The all-consuming media coverage being given to the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and her sister is already having an effect on the book world, just as the death of Princess Diana prompted a flurry of book activity almost two years ago.
All three available backlist bios of Kennedy immediately jumped on to Amazon.com's Hot 100: Stephen J. Spignesi's The JFK Jr. Scrapbook (Citadel, Jan. 1997), Michael and Montague Druitt's John F. Kennedy Jr.: A Life in the Spotlight (Andrews McMeel, Oct. 1996) and Wendy Leigh's Prince Charming: The John F. Kennedy Jr. Story (Signet, July 1994, updated edition). Even Villard's recent release of 250 Ways to Make America Better, a manifesto from Kennedy's magazine, George, jumped up in demand.
The three bios are now going back to press in great numbers for updated editions that will hit stores as soon as the end of this week. Just one example of the increased demand: Andrews McMeel, which has sold some 50,000 copies of its book to date, will now issue a 200,000-copy printing of its update.
Additionally, Kensington has advanced the publication of The Kennedys: The Third Generation by Barbara Gibson and Ted Schwarz to July 29. The $5.99 Pinnacle mass market was already in the works, previously scheduled for an October publication. The print run had not been determined before the news and it will now go out with 300,000 copies. The house is also planning to go back to press on a previous mass market title, The Kennedy Men by Nellie Bly, for an unspecified number of copies.
Other upcoming books about the Kennedys, signed up before the news of the tragedy, are now expected to attract more attention. SMP has The Kennedy Weddings coming this fall. The Kennedy Men is the working title of an upcoming book by Laurence Leamer, who previous penned The Kennedy Women. The book is under contract at Morrow, which has scheduled a 2001 release.
At press time, most publishers, cautious about competing with the media on this story, were merely assessing their current book inventory rather than signing up new books. But at least one new JFK Jr. bio has appeared on the horizon: literary agent Georges Borchardt has just received a proposal from C. David Heymann -- who wrote A Woman Named Jackie and, most recently, RFK: A Candid Biography -- and will now shop it to publishers.