The launch of American Media Inc.'s first books last fall (News, Oct. 7, 2002) was successful enough to convince the company, home of the National Enquirer and Star magazines, to expand its book operation. "We're planning on making a big splash," said David Perel, editor-in-chief of the Enquirer, who took over as president of AMI Books two weeks ago.

AMI Books has released four books to date and plans to publish about 20 titles in the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2004. Perel said some of the titles will be generated by in-house writers, but added that he is also looking for outside submissions. "It's our inside—outside strategy," he said, noting that he is looking for books in the celebrity biography, diet, true crime and fitness categories. And while AMI Books' first titles were all mass market paperbacks, Perel said he is prepared to expand into other formats. "We're examining every available option," he said. That strategy also pertains to AMI's distribution. While the book unit has tremendous penetration in mass merchandisers, supermarkets and newsstand channels through AMI's distribution arm DSI, it is considering alternatives to increase its presence in bookstores.

AMI has just released the mass market edition of Just Desserts by Jerry Oppenheimer, a book about Martha Stewart, originally published by Morrow, that contains updated information. Original books on Princess Diana and Britney Spears are due out soon. First printings of the new titles will be about 225,000, the same number AMI published of its first four titles; those titles had a 35% sell-through rate.

Perel said that in addition to publishing more titles, AMI is aggressively selling foreign rights. It recently completed a five-book deal with HarperCollins U.K. And in another sign of its commitment to the book group, Perel said he hopes to add some full-time employees soon.