All summer long they ran side by side on the bestseller lists: It's Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong and Payne Stewart: The Authorized Biography by Tracey Stewart, Payne's widow. In a time when so many of America's "her s" are facing either murder or drug charges, it seems the American people are crying out for her s--genuine her s--and publishers across the nation are responding with a heavy dose of inspirational publishing that will flood bookstores this holiday season.
"I think people have been so disappointed and embarrassed by the behavior of high-profile people, they are looking for a hero," says Ken Stephens, president of Broadman & Holman and the publisher of Payne Stewart. "A role model who has congruity, that is, the integrity of their private life matches the rhetoric of their public life. We especially need people like this to hold up as examples for our kids."
Lance Armstrong's editor concurs: "Athletes like Lance are regarded as being nearly superhuman thanks to their athletic accomplishments," says Stacy Creamer, v-p and senior editor at Putnam. "When they have something to write about that involves more mortal struggles--in Lance's case, his battle with nearly fatal testicular cancer--readers get a chance to witness both their human and heroic sides, not just in the context of their sports but in one that the reader, too, might struggle. In It's Not About the Bike, Lance shows his very human--and ultimately heroic--responses to his cancer diagnosis. That's what makes a book like It's Not About the Bike so inspirational."
"All the recent successes are stories about athletes of great character on and off the field," says Gideon Weil, associate editor, Harper San Francisco. "Today it seems that book-buying sports fans aren't so interested in who says what about whom as they are in very personal stories of athletes overcoming the odds, achieving the highest levels of success and remaining true to themselves, their loved ones and their fans. People are looking for real her s who face real challenges and overcome them in remarkable ways."
In life Payne Stewart, with his old-fashioned golf knickers and broad grin, had a great rapport with fans. Since his death in a tragic plane accident last fall, his legend has grown and there are no less than three books about him, all of them doing extremely well, each appearing to help each other.
Ken Stephens believes Payne Stewart will have legs through Christmas. "We knew that we would get a big bump the week of the U.S. Open, so all our publicity was keyed to go the week of the Open. With magazine and television media paying so much attention to Payne that week, the book reached 'critical mass' and kept on selling strong, even after the media exposure was over." Broadman & Holman initially went out with 250,000 copies and currently have 400,000 copies in print. "We intend to advertise the book during the Christmas season," declared Stephens, "as well as provide some additional marketing help for retailers. I want the book to carry through the Christmas season in a strong way so it will be positioned for trade paperback and possibly audiobook release sometime next year."
The Payne Stewart Story by Larry Guest, with Reflections by President George Bush (Woodford Press/Stark Books/An Andrews McMeel Publishing Imprint), currently has 60,000 copies in print. It has appeared on the Los Angeles Times Bestseller List and much of its success can be attributed to the fact that serial rights have been sold to over thirty newspapers throughout the United States. Cumberland House's I Remember Payne Stewart by Michael Arkush is now up to 50,000 copies in print. Counting all three books, there is an astounding 500,000 copies of Payne Stewart titles in print.
As with Payne Stewart, Lance Armstrong has become a cottage industry in himself. PW has tracked down no less than five other titles dealing with Armstrong. There's Lance Armstrong's Comeback from Cancer by Samuel Abt (Van Der Plas), Sweet Victory by Mark Stewart (Millbrook), and Lance Armstrong & the 1999 Tour de France by Waterson, Wilcockson, Pelkey and Andreu (Velo). Armstrong himself gets into the act with The Lance Armstrong Performance Program from Rodale Press, and his wife, Kristin, has an All Aboard Reading book for children ages 7-9 coming from Grosset & Dunlap called Lance Armstrong: The Race of His Life.
One of the great feel-good stories of this year was the Cinderella journey of quarterback Kurt Warner and his St. Louis Rams winning the Super Bowl. Harper San Francisco, together with her sister imprint Zondervan, signed Warner up after the Super Bowl for All Things Possible: My Story of Faith, Football and the Miracle Season. "Recently the NFL has been going through some image problems," observes Harper San Francisco's Gideon Weil, "and as in so many things the negative receives more attention than the positive. All Things Possible is an opportunity to shine the spotlight on the positive. Kurt's book is a great example for all of what it means to have a dream, work until it comes to fruition, and then continue to work to ensure that all those around you enjoy the fruits of your labor. It is a combination of three key elements: a great story, spiritual content and bootstrapping inspiration."
