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Diana's Death Inspires Publishing Frenzy
Judy Quinn -- 9/8/97
Massive reprints and updates already in the works; discussions start on new books
Carol Publishing Group publisher Steve Schragis was ready to remainder the half of the 38,500-copy print run of Nicholas Davies's Princess Diana: The Lonely Princess returned to him after the Birch Lane book was published in December. "Interest in royalty books had definitely been on the wane," he said.Then, as everyone knows, things changed dramatically over Labor Day weekend. When the news hit that Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash, Schragis said, the faxed orders started pouring in almost immediately, and he went to his warehouse to ship out the leftover 16,000 copies. He is also planning an updated paperback edition of the book, originally scheduled for February but now moved up to next month, with a possible first printing as high as 250,000.

Schragis is just one of many publishers now grappling with how to handle their Di backlist; how and if to update it; and what new books to consider. Pocket Books is doing fast-as-possible paperback reprints of Andrew Morton's Diana: Her True Story (first published in 1992, now a 500,000-copy reissue); Morton's followup book, Diana: Her New Life (first published in 1994, now a 250,000-copy reissue); Penny Thorton's With Love from Diana: The Princess of Wales' Personal Astrologer Shares Her First-Hand Account of Diana's Turbulent Years and Donald Spoto's Decline and Fall of the House of Windsor (first published in 1995 and 1996, respectively, now both 100,000-copy reissues); and Randi Reisfeld's YA title Prince William: Boy Who Will Be King, an Archway paperback (a 50,000-copy reissue.). S&S is also planning a 500,000-copy release next month of a commemorative hardcover of Diana: Her True Story that will include portions of Her New Life, plus an update by Morton and new material and photographs. Also updated will be SMP's reissue of a 1995 title, Diana: Her Life in Photographs, which will be renamed Diana: A Tribute with Photographs and will include new photos, such as those of grieving mourners. Signet has gone back for 100,000-copy reprints on both Anna Pasternak's Princess in Love (first published in 1994) and James Whitaker's Diana vs. Charles (first published in 1993).

All this activity accurately reflects market demand, said Barnes &Noble v-p of merchandising Bob Wietrak. "I've never seen anything quite so dramatic," he said about the instantaneous customer demand for titles on Diana and other royals. Though B&N's most recent weekly sales figures were compiled on Saturday, the day before demand for these titles was rising, Wietrak still expects to see such books as Morton's Diana: Her True Story to be among the top 50 sellers for the week. "People want a keepsake to remember her," said Wietrak, explaining the appeal. The problem has been, he said, that "there really isn't much inventory on these books right now. I think when these reprints come in , you'll see the sales." Ingram buyer Susie Russenberger told PW that "we've gone crazy with Diana titles," with the two Morton books in top demand. She said, in fact, that the already large demand for the books over the weekend had doubled in the single day following the Labor Day holiday.

Wietrak also expects demand will be strong, if not stronger, for Kitty Kelley's The Royals, a book whose one million first printing was done, with most cartons sealed, as tragedy struck. Warner publicity chief Emi Battaglia told PW that the house is sticking to its September 23 laydown date and although there were discussions about some sort of update, at press time it wasn't likely. Some wonder how anything negative about the royal family, which Kelley's book is expected to be, may play right now. At St. Martin's Press, senior editor Hope Dellon, for example, is holding off on reprints on its Diana books by Lady Colin Campbell since that author wasn't "entirely sympathetic to Diana." Others believe the tragedy may be a windfall for Kelley. "I think people will be more interested than ever," said Schragis.

Besides the reissues, there is, of course, talk of new books. "If you're a commercial publisher, you have to be thinking about it," said Crown executive editor Sue Carswell, a former People magazine writer who knows full well the selling power of Diana. She and Crown editorial director Steve Ross are considering book ideas but nothing is committed. "We're going to think about this carefully, said Ross. Indeed, although there were some instant-type book proposals circulating, no deals had been made at press time, and usual suspects such as Ballantine, Bantam, SMP and Kensington all said there were no plans to do such a book. "Given the public reaction about how the media was somehow responsible for her death, it would be tricky to publish such a book right now; the publisher could get criticized," said one publishing official who preferred to be anonymous. Many also felt timing would be a problem for the turnaround of a new book and would rather develop more substantial books to fill what many believe will be an enduring genre.

"I think there will be an interest in her for a long time," said Wietrak.
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