Monday, November 20, 2006

If I Did It

For anyone who has been living under a rock, I might have to point out that O. J. Simpson has written a book entitled If I Did It, Here’s How it Happened. Published by Judith Regan of Regan Books, the book and the publisher have come under a firestorm of controversy from the media, consumers, and industry professionals alike, and the more Judith Regan tries to defend herself the murkier the situation seems to get.

Rather than rehash the entire story (you can read more on almost any publishing or news-related Web site), I want to give my own murky opinion of the situation. The truth is, I really don’t know what to think.

As an editor, a great number of the decisions I made about what to buy, as well as the decisions I now make as an agent about what to represent, are personal. The first question always was and still is whether or not I like something. The second is whether it will make me money. The question then becomes: If I don’t like something, or don’t agree with it, but know it will still make me money, would I consider it? The answer is, I’m not sure.

On the one hand, I’m disgusted and stunned by the arrogance and greed it must take to come out and do something like this. While O. J. is obviously denying it’s a confession, I have to wonder whether or not an innocent person, convicted of a crime, would truly come out publicly with what would have been a better plan for murder. I’m also wondering why you wouldn’t just lay it to rest. I have to think that if my husband were brutally murdered and I had to stand trial for the crime, I would just want it all to go away.

On the other hand, publishing is a business, and in any business the goal is to make money. So where does a business draw the line between personal feelings and the needs and desires of the shareholders? If Regan Books chose not to buy the project, would it have been a poor business decision since another publisher would have grabbed it? The truth is that these books are selling. It isn’t even officially out yet and has already reached #24 on the Amazon list. So who’s at fault? Judith Regan for publishing the book or the public for so obviously wanting to read it?

My personal feelings and my business sense are torn on this topic, and more important, I’m just baffled by the entire thing. Can anyone else make any more sense out of it than I’ve done?

—Jessica

26 comments:

John M. said...

I boil it down this way: He has two children that lost a mother in a horrific manner, and as a father, he should be protecting and shielding them from any memories of this crime so they can move forward in their own lives as healthy adults. Obviously, OJ cares more about a buck and his bygone career than he does about his children.

Bernita said...

"Can anyone else make more sense...?
I doubt it.
"Murky" is a singularly acute description for the various motives.
And if ALL publishers passed, self-publishing was still an option for him.
I do think Ms. Regan might have been wiser to just say it was a purely business decision because there is an obvious public appetite (QED for the subject.

Anonymous said...

I won't buy it. I'm sure the brouhaha is thrilling to the publisher. It's all free publicity, and might generate more sales.

As a society, if we want to show our disgust, all we have to do is shun. Shun the man, shun the book, shun the publisher. On this and other books. Since all publishing decisions revolve around the market, they will understand.

Kimber An said...

Just when you think you've heard the most stupid and disgusting thing ever...

Kate Douglas said...

I find the entire concept so appalling that, were I an editor, I would be forced to follow my own integrity and sense of ethics. I think there are times where morality has got to be more important than the bottom line. Maybe, if more people remembered things like basic dignity and honor, we wouldn't have a lot of the problems we have today. If nothing else, think of his children--obviously OJ Simpson didn't. Okay, off my soap box now, but this whole thing sickens me.

JDuncan said...

This seems to point at the sadder end of publishing that sees something that will generate money and publicity but has no redeeming value in and of itself. Surely they didn't think this book would do anything at all to shed new light on the case or lend to the possiblity that OJ may indeed have not done it. I can't honestly figure out wtf OJ was thinking to even want to publish this either. So he's had years to come up with a better plan that makes the other one look so lame that he couldn't possibly have done it? I so hope that wasn't the intention of this book. That would be so, I don't know, pathetic.

2readornot said...

Yeah, to me it seems as if OJ has lost any moral center he might ever have had...it's sad; and it's even more sad that so many people are willing to support him by buying his book. The whole situation stinks!

December Quinn said...

It just depresses me, for so many reasons. I don't think there's any way for us to make sense of it, and I think we've all had the same thoughts. "That's disgusting...but what a good business decision."

