If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the sports publishing industry must be cloning itself silly over the remarkable success of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit (Random House). For years, publishers have shied away from horse racing books for one simple reason--they were DOA at the bookstores. With one remarkable book, Hillenbrand destroyed a long-entrenched theory. PW asks Hillenbrand if she know she was starting a publishing trend when she began to write Seabiscuit.
"It's just amazing," she says over the phone from her home in Washington, D.C., "because when I was trying to find a publisher it was more like, 'Well, publishers aren't going to take a book about horseracing.' And, boy, things have suddenly changed."
Changed, indeed. PW counts more than 20 upcoming titles about horse racing or equestrian sports. Publishers all over are backing the horses.
"Seabiscuit's success," says Kelli Martin, HarperCollins associate editor, "serves as tremendous inspiration and a precedent for us and the horseracing genre. Hillenbrand treated Seabiscuit just as any great writer would treat the subject of a biography about one's most admired role model or personal icon. And that's the challenge, I think."
"The mainstream response to Seabiscuit certainly has encouraged equine book publishers," says Jacqueline Duke, editor at Eclipse Press. "We think the book's success opened the eyes of people who previously had only a passing interest in racing. But racing has all the dramatic elements necessary for a good story: courageous animals, sometimes eccentric people, conflict and triumph over adversity."
"It certainly proves," says Leigh Haber, executive editor at Hyperion, "that there is a market for good nonfiction about horses and horse racing." Haber goes on to add, "One could also perhaps argue that the success of Dick Francis has not only to do with the fact that he's a terrific storyteller, but also with the fact that his books are all set in that fascinating world."
"I think that what made Seabiscuit so successful," says Paul Golob, executive editor, Public Affairs, "was the narrative, the dramatic confrontation between Seabiscuit and War Admiral, and the human characters at the center of the book. Sure, there will be some books that will benefit from Seabiscuit's coattails, but unless they have other qualities, they are unlikely to match its appeal, even in part."
Seabiscuit, according to Jonathan Karp, v-p/senior editor at Random House, is now in its 18th hardcover printing and has sold more than 375,000 copies. In April, Ballantine will bring out the trade paperback with an initial 200,000-copy printing. Movie rights have been sold to Universal and Seabiscuit will be the subject next year of an episode on The American Experience on PBS. What's next for Hillenbrand? "The next thing I'm willing to do is make this into a children's book, just because a lot of people have contacted me about that. People keep writing and saying, 'I read parts of this to my kids'--and obviously there are parts you can't read to your kids," she says, laughing. "I'm just overjoyed to see that the publishing world is giving racing books a chance. And I think the reading world is going to benefit from it."
This Year's Contenders
Every book has a story, and the story behind Three Strides Before the Wire: The Dark and Beautiful World of Horse Racing by Elizabeth Mitchell is both spirit-lifting and yet somewhat eerie. "I went to the Kentucky Derby in 1999 with a man I loved who was in remission from leukemia," recalls Mitchell, who is known as Biz to her friends. "We drove down to Louisville, and the night before the race I dreamed the word 'charisma' repeatedly. I thought it was odd, but didn't wonder much more about it until we went to the race. There we saw that a long-shot horse named Charismatic was listed as running in the Derby, so we immediately thought of my dream and bet on him. To the shock of horseracing experts and our delight, he won--at the third longest odds in Derby history." Mitchell, a former executive editor at George magazine, follows the Hillenbrand formula: she looks at the world of horseracing through the entwined fates of a horse (Charismatic), a beleaguered jockey (Chris Antley), the horse's owners (Bob and Beverly Lewis) and the trainer (D. Wayne Lukas). Hyperion will go out with a 50,000-copy first printing for Three Strides Before the Wire and support it with publicity appearances and an extensive radio satellite tour. An excerpt will run in the April issue of GQ magazine.
The controversial trainer Lukas will also be profiled this spring in D. Wayne: The High-Rolling and Fast Times of America's Premier Horse Trainer by Carlo DeVito. "With all the horseracing books coming out following the success of Seabiscuit," says Matthew Carnicelli, senior editor, Contemporary/McGraw-Hill, "a junior editor here, Michele Pezzuti, thought people might be interested in the story of Lukas, probably the best-known figure in horseracing, for good or bad. Michele approached a sportswriter she knew, Carlo DeVito, and he got great access to a lot of people, including Lukas himself, who showed him around his barns at Saratoga and even let him use his personal photos for the book." DeVito will travel to top horse races for promotion, doing bookstore signings and local media appearances at all the Triple Crown sites, plus Saratoga and Monmouth Park.
