Sellers Hope Lightning Strikes Twice For Ice

In a whirlwind effort to cash in on rap singer Vanilla Ice’s sudden fame, mass market paperback publishers are scrambling to get their bios on store shelves first. Their common goal is to strike while Ice is hot.

All three so-called instant books were written, edited and produced in about six weeks. Dell’s entry, “Ice, Ice, Ice: The Extraordinary Vanilla Ice” by Mark Bego, and Scholastic’s “M.C. Hammer And Vanilla Ice: The Hip Hop Never Stops” are due in stores this week; Avon’s authorized autobiog, “Ice By Ice,” is being readied for mid-February publication.

Dell editors thought they had the authorized version – but then Avon offered a higher fee. While Dell has the advantage of being first, Avon’s quickie offers the 22-year-old singer’s own story, as well as a cover photo from his album “To The Extreme” (which has sold 7 million copies to date). Meanwhile, Scholastic profiles two rappers for the price of one.

David Gale, who edited Bego’s 19th celebrity bio, thinks being first will give Dell’s book the edge. “What we’re hearing from bookstores is they don’t care if it’s authorized or unauthorized,” he said. “They just want the first book out there.”

But Bob Mecoy, executive editor of Avon, expects the authorized label to help his book. “One of the things we’ve already seen is that stores are making a much larger commitment to our book than the Dell book because they think it will matter that’s it’s Ice in his own words,” he said.

Mecoy did not know how big the print run would be, but noted that last year New Kids on the Block spawned several bios, each one selling better than the last.

Gale agreed that many New Kids fans bought all the competing books, and hopes Vanilla Ice will repeat that phenomenon. “The sales of one won’t hurt the other,” he speculated. Dell’s paperback has a first printing of 325,000.

Scholastic’s bio is already in its third printing, bringing the print run to 300,000. Written by Nancy Krulik, a Scholastic editor, it is the company’s first instant book. Completed in six weeks, it is a slight 80 pages, with eight pages of color photos, and sells for just $2.95.

While Krulik interviewed both singers, Avon got the authorized Ice story at a Dec. 23 contract signing. Accelerating a process that usually takes six to 10 months, Mecoy instructed the staff to think of little else. “Doing an instant book, a quickie like this, is expensive in time and effort,” Mecoy conceded.

Dell’s author, Mark Bego, had just 10 days to write his 104-page text. While working on it, the story broke that Vanilla Ice had made up some stories about his past. It was reported that he had grown up near a Miami slum rather than in one, that he did not go to school with a member of 2 Live Crew and that he had never been a national motorcycle champion.

As a result, the dueling bios may differ in some details about the star’s background. Because Ice has changed his story before, David Gale thinks the unauthorized version may be just as accurate as the authorized one. But for legal reasons, he had to keep quotes to a minimum and use information available from earlier interviews. On the other hand, Scholastic’s bio will not emphasize Ice’s past since Krulik thinks “it’s been done to death.”

Avon may boast Ice’s own words, but they will be put into book form by a ghostwriter. Mecoy said a ghost was necessary due to time constraints. After all, Ice is launching a national tour Jan. 16 and will appear in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II” in March.

Mecoy would not reveal how much Avon paid for the authorized bio, but he is confident the bet will pay off. Despite the state of the economy, he said kids have more money to spend than ever before, and much of it is spent on albums, concerts and music-related merchandise, magazines and books. “This young adult market, the 9 to 19 market, is bigger and deeper and broader than we had ever imagined,” Mecoy said.

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