—and faster than anybody else could do it.”

ifididit-goldmans-cover.jpgNelson’s comparison of Kampmann to the late Lyle Stuart, who deliberately published books solely for their potential to stir up controversy was, he added, “the deepest cut of all.” He stressed repeatedly during our conversation that it was the involvement of the Goldman family that convinced him to participate. “They want this story out in the world, in OJ’s words,” he said. “They perceive this as OJ’s confession, and they want the world to know their son died defending [Nicole Brown Simpson]. He died a hero.” They actually wanted to rename the book He Did It, but Kampmann was able to convince them that the original title had such a strong public profile that it made no commercial sense to change it; the final cover design, from which we’ve extracted the central details, compromises by including both phrases—although it’s hard to make out that “if” in the “I”—and the subtitle “Confessions of the Killer.”

Kampmann says that all the supplementary materials have been turned in and edited, and that he hopes that the first copies will be shipping from the bindery sometime in the September 11-13 range. The size of the initial print run will be determined next Monday; how, I asked, was he factoring Barnes & Noble‘s refusal to stock the book into that decision? “I don’t believe it’s accurate for them to say they’re not carrying it because they don’t think it will sell,” he says, speculating that the chain is simply trying to head off criticism from angry consumers. “Barnes & Noble is Midpoint’s single largest customer. We have a great relationship with them. And most of the books we sell them aren’t ‘commercial’ by that standard. We’re called Midpoint because we deal with midlist titles.”

“I’m not printing 400,000 copies, not on your life,” he continued, “and I don’t have endless amounts of money to pour into inventory that might wind up as returns. I’ve told Barnes & Noble I’m not printing for orders I don’t have. They have ways of accessing the book if it starts behaving like a national bestseller, but they’ll have to deal with the warehouses; it’ll take me three weeks to reprint if that becomes necessary. The problem for them is that in the meantime, Amazon.com, Borders, and Books-a-Million will all be benefitting from their decision.”