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Tabloid king boosts books

AMI ramps up publishing division

Tabloid empire American Media isn’t limiting its celebrity dishing to magazines and tabloids. Under new prexy David Perel (who serves double-time as editor in chief of the National Enquirer), the company’s book division, AMI Books, is upping production and rolling out a slew of paperbacks.

Whether the public’s appetite will match the supply remains to be seen. While magazine circulation numbers for gossipy glossies like Wenner Media’s Us Weekly have been on the rise, for the first six months of 2003 retail sales for the Boca Raton-based American Media publications — which includes Star and the Globe — dropped 14% from the same period in 2001.

Forecasts aside, AMI is amping up.

Founded last October, AMI Books has published about a dozen books on checkout-line favorites like Rosie O’Donnell, J.Lo, Pamela Anderson and JonBenet Ramsey.

By March 2004, there will be at least twice that many on supermarket and bookstore racks. Next week 225,000 copies of “Secrets and Lies,” a book about Princess Diana by Nick Davies, will be released by DSI, AMI’s distrib arm. Unauthorized Britney Spears is up next.

Besides driving up volume, AMI is also going beyond the American Media stable of tabloid journos and looking for outside writers.

“I call it an inside-outside strategy,” Perel said. “American Media has a lot of information because of the number of publications we have and the tremendous amount of original material that we’ve been drawing on since the inception (of AMI). But now we’re looking to get outside submissions from agents and projects we can take over that people bring to us.”

Recently, AMI reissued the bitchy unauthorized Martha Stewart bio “Just Desserts” by Jerry Oppenheimer, which was previously published by William Morrow.

AMI’s reinvigoration will also be influenced by Bonnie Fuller, who became American Media’s editorial director in late June after leaving her post as editor in chief of Us Weekly. Perel said thus far Fuller’s attention has been primarily focused on Star, which is being relaunched as a glossy, but that “down the road, she is going to bring some insight into the mix.”

“Bonnie will bring a knowledge of the marketplace, and she has an incredible, intuitive, intrinsic instinct about what people want to read and how to package it,” he said.

AMI is also being more aggressive about selling foreign licensing rights, and just signed a five-book deal with HarperCollins U.K.