Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 9/18/00

Atwood That Good | 'Left Behind' Is Not
Back to Shannara | Provence Comes to Denver

Atwood That GoodIn a boxed, starred review, PW noted that Margaret Atwood's "brilliant" new novel, The Blind Assassin, "surpasses even The Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace." The Doubleday/Talese title garnered raves nationwide, with major magazines and newspapers rushing their encomiums into print just as books hit the stores. The happy result: within three days the publisher had to go back to press, and by the end of the first week on sale, the book landed on practically all the national and regional charts. Total copies in print after three trips to press is 185,000. (DD was especially pleased that none of the reviews gave away "the shocking final plot twist.") In the first week of her 10-city tour, Atwood was speaking to SRO crowds ranging from 600-900. A Blind Assassin CD-ROM contains a reading by and interview with the author, along with material about the book's SF novel-within-the-novel.

'Left Behind' Is NotIn our September 4 column we stated that only three authors launch with a two million or more first printing--Grisham, Clancy and J.K. Rowling. We've been corrected by Tyndale, which noted that The Indwelling, book #7 in the Left Behind series, also had a two million first printing (we had earlier reported 1.9 million). That, of course, puts co-authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins in that select group of writers. We won't make that mistake again, as book #8, The Mark, has a tentative first printing of 2.5 million copies. Since Tyndale said it has already presold about 2.4 million copies (and pub date isn't until November 14), the odds would suggest that that launch number will climb. In an e-mail to PW, Jenkins suggested that three million would be more likely. Meanwhile, the publisher launched a mass-market edition of the first book in the series, Left Behind,early this month (first printing: two million). Originally published in September 1995, the title sold five million copies in its hardcover and trade paper incarnations--about 146,000 copies in its first 12 months; three million in the past 12 months; and one million copies last month alone.

Back to ShannaraBeginning in 1977 with The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks has written a total of seven Shannara books, as well as books in two other series, which have all become instant bestsellers. Last year, the noted fantasy author entered the Star Wars universe with his adaptation of George Lucas's screenplay for Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (12 weeks on PW's lists). Now Brooks returns to his own world with the eighth novel in the saga, The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Ilse Witch. Del Rey marked the September 5 pub date (first print: 225,000) with ads in the New York Times and USA Today; still to come are ads in Realms of Fantasy and Locus. Also on the docket is a four-pronged online promotion. On October 6, an original Shannara story by Brooks will appear on the official Web site, The site will feature a Shannara sweepstakes contest, and Ilse Witch is the featured title for an iVillage reading group. Seven Web sites aimed at,,,,,, participating in the "Ilse Witch Project" with prizes that include a camcorder. Shannara fans can meet Brooks in any of 30 bookstores and libraries during his current 17-city national tour.

Provence Comes to Denver

Hearst Books is enjoying a local bestseller that could, with more marketing and retailing attention, perform well nationwide. The Illustrated Cottage: A Decorative Fairy Tale Inspired by Provence by Nina Williams, design journalist and editor-at-large of Country Living, is climbing the Denver Post list. With the help of Denver trompel' il artists Barb Fisher and Laura Chappell, Williams transformed her 1936 cottage into a life-size storybook with Provençal characters and landscapes. Feature stories in The Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post plus a walk-through by the CBS-TV affiliate was enough to give this striking August title a strong launch. An additional 7,500-copy printing has been ordered to supplement the original 20,000.
With reporting by Dick Donahue