Harper San Francisco will be doing an initial printing of 100,000 copies and Weil stresses that both imprints "are working hand in hand in making sure this book reaches as many people as possible. This is an extraordinary synergy. Zondervan is working in its area of expertise in reaching the Christian book market and we are focusing our attention on general trade."
One of the saddest stories of the year was the death of football great Walter Payton from liver cancer. Before he passed away he collaborated with veteran sports author Don Yaeger to pen Never Die Easy: The Autobiography of Walter Payton. "What attracted us to this project," says Bruce Tracy of Villard, "was the human story--Payton's tremendous grace, courage and humor, particularly in facing grave illness. He was also deeply involved in charitable activities, which he didn't widely publicize, and which many people didn't know." Villard will be going out with 100,000 copies and both Yaeger and Payton's widow, Connie, will participate in the book's promotion. There will be signings and national print and electronic media, including Good Morning America." Two other Payton books will also be out for the holidays: I Remember Walter Payton by Mike Towle from Cumberland House and Sweetness: The Courage and Heart of Walter Payton, published by Triumph.
One of the classy young ballplayers who seems to have his head planted squarely on his shoulders is the Yankees' shortstop Derek Jeter. He makes girls--of all ages--swoon and baseball aficionados appreciate his superior professionalism. He's handsome, young and a Yankee, and Crown--not Mariah Carey--has finally corralled him.
"Though Derek is one of the most talented players in the major leagues," says Kristin Kiser, executive editor at Crown, "he knows success is not just about being talented or lucky but about setting goals and sticking to them. When he was eight years old he told his parents he wanted to be a Yankee, and they helped him achieve that dream. Derek shares his steps for achieving success in The Life You Imagine--the advice here is both practical and personal, as Derek uses examples from his own life growing up and playing baseball to show others how they can reach their goals, too."
Crown will start out with 100,000 copies of The Life You Imagine and has declared September 11th to be "Derek Jeter Day." On that day Jeter is scheduled to appear on Good Morning America and Live with Regis and his fans are encouraged to go to a local participating bookstore to enter a raffle. One lucky winner will be drawn at random to attend a Yankees game and be given a chance to meet Jeter at the game. Crown will also be giving away signed gloves, bats and balls to the first, second and third prize winners.
He may not be an icon to all, but former Giants, Patriots and Jets coach Bill Parcells sure knew how to be inspirational. If he couldn't inspire you, you were gone from the team. He was a coach from the old school, Ã la Vince Lombardi. The Final Season by Parcells with Boston Globe columnist Will McDonough may not be When Pride Still Mattered, David Maraniss's bestselling biography of Lombardi (just out in trade paperback from Touchstone), but it is a blunt diary of Parcells's final season as Jets coach. He says what he thinks: which agents are "jerks," which players are lame, and which owners he wouldn't want to work for. A totally refreshing read. Both Parcells and McDonough will be doing signings and Parcells will also participate in a 40-city TV/radio satellite tour. If you can't get enough of Parcells, Carroll & Graf has Parcells: A Biography by Bill Gutman.
And speaking of the Jets... Everyone knows that the Tennessee Titans came within a yard of winning the Super Bowl last year, but most people don't know that they are the second Titans to play in the AFC. The original ones changed their name to the Jets in 1963 and went on to cause the biggest upset in football history when they won Super Bowl III in 1969. Total/Sports Illustrated brings us a look at the early years of the franchise in Crash of the Titans by Bill Ryczek, with a foreword by Jets Hall of Fame receiver Don Maynard, who was there from the beginning.
The name alone still causes havoc. Veeck. As in wreck. As Bill Veeck named his long out-of-print autobiography.Baseball's master showman--the man who had a midget bat for the St. Louis Browns, who first integrated the American League, and who invented the exploding scoreboard--is gone but not forgotten thanks to Pat Williams's Marketing Your Dreams: Business and Life Lessons from Bill Veeck. PW in its spring sports preview took an extensive look into business books from sports personalities and this book fits right into the category. "There is a lot of crossover in business and sports as far as management styles, motivation, preparation, planning, recruiting and more," says Peter Bannon of Sports Publishing Inc. "The business person who follows sports, especially successful programs, will be extremely interested in the management style of his/her favorite coach." Bannon will start the ball rolling with a 20,000 print run, and author Pat Williams, the v-p for the NBA's Orlando Magic, will be doing extensive promotion across the country for Marketing Your Dreams.
