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Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 3/6/00

A Staggering Success
Rounding out our list of nonfiction bestsellers is A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers. It's one of the bestselling new books at independent bookstores, is beginning its climb at the chains and was among the top five nonfiction at Amazon last week. Since it began shipping early in February, Simon & Schuster has gone back to press seven times, taking the first printing of 25,000 to 155,000 copies. The publisher reports that in-house enthusiasm for the book was very strong from the outset, and v-p/publisher David Rosenthal predicted that the book would be a bestseller. A first serial last October in the New Yorker started the positive buzz. The publisher was successful in getting early reviews and interviews in a variety of magazines, including Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Spin, Elle, People, Vogue, Details and Entertainment Weekly. Profiles of Eggers have appeared in New York, Time, U.S. News & World Report, the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Boston Globe. Interviews with Charlie Rose and Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air have kept the book in the spotlight as have online discussions on Salon and Slate. In fact, coverage of the book has been so widespread that newspaper and magazines are now covering the coverage.

Eggers's first New York signing, at Barnes & Noble Astor Place, was attended by more than 400 people (the most the store has ever had at a signing). His signing at Wordsworth in Cambridge, Mass., drew more than 300. His events are unorthodox--some have opened with an AAA representative speaking about road rage or an aquarium representative speaking about whales. Eggers has read unpublished pieces and has had musical accompaniment and even go-go dancers to interpret his work. Some appearances have been followed by a bus trip to a bar or to an art exhibit. The author is the founder of McSweeney's, a literary journal and Web site featuring work by established and growing authors.

Ten Years to Victory
David Weber's first appearance on the national charts is, according to Baen Books, the result of 10 years of increasing sales, building word of mouth in the SF community and more focus on the Baen.com Web site (chapters of the book were released on the site, one by one, for several months before pub date). Ashes of Victory, #9 on PW's list, has about 50,000 copies in print and the publisher is quickly going back to press. Ashes of Victory is the ninth in the Honor Harrington series, and the 21st book by Weber, all published by Baen. While Weber has toured for previous releases, this time he is home nursing a broken wrist (his publisher claims the author is so prolific that the break is a stress fracture from so much intense typing). According to Baen, Ech s of Honor, eighth in the series, was so desperately sought by readers that the site was actually hacked into to obtain chapters before they were officially available. So the publisher created a "webscription" program for Weber and other authors. Subscribers pay $10 per month to buy a month's worth of books in installments. The house reports that authors welcome the service, both for the promo value and because royalties are about double that of print versions.

Getting to Know God On-Line
Harmony Books changed its tactics to promote one of its bestselling authors, Deepak Chopra. For his latest, How to Know God, it mounted an aggressive online campaign rather than the traditional national media launch. While he did do an 18-city tour--all events were sellouts with up to 1400 people attending--the author heavily promoted his Web site, howtoknowgod.com. Chopra invited people to come to the site and participate in a dialogue about their personal experiences. Harmony reports that after just two weeks, traffic was up to thousands of hits daily. The publisher also set up online chats on Yahoo!, MSNBC.com, B&N.com, CNN.com, Borders.com and MSN.com, among others. All this online activity is driving sales to the retailers. Total copies in print: 200,000
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