Anonymous said...

I hope this book tanks. I really do. Unfortunately, I'm afraid a lot of people will buy it, anyway, just to see what the fuss is about.

Maprilynne said...

In some ways I don't think Ms. Reagan had a choice. Would she be fired for passing up something that is clearly going to make a lot of money? But the choice that I was really impressed with was the report from Publisher's Lunch this morning about Borders. For those of you who don't get PL, here it is:

" On Friday, Borders Group announced that they will not profit from Harper's OJ Simpson book, and will donate the net proceeds to a national organization that assists domestic violence. Borders' Ann Binkley says in the statement that "the book will be available for sale" at all of their stores "because we believe it is the right of customers to decide what to read and what to buy, but we will not discount the title or promote it." (BN take note: Borders stock is up 50 cents this morning, while yours is down 50 cents.)"

Now that is, in my opinion, a noble decision. They will let everyone else make their own choice about whether or not to buy it, but their stores will niether promote it, nor profit from those who choose to buy it.

The article continued on to this:

"In a survey conducted by AbeBooks of 979 booksellers, 96 percent of the respondents claimed they would not stock the book. Even Fox affiliates are joining the protest movement: Nine of approximately 200 Fox affiliates owned by the Pappas Telecasting Companies and Lin Broadcasting will not broadcast the two-part interview with Simpsons either, nor will an affiliate in Pennsylvania and two stations in North Dakota run by John Tupper, chairman-emeritus of Fox's affiliate board. Other big city stations, like XETV in San Diego, are still undecided. General manager Richard Jones indicates to Broadcasting & Cable that if he "does decide to proceed, the station will air it commercial-free with PSAs for victims' rights and abused women, and dedicate its newscasts to the subjects."

I thought that was also a good decision.

Maprilynne

Anonymous said...

watch the special. there is a twist to what the book is really about. don't let the media controll your minds. read between the lines and think for yourself. it is far FAR from a confessionall...

Anonymous said...

I would say that the people who don't agree with it, shouldn't buy it. I don't plan to buy it! I think it's stupid. Do I think he committed murder, no. But it was dumb to write a book about it.

What about the Black Dahlia(Elizabeth Short)? Just because no one was ever arrested in her death, does that make a movie acceptable? I don't think so. Her horrific death is being exploited. Same thing with Nicole and Ron. So why does O.J. always garner more attention?

Virginia Miss said...

OJ's book sickens me, however I must fault the public more than the publisher or editor.

Since I despise censorship, I can't fault booksellers for agreeing to sell the volume to an insatiable public, but in the interest of taste, I hope booksellers refrain from pushing it, or giving it big displays, signings, or major promos.

Sam said...

I'm appalled but note surprised because I've seen how utterly without scruples most people are when it comes to making money. Obviously Ms. Regan would sell her grandmother if she thought she could get a good deal.
And the fact it's selling doesn't surprise me either. The millions of people who run out and buy a copy are the same poeple who slow down on the highway to get a glimpse of a car accident, hoping to see a dead body. Morbid fascination trumps decency any day, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

My take on Judith Regan: this is a woman who's always had such a prurient taste in what she publishes. Still, all is forgiven because she makes money, right?

But publishing the OJ book is just, simply put, wrong. And no matter how much money you make, publishing a book that is a confession to murder AND making money off it is unconscionable.

I don't even blame OJ for trying to make money off murdering his wife. I mean, we already know he's a morally depraved soul.

But I expected better of Judith Regan.

Chumplet said...

The people who buy this book will be the same people who like to watch car crashes.

And they WILL buy it - that's the sad part.

Becky Levine said...

Obviously, everyone makes their personal choice. For me, I think it would come down to the fact that I don't think I could stand to be in the room with this man for five minutes, let alone X number of meetings, etc, etc.

Bernita said...

The book and show have been cancelled, it seems.

Anonymous said...

Good news:

http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/TV/11/20/oj.cancel.ap/index.html

Anonymous said...

Oops. Sorry about the link. Go to cnn.com and it's about the third story down.

amy m said...

