New house, new city, new book: Rick Riordan’s 2013 trifecta is worthy of any hero of Olympus. This week Riordan, who has more than 35 million books in print across his three middle-grade series for Disney-Hyperion, also has the bestselling book in the country. The House of Hades, fourth in his Heroes of Olympus series, pubbed on Oct. 8, and sold just under 350,000 copies in its first week, in outlets tracked by Nielsen BookScan. Riordan says that the Heroes of Olympus has stretched his writing muscles even further than his original five Percy Jackson books did. “The series has been a real growth experience for me,” he told PW. “I’ve never tried to write something so complex before. We have seven main characters, not just one. We have Romans and Greeks, and two different contrasting mythologies at work.”
This past summer, Riordan and his family relocated from Austin, Tex., to an 1870 townhouse in Boston; his new office looks out over the Charles River and features wood-paneled wainscoting and a fireplace with a carved lion face. “It looks like a Victorian library,” he says. “It’s a very different setup for me.” Riordan has just concluded an eight-city tour, ending up with a performance at Minnesota Public Radio’s Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. And now it’s back to work: at the end of The House of Hades, Riordan revealed the title of the fifth and final Heroes of Olympus book: The Blood of Olympus, scheduled for release on Oct. 14, 2014. —Karen Springen
YouTube Rapper on Religion Takes Off
For those looking for signs that social media drive sales and not merely buzz, consider Jesus>Religion: Why He Is So Much Better than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough by Jefferson Bethke (Thomas Nelson), debuting at #3 on our Trade Paperback list. Many will ask, Jefferson who?—unless they are among the 25 million who have viewed his spoken-word rap about organized religion since it was posted in 2012 on YouTube. The young first-time author is making a series of 10 promotional videos to support his book, and publisher Thomas Nelson reports that those videos “have also made quite a splash and moved the needle, sales-wise.” Traditional media coverage has included Fox News’ Huckabee. Some online critics say Bethke’s theology is mistaken and simplistic. Serious religionists have loved doctrinal dust-ups for centuries, so controversy doesn’t hurt. —Marcia Z. Nelson
Sandford’s Iron Age Mystery
John Sandford’s seventh Virgil Flowers novel, Storm Front, debuts at #3 on our Hardcover Fiction list. Near the start, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent receives the message that he’s about to get a visitor. She’s an Israeli cop, and she’s tailing a man who’s stolen an extraordinary relic from an archeological dig—a copper scroll revealing startling details about the man known as King Solomon. As it turns out, there are very bad men chasing the relic, and they don’t care who’s in the way or what they have to do to get it.
“I’ve been interested in history and archaeology all of my life,” Sandford says, “and in the middle ’90s, went to a dig in Israel. I chose Israel because of my interest in the ‘history’ books of the Bible, which are some of the oldest books and apparently relate actual events in the Middle East going back 3,000 years. After that dig, I agreed to become the financial backer of what would become one of the largest digs in Israel, at Tel Rehov, running for 15 years beginning in 1997. I worked both as a digger, and as a dig photographer. Our main objective at the dig was to cast light on the chronology of the Iron Age in the Biblical lands—the age of David and Solomon and their successors.” Details of the dig can be seen at www.rehov.org.
John Sandford is the pseudonym for the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist John Camp. He is the author of 23 Prey novels starring Lucas Davenport, seven Virgil Flowers novels, and six other books.—Peter Cannon
The Story of Elizabeth Smart
Ten years after being abducted from her Salt Lake City bedroom, Elizabeth Smart reveals how she survived her kidnapping and forged a new life. Her moving book, My Story, lands at #3 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list, with sales of 31,116 at Nielsen outlets. Not surprisingly, media attention has been intense, leading off with an Oct. 4 NBC exclusive, Elizabeth’s Story: A Meredith Vieira Special, and followed by myriad features and interviews. Highlights have included a two-part Anderson Cooper CNN interview, NPR’s Fresh Air, NPR’s Tell Me More, plus appearances with Dr. Oz, Wolf Blitzer, Leonard Lopate, etc.
St. Martin’s senior publicist Stephanie Hargadon, who has accompanied Smart on her book tour, has a uniquely personal take on the valiant author. “The reaction from the audience during and after her signings was incredibly moving; she recalls how there are always one or two victims and survivors who approach at the end of her talk, sharing their personal stories and struggles with abuse.”
In her Oct. 21 New Yorker piece, Gone Girl: The Extraordinary Resilience of Elizabeth Smart, Margaret Talbot writes, “Although Smart will never escape being associated with the lurid captivity she endured, she has chosen to remain a public figure and has been unusually successful at doing so on her own terms.” Writing a bestseller is another instance.—Dick Donahue
Starry Starry Night
If there’s a star in the romance and women’s fiction firmament, chances are high its name is Debbie Macomber. Just how many books has this bestselling author published? The easiest answer is “over 150” and this week Starry Night: A Christmas Novel lands at #5 on our Hardcover Fiction list with sales of 17,247 copies. Macomber’s books easily hit the 200,000-copy sales mark and currently she has over (that word again) 170 million copies in print. Macomber is especially fond of Christmas and for more than 25 years has been publishing stories with a holiday theme that early on featured a trio of angels, part of the Angels Everywhere series. This latest Christmas novel features a big-city newspaper society columnist, Carrie Slayton, who wants to write more serious news, accepting a challenge from her editor to land an interview with a famous and reclusive author who lives in a remote part of Alaska. It means giving up the holidays with her family, but you can be sure things will heat up when Carrie finds her quarry. Macomber’s Christian beliefs dictate stories low on explicit sex but high on romantic love, making them prime candidates for the Hallmark channel, which just renewed Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove for a second season. Feted by the romance community, (she has a lifetime achievement award from the Romance Writers of America), Macomber wrote in a column for PW, “In my books and in romance as a genre, there is a positive, uplifting feeling that leaves the reader with a sense of encouragement and hope for a brighter future—or a brighter present. If ever there was a time for an outlook that promises optimism and relatable characters who try to behave with honor and courage, that time is now. I believe this explains the increase in sales within our genre during the current economic downturn.” Macomber can count herself among publishing’s current successes. According to publicist Alison Masciovecchio, Starry Night has “225,000 copies in print in both physical and digital” and Macomber has “just inked another deal with Ballantine Bantam Dell for nine new books.”—Louisa Ermelino