BETTING ON MONICA
The eagerly awaited Andrew Morton book, Monica's Story, laid down on March 4, the same day this column g s to press. It was launched with a mesmerizing two-hour Barbara Walters 20/20 interview with the former White House intern whose dalliance with President Clinton nearly cost him the Oval Office. The book is sure to be on next week's charts, as there won't be a national show, newspaper or newsweekly that won't feature the author and/or his subject. First printing of the St. Martin's title is 450,000; what number will it be on PW's list? We're guessing #1. Harder to guess is how long the book will hold the public's fancy. Due on March 11, just one week after Monica's laydown date, is All Too Human: A Political Education by George Stephanopoulus (first printing: 400,000). Little, Brown, too, is counting on quickly hitting the top of the charts.
A FIRST FICTION SUCCESS
Kudos for first-time fiction writer Elizabeth Strout and publisher Random House for landing Amy and Isabelle on the national bestseller charts, not the usual venue for debut novels. Clearly, what's propelling this is terrific reviews. A PW starred sendoff noted that "this beautifully nuanced novel steers a course somewhere between the whimsy of Alice Hoffman and the compassionate insight of Anne Tyler and Sue Miller." More raves came from USA Today, the New Yorker, People, Time and many others. Appearances on Today and Charlie Rose also helped. Random House has expanded Strout's tour from the Northeast to San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Denver and Iowa City. Meanwhile, the first printing of 23,000 has been augmented; total count now is 72,000 after six trips to press.
BRADFORD'S BIG HEART
What do Diet Coke, the March of Dimes and bestseller lists have in common? These days, the answer's easy: it's Barbara Taylor Bradford, whose A Sudden Change of Heart climbed from #12 to the sixth spot in its second week on our fiction list. This is bestseller #15 for the immensely popular storyteller -- her first book to hit the charts was 1979's A Woman of Substance. Doubleday published Taylor's latest with a 228,000 -- copy first printing; three trips back to press have brought the total to 261,000. The novel is also part of an unusual crossover promotion with Diet Coke , which is packaging excerpts from six new books in some 45 to 50 million 12- and 24-packs. Diet Coke sponsored a national TV satellite tour for Bradford on February 16, her novel's pub date. The author kicked off her tour on February 22 with a Good Morning America appearance; that evening, she left for Philadelphia to start a promotion with the March of Dimes. Six luncheon fund-raising events featuring Bradford were held in cities ranging from Philadelphia to Seattle to Ft. Worth, Tex.; proceeds will benefit the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. (Doubleday has for many years been a sponsor for these Gourmet Galas, hence Bradford's promotional efforts on the organization's behalf.)
SLEEPER AWAKENED WITHOUT A KISS
In today's world, a book that promotes chaperoned meetings and no kissing or even touching by marriage-minded singles would seem an unlikely candidate for big sales. But that's exactly what Multnomah has seen for Joshua Harris's I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Released in April 1997, the book picked up steam via word of mouth (and after being featured in USA Weekend) to average sales of 10,000 copies per month. It didn't hurt that Harris is drop-dead gorgeous and has been active on the lecture circuit with the True Love Waits abstinence campaign. After the author's appearances this January 26 on Dateline NBC and January 29 on Politically Incorrect, sales spiked to more than 16,000 in February, for a current total of 277,000. I Kissed Dating Goodbye has been on PW's monthly paperback Religion Bestseller List since July 1998.
With reporting by Dick Donahue and Lynn Garrett.