Queen Latifah, Jay Leno, and Douglas Kennedy made news the week of May 30, 1997

ROYAL DEAL: Grammy-winning rapper and Set It Off star Queen Latifah has landed roughly $300,000 from Morrow to pen a book about self-esteem. Though the book, tentatively titled From the Heart of a Queen, will contain some autobiographical elements, editor Doris Cooper maintains that ”it’ll be very prescriptive. She’ll discuss friendship, body image, and getting to know and respect oneself.”

BASIC INSTINCT: HarperCollins, rocked by money losers like Jay Leno’s $4 million Leading With My Chin, has announced it will fold its venerable Basic Books and Harper Reference imprints into the Adult Trade division. ”This is a natural evolution,” says CEO Anthea Disney, who has been on a restructuring binge. Says Arthur Rosenthal, who founded Basic Books in 1954 and ran it until its sale to Harper in 1969, ”It’s sort of sad that Rupert Murdoch would spend $400 million on the Los Angeles Dodgers but his minions find it hard to continue quality publishing.”

BOOK BIDNESS: A silent auction can speak, well, volumes. At a recent Authors Guild fund-raiser, the privilege of naming a character in a Scott Turow novel went for $1,500, while the same offering from Elmore Leonard drew only $500. Dinner and a show with Wendy Wasserstein went for $1,000, while lunch with Anna Quindlen rated a mere $500. Olivia Goldsmith plunked down $1,000 for an Art Buchwald mention and a signed copy of his memoir. ”I can’t help writers enough, having been an impoverished one myself,” says Goldsmith.

NOT A PRETTY PICTURE: Last year, Hyperion gave Douglas Kennedy $1 million plus for The Big Picture, and it just handed him another million for a second novel, tentatively titled The Job. A mistake? Could be, since Picture is looking like a flop: It’s spent only one week on the New York Times best-seller list, despite $750,000 sunk into promotion. ”There are 15 reasons why The Big Picture is not on the list,” offers Jennifer Barth, Kennedy’s editor, ”and they include Danielle Steel, John Grisham, and Robin Cook.” On an optimistic note, publisher Bob Miller believes that Picture is now set for healthy paperback sales.