Feb 16, 2007

Death Propels Anna Nicole Smith Biography From Backlist


For all the ink that has been spilled over Anna Nicole Smith, very little of it has been in books — except for a lone decade-old biography.

“Great Big Beautiful Doll,” by Eric and D’Eva Redding, is the only book about Ms. Smith on the market, said its publisher, Barricade Books in Fort Lee, N.J. Since Ms. Smith’s sudden death last week, booksellers and retailers have ordered thousands of copies of the book, sending it into an additional printing of 15,000 copies, a significant number for a publisher like Barricade, which puts out a modest 20 titles a year.

The book, which is priced at $16.95, was originally published in hardcover in 1996, but Barricade, almost eerily prescient, had completed an updated version weeks ago that was scheduled to be issued in trade paperback this spring.

Last fall, Carole Stuart, the publisher of Barricade Books, had observed Ms. Smith’s recent troubles, notably, the death of her 20-year-old son and the paternity dispute over her newborn daughter. (Ms. Stuart’s late husband, the publisher Lyle Stuart, was famous for courting controversy with books like “The Anarchist Cookbook,” “The Turner Diaries” and the literary hoax “Naked Came the Stranger.”)

“I just thought, so much has happened in the 10 years since the first book came out that it would make a good trade paperback,” Ms. Stuart said. “Then of course last week she dies. And so we suddenly got really, really attractive to the distributors and to the book buyers.”

She added hastily: “We didn’t kill her or anything.”

But she admitted that Barricade Books is relishing its apparent monopoly on books about Ms. Smith. The publisher is rushing paperbacks to its distributor, which will deliver them to stores by tomorrow. Even Wal-Mart has ordered a shipment, a first for Barricade Books, a small publisher that specializes in nonfiction on gangsters, gamblers and celebrities.

The authors, former managers of Ms. Smith back in her struggling Texas days, have sketched a largely sympathetic portrait of her, tracking her beginnings from a chicken-joint waitress to her tabloid-ready marriage in 1994. The newly updated paperback edition ends with Ms. Smith’s son’s death last fall; another edition scheduled for March will include a new chapter on Ms. Smith’s death, the publisher said.

A cover photo of a younger, healthier Ms. Smith, more curvy Guess girl than bloated E! reality-show star, will remain on the new editions.

In a telephone interview from Houston, Mr. Redding said Ms. Smith didn’t object to the book when it first came out. “Any publicity was good publicity for her,” he said.

A competing biography about Ms. Smith is in the works from Phoenix Books but is not scheduled to come out for months. If the title is any indication (“Train Wreck: Anna Nicole Unauthorized”), the book will be a much harsher look at Ms. Smith’s life. Its author is Donna Hogan, Ms. Smith’s half-sister, who promoted the previously announced book on “Larry King Live” the day Ms. Smith died.

First editions of “Great Big Beautiful Doll” have suddenly skyrocketed in value on the Internet. On the online book retailer AbeBooks.com first editions of the hardcover edition were listed for $157.90 to $200; on Amazon Marketplace the books were listed for $100 and up in the “collector’s item” category. (Not to be confused with “Great Big Beautiful Doll: Everything for the Body and Soul of the Larger Woman,” by Stella Jolles Reichman.)

The rewards have gone beyond immediate book sales, Ms. Stuart said. A French publisher called, wanting to buy the rights for a French version, and a Japanese agent wants to represent it in Asia, she said. An agent in Los Angeles and two in New York are competing to bid on the film rights to the book.

“I think we’re probably going to make a quick deal for a TV movie,” she said. “Watch for it on Lifetime.” (http://www.nytimes.com)

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