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The O.J. Simpson-dictated tome—If I Did It—debuted at #3 on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list on Sept. 30 (which came out yesterday) and has gone back for a second print run (bringing the total to 200,000 copies). The book hit stores mere days before the former football player/murder suspect was arrested in Las Vegas. What timing for the tiny book publisher that agreed to print it after the family of murder victim Ron Goldman picked up rights to the book.
So why did Eric Kampmann of Beaufort Books do it? Kampmann says he got a call in early August from the family’s agent, Sharlene Martin, and chatted with them first. “My point of view had to do with the absence of justice for their son,” he says. They liked what he had to say and, on Aug. 11, signed a deal.
But Beaufort’s name was deliberately withheld from the public until Kampmann appeared on the Today show on Aug. 15. “People were wondering if it was some slimy publisher or a mainstream house,” says the former head of sales at Simon & Schuster. Kampmann had to defend the decision to publish against the sister of Nicole Brown Simpson, O.J.’s murdered ex-wife. “She was harkening back to Harper Collins’ decision to publish it with O.J.,” he says. “This was focused on getting the record straight, on Ron as a hero who tried to save Nicole’s life.”
So how do you refocus a book that contains the same words as the controversial text? First, you change the title. “If” is now imbedded in the word “I” so that the title reads more like: I Did It. They also put on the subtitle: Confessions of the Killer. More important, a significant portion of the book contains text from the Goldmans, the ghost writer (Pablo Fenjves) and celebrity crime guru Dominick Dunne. “We did not use the Goldmans to promote their message,” says Kampmann, “and no money is going to Simpson.”
Still, he admits, he has received a number of angry calls from female friends. Kampmann says history will show he did the right thing. “These are Simpson’s words—he’s at the scene, he has blood on his hands. You sense his pathology, his paranoia.” And Beaufort, which normally posts less than $700,000 in revenues a year, will see more than $2 million in sales this month. That money is a small step, he says, to compensating the victims of a crime that obviously continues to grip people to this day.
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