To be an inspirational hero you don't need to be a Payton or an Armstrong or a Parcells. This is proved beyond a doubt in Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn. "In short, Counting Coup is Friday Night Lights for women," says Rick Wolff, executive editor, sports and business titles, for Warner Book. "It's the riveting story of a girls' high school basketball team on the Crow Indian reservation in Montana, and the main character is Sharon LaForge, perhaps the best player in the state and hopeful of becoming the first Native American female from the rez to ever win a college basketball scholarship." Counting Coup was written by former major league pitcher Larry Colton and the storyline g s much deeper than just hoops. It tells a gritty narrative of a hardscrabble life in a part of the U.S. that most Americans don't even know exists. The first printing is 30,000 copies and will be backed up by a solid author tour, advertising and reviews. Wolff expects sales to build rapidly and believes that Counting Coup is "truly something special."
Another common-man hero is found in Doubleday's First and Last Seasons by Dan McGraw. "It's an incredible memoir reminiscent of Fred Exley's A Fan's Notes," says Shawn Coyne, McGraw's editor at Doubleday, "about a black sheep son returning to his hometown of Cleveland to watch the first season of football's Browns with his dying father. It's really an amazing book, unschmaltzy and tremendously moving, about fathers and sons and the games that hold them together." Coyne compares it to cult writer Exley because "Exley used his fascination with Frank Gifford and the New York Giants to show the way he was observing his own life without really living it. Just the way a man sometimes can live vicariously through sports without really having control of his own life. And I think Dan really updates that."
John Feinstein is a walking bestseller machine. After hitting pay dirt with books on golf (A Good Walk Spoiled)and college basketball (A Season on the Brink), he returns to the college basketball arena with The Last Amateurs: Playing for Glory and Honor in Division I College Basketball. This is a look at American sports at its purest, written with the intensity, drama and insight only Feinstein can provide. He will limit his promotion to signings on college campuses, but Little, Brown expects sales to be good during the holiday season and they are going out with an 125,000 initial printing.
...And the Sinners
One of the more thought-provoking titles of the fall is Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education by Murray Sperber (Holt). If the name Murray Sperber rings a bell, it's because he was the most vocal critic of Bobby Knight, the Indiana University basketball coach. After years of throwing chairs and abusing players, Knight was finally caught on videotape choking a player and later admitted to verbally abusing a 60-year-old woman secretary. For all his buffoonery Knight was given a slap on the wrist and a reprimand. Sperber, meanwhile, because he made a stance against Knight, was subjected to threats and intimidation and decided to take a sabbatical and returned to his native Montreal.
While Beer and Circus is not about Bobby Knight, it is about the kind of environment and hucksterism that make false icons like Bobby Knight possible. Sperber examines the origins of "beer and circus," the party scene connected to big-time sports, and explains its current manifestations, including the epidemic of student binge drinking at many universities. Sperber takes on the brewing companies (think Spuds MacKenzie), the TV networks (think about the blowhards on SportsCenter), and the universities themselves (think Animal House). Parents may want to reconsider the wisdom of investing their hard-earned dollars in tuition after reading Beer and Circus. Holt plans a 20-city publicity tour to support Beer and Circus. There will also be a PW Interview on Sept. 25.
If you want to catalogue your naughty athletes get Villains: The Bad Boys and Girls of Sports by Barry Wilner and Ken Rappaport (Andrews McMeel). This is a book that profiles athletes and other sports figures who become notorious as a result of poor sportsmanship or an excessive desire to win. The book cover in this case tells the whole story--it has a picture of the infamous Dennis Rodman, the ultimate bad-boy of the NBA.
And finally, speaking of ESPN, if fans really wonder what g s on behind the scenes at their headquarters in Bristol, Conn., they should get a hold of ESPN: The Uncensored History by Michael Freeman (Taylor Publishing). After reading this explosive book it's hard to believe that a network owned by the squeaky-clean Disney Corporation could allow the sexual hijinks that go on at ESPN to escape their corporate scrutiny. A devastating read.
Volume 246 Issue 37 09/11/2000