Texans may be talking basketball right now since the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA championship. But the Lone Star State's true religion, of course, is football, something St. Martin's Press is discovering in its sell-in of Jim Dent'sThe Junction Boys: How Ten Days in Hell with Bear Bryant Forged a Championship Team at Texas A&M. SMP reps are reporting orders that greatly exceed expectations for this upcoming September release -- in some cases more than six times what was estimated.
The book, originally scheduled for a 10,000 first printing, is now set to go out with 40,000 copies.
Acquiring editor Pete Wolverton said much of the order concentration is regional, not only in Texas but in Alabama as well, where Bryant became a legend as coach of the Crimson Tide. Wolverton knows firsthand just how rabid football fans from that state can be: he married into a family that hails from Alabama.
SMP's initial marketing efforts for The Junction Boys will be as regional as its initial orders: it has already advertised the book in Texas Football Monthly, plans to target the appropriate college alumni magazines and will run radio ads during the appropriate college football games.
The book has received rave advance quotes from such sports world heavyweights as Pat Summerall, Tom Landry and Semi-Tough author Dan Jenkins. These should help the book's national profile, said Wolverton, as should Texas-based sports journalist Dent's overall narrative nonfiction style, which Wolverton hopes will attract those who loved Friday Night Lights, Hoosiers, The Last Picture Show and, most recently, the similarly titled Rocket Boys, all of which dealt, in varying degrees, with small-town athletics.
"There are colorful anecdotes of everything from the siphoning of gas from Bear's car to the visits to the local house of ill repute," said Wolverton.
The book will have a foreword by recently retired University of Alabama coach Gene Stallings, who is an author himself, of Another Season: A Coach's Story of Raising an Exceptional Son, the recent Little Brown hardcover/Broadway Books sleeper hit. But more importantly, Stallings is one of only 34 "Junction Boys" (out of an original 115) who survived Bryant's legendary training camp, held in the tiny town of Junction, Tex., in the summer of 1954.
The story is also attracting other media attention. Agent Jim Donovan has just concluded an option deal with Helios Productions for film and/or TV adaptation. Author Dent is working on a documentary about these famed players for the Southwest divison of Fox Sports Network. All Fox affiliates will have the opportunity to pick up and air this documentary, which could help this already popular regional book achieve national breakout. Planned ads in NEBA's catalogue should also expand its reach.