Yes, they're cancelling it and the television special, it's all over the news wire.
I've read some true crime books over the years, most those that took place in the 1800s or early 1900s, but
I personally wouldn't have read OJs book because I think it's a stupid and disgusting premise. The whole thing is creepy.

I don't really know if it's censorship, though. The publisher is rethinking their decision to print the book. I think that's allowed, although they may have problems with breach of contract on his side, I don't know. He can take it to any other publisher or Publish America for that matter, and still get it published. I don't think it's all that great of publicity for the publishing house, because they made the decision to publish and then backed out at the last minute, regardless of whether or not that was a good idea in the interests of tastes, etc.

spyscribbler said...

I don't see why people get worked up by stuff like this. I mean, obviously crazy things like the Enquirer sell well. We all know that some 110 year old human didn't give birth to a goat, but the magazine still sells well with all the crazy claims.

Why do we get so worked up when it's in book form?

Virginia Miss said...

Kudos to Rupert Murdoch, and double kudos to all the booksellers who, by refusing to order it, convinced Mr. Murdoch to cancel it. Good taste prevails!

Anonymous said...

"Why do we get so worked up when it's in book form?"

Because O.J. wasn't writing a book about giving birth to a goat or being kidnapped by aliens.

BookEnds, LLC said...

Great comments everyone and I appreciate the candor and honesty. I was a little concerned about how this post would be perceived. But yes, as was pointed out, just hours after it went up the book has been canceled. Now that's an interesting business decision...

jessica

Anonymous said...

One of the yahoo groups I belong has been running postings similar to these - one thing that was done on the postings was a challenge to all us short story writers - to write a story about someone who literally got away with murder (as has been the case in so many murder trials, but OJ's was the prominent one of the day due to the book that was to come out.

per the quote on the posting: "It occurs to me this discussion of OJ cashing in has raised a number of points
of view and, most importantly and in the interest of correcting topic drift,
story fodder.

There are a number of ideas one can pull from it from someone exploiting and
abusing double jeopardy to the Jerry Springer-like aspects of it all.

So consider this a challenge: You're to write a 3000-5000 word short story
somehow related to a murderer who got away with it and making hay from his (or
her) acquittal. You can be as blunt or as coy as you want to be.

However, you not only have to write it; you have to submit it. Otherwise,
what's the point? (Someone wants to turn this into an antho, be my guest.)

I'll be collection your papers on January 31. You may begin now."

Of course, we all have our opinions and I think the overall picture here is - the book was to look at a side of the picture, that if OJ had done it, this is how he would have done the deed; not whether he is guilty or not guilty (as proven in court) and the fact that if he were to make any profit from this (as per the civil court findings) he would have had to given up his profits and all to the families.

It is disgusting to get away with murder and such a brutal thing as both the murders were. OJ has the right just as anyone else here or on any forum to write a story saying that if he were truly guilty or had actually performed the deed of murder, this is how he would do it - we have tons of mysteries out there (fiction of course but they all have elements of reality in them because a lot of stories are based on real events) recounting how someone would commit the perfect crime. And yes, we readers are fascinated with stories like this because it's human nature. If we weren't digusted about this situation or weren't willing to go out and buy all those mysteries that get published, we might as well be dead.

I'm not saying that I don't think OJ did it or not, but it is his right as a living, breathing person to write what he wants and get published (as someone pointed out with the technology today, it is way too easy for any Joe Blow off the street to pick a self-publishing company or vanity press or whatever you want to call it, without going through all the normal publishing channels) -

As one anonymous person said - the book is not an actual confessional and now that they have decided not to publish it, most of us will never know what the twist is (If you are lucky enough to have an Advanced Reader's Copy, then you are ahead of the rest of us).

Anyway, this will probably be a topic that will stick around for a while (looking back - it has been over 12 years now since the infamous televised chase scene (which was like an all day thing on every channel) and him coming up with this book idea. No telling how long he had been thinking of this either.

So I guess with the all publicity this brought, most of it being negative, the only thing the networks and publisher could do was to pull the plug - maybe another time we will see the results of this book - E :)