Victim's Family Reaches Deal on O.J. Simpson Book

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O.J. Simpson gestures with left hand as Johnny Cochran Jr. puts his left hand to his chin. i

O.J. Simpson talks to attorney Johnny Cochran Jr. during his 1995 murder trial. Sam Mircovich/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Sam Mircovich/AFP/Getty Images
O.J. Simpson gestures with left hand as Johnny Cochran Jr. puts his left hand to his chin.

O.J. Simpson talks to attorney Johnny Cochran Jr. during his 1995 murder trial.

Sam Mircovich/AFP/Getty Images

If it had been published as first planned, If I Did It — O.J. Simpson's controversial account of how the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman might have occurred — would have been released late last year by publishing giant HarperCollins.

Simpson had gotten a big advance on the book — as much as $1 million, reportedly. But reaction to the news of the book was so explosive that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, parent company of HarperCollins, decided not to release it — and destroyed 400,000 copies.

That, one might have thought, was the end of that.

But the family of Ron Goldman won the rights to Simpson's book in a Florida bankruptcy proceeding — and attorney David Cook said potential profits from the book's publication are one way the Goldmans can collect on a $38 million wrongful-death judgment the family won against Simpson after his criminal trial ended in acquittal.

"In this country, in a civil setting, money is justice and justice is money, and there's no two ways about it," Cook said.

When news that the rights to the book had been awarded to the Goldmans, Los Angeles-based agent Sharlene Martin was paying attention.

"It occurred to me that there could be great value in the book," Martin said. "And once I read it and realized it was a confessional, I offered my services to help the Goldmans, to help find a publisher for it.

Because of its confessional nature, Martin sees the book as a way for the Goldmans to get some satisfaction that goes beyond money. She and the Goldmans believe it is a vehicle for telling the real story of what happened that night.

But when Martin began shopping the book around, the big publishing houses weren't interested.

"This is the book Rupert Murdoch didn't want to publish," said Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly. "So none of the major publishers want to step up and say, 'I'm going to publish the book that was too downmarket for Rupert Murdoch.'"

Eventually, Martin brought the book to a small New York house, Beaufort Books, which reached an agreement with the Goldmans. The Simpson book is a departure for Beaufort, which normally shares both the cost of publishing and profits with its authors. Its catalog includes a number of self-help books with titles like My Feet Aren't Ugly: A Girl's Guide to Loving Herself and Why Bad Grades Happen to Good Kids.

Eric Kampmann, the company's president, hasn't decided whether to change the name of Simpson's book. But, he said, the new version will incorporate additional material, including an introduction by the Goldmans that will provide context for the reader.

"In terms of how we are going to handle it, I think his own words condemn him," Kampmann said. "But I'm one person. And I think the public has to make its own judgment, if they haven't already, because it's like the witness is on the stand and he is condemning himself, which is so unusual."

Kampmann is still gauging market interest in the book in order to determine how many copies to print. Nelson, the Publishers Weekly editor, believes it's a book that will sell best on the Internet.

"It's much more anonymous," she said. "It's like buying pornography: You do not have to walk into the store and have a discussion about it, and I don't think you will be seeing people reading it on the subway."

The book is due out in October.



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