The Corner Office: He Did It
One year ago, New York-based Beaufort Books was a small, independent, relatively unknown publisher working to reinvent itself after years of inactivity. By summer, it was caught in the middle of the media firestorm that is O.J. Simpson—catapulted to national recognition and the top of the New York Times Best-Seller List. Its newfound notoriety came in the immediate wake of the announcement that Beaufort would be doing what HarperCollins—and, it was rumored, all of the other major publishing houses—would not. Beaufort would publish the book “If I Did It,” the ghostwritten account of how Simpson would have murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, who were both found dead in 1994.
The now-defunct HarperCollins imprint Regan Books, headed by editor and publisher Judith Regan, was scheduled to release the Simpson book in November 2006, but the publication was canceled amidst widespread public opposition to the book. Later, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded the rights to the book to Goldman’s family, who had won a $38 million wrongful death judgement against Simpson in civil court that was never satisfied.
Enter Eric Kampmann—president of Beaufort Books and CEO of Midpoint Trade Books, which provides sales, marketing and distribution services to independent publishers—who partnered with the Goldman family to bring the highly contested narrative to the marketplace. Kampmann had purchased Beaufort Books in 1984, but suspended full-time publishing operations soon after. In 2004, he set out to revive his dormant publishing company. Here, Kampmann details why he decided to publish “If I Did It”—which generated $2.5 million for Beaufort last year—and how a small, obscure publishing house managed to pull off a feat usually left to the big guys.
• Why did you resume publishing operations at Beaufort in 2004?
Eric Kampmann: In 2004-2005, I saw a very interesting thing developing here at Midpoint. … I saw a lot of “publishers” coming here, but they were not publishers—they were really authors. We didn’t have a vehicle for them to really become authors, and to do a deal with them that’s similar to a publishing deal rather than a distribution deal. … So that’s where I saw the hole, the opportunity. In 2005, I brought in a guy named David Nelson … and he and I together really started making the connections and trying to find people who were possible Beaufort authors. … David and I worked together from 2005 into 2006, and we were kind of feeling our way toward a [business] model that worked. Then, of course, lightning struck in the summer of 2007 [with the O.J. Simpson book].