What happens when a veteran journalist retires his typewriter and heads for a horse-breeding farm? The answer is Horse of a Different Color: A Tale of Breeding, Geniuses, Dominant Females, and the Fastest Derby Winner Since Secretariat by Gene Squires. Squires's adventures in breeding turned out to be brilliant--one of his horses, Monarchos, won the Derby last year. "This is a book for mainstream readers," says Paul Golob of at Public Affairs, "especially those casual fans who watch the Derby every year, but it will also have a strong appeal for the more dedicated racing fans. The book is really character-driven, with the reader following the adventures of Jim Squires as he finds himself in the increasingly absurd predicaments that are all too common in the world of horse breeding. And the supporting cast--Jim's wife, the farmhands, handicappers, auctioneers, trainers, owners, etc.--are just as vivid and amusing to observe." Public Affairs is planning a first printing in the 20,000-30,000-copy range, and will back Horse of a Different Color with a six-city publicity tour, concentrating on the Triple Crown sites, with ads in the major horse breeding/racing publications.
Last year, Mary D. Midkiff explored the profound relationship between women and horses in She Flies Without Wings (just out in trade paper from Bantam Dell), and this theme is further explored in My Racing Heart: The Passionate World of Thoroughbreds and the Track by Nan Mooney. "Nan explores her own love affair with horseracing," says Kelli Martin of HarperCollins. "This is the story of how Nan fell in love with, was estranged from and eventually reunited with her need and love for the track and, most importantly, for the horses." And Nan Mooney is not your typical author, either. It might shock most readers to find that the very feminine Mooney of the cover photo is presently involved in her first Golden Gloves tournament and is writing about it for Slate.com. "Women will be enchanted," Martin stresses, "because it's the story of a girl coming of age. They'll recognize the awkwardness of teenage years, the isolation of being 'different,' the yearning to fit in, and that transcendent moment when you realize that it's good--pretty great, actually--to be in your own skin: and to love what your gut tells you to love." HarperCollins will hit the bookshelves with a 35,000-copy first printing and back it up with a seven-city tour.
One publishing company that is no Johnny-come-lately to the field of horseracing publishing is Eclipse Press, which is located in the bluegrass country of Lexington, Ky. This spring the house will publish several titles of note. Horse Racing's Holy Grail: The Epic Quest for the Kentucky Derby by Steve Haskin takes the reader behind the scenes and into the trenches of the "most exciting two minutes in sports." Eclipse will also publish Ride of Their Lives: The Triumphs and Turmoil of Today's Top Jockeys by Lenny Shulman. Shulman is an Emmy Award-winning writer/producer and presently works as features editor for the Blood-Horse, a weekly magazine owned by Eclipse's parent company. In Ride of Their Lives, Shulman, according to Eclipse editor Jacqueline Duke, "was able to get his subjects to open up about substance abuse, draconian dieting measures and the fear that many riders live with day in and day out." Eclipse plans to promote both titles with radio/TV appearances.
Let's see--early retirement, plentiful sex with the world's wealthiest, healthiest and most attractive partners, and piles and piles of money. No, we're not talking about Hugh Hefner here, but the world of horse breeding. In $tud: Adventures in Breeding, author Kevin Conley takes the reader on a national tour of stud farms, perhaps the most lucrative part of the horse industry. $tud emanated from an article in the New Yorker. Bloomsbury USA editorial director Karen Rinaldi had worked with Conley before, and soon struck a book deal. "The brilliance of Conley's book," Rinaldi told PW, "is that, in the end, the book is about people more than anything else. He manages to write about this very specific world while making it relevant to all of us. That has little to do with subject matter, and everything to do with the writer." Bloomsbury already has 20,000 copies in print and is backing $tud with a nine-city author tour and an extensive ad campaign.
The next best thing to getting it straight from the horse's mouth may be getting it from his jockey. In The Perfect Ride, Horse Racing Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens relates rides that have earned him in excess of $200 million. "There's much more to Gary's story than sitting on a running horse," says Ann La Farge, executive editor at Citadel/Kensington. "There's human interest, there's the magical bond between human and animal, there's a slice of Americana. But of course, the racing aficionado is going to be our most loyal audience. Nobody who follows the sport is going to miss this story." Citadel plans a 35,000-copy first printing, backed by major promotion.
In May, Daily Racing Form Press will publish From the Desert to the Derby: Inside the Ruling Family of Dubai's Billion-Dollar Quest to Win America's Greatest Horse Race by Jason Levin. DRF will go out with a first printing of 15,000 copies and will do a racetrack signing tour through October.
The Seabiscuit frenzy has also led to an interest in the renowned horses of the past. Eclipse will publish three more titles in its Thoroughbred Legends series this spring: Affirmed and Alydar by Timothy Capps, War Admiral by Ed Bowen and Round Table by John McEvoy. The Da Capo Press will reissue Secretariat: The Making of a Champion by William Nack. Laura Hillenbrand in USA Today recently referred to this title as "the gold standard" of books about great horses. And Ballantine will also resurrect Ruffian: Burning from the Start by Jane Schwartz, which was originally published in the early 1990s.
Jacqueline Duke of the Eclipse Press best expresses the state of the horseracing book in the sports publishing industry today: "The crowded field of racing books this spring testifies to publisher confidence in the subject. Although equine books have tended to appeal to a specific audience, their growing numbers seem to indicate that there is a larger market for them. I think horses represent a 'back to the basics' that Americans have been embracing since September 11th. Horses are kind of like comfort food, familiar, even iconic."
For years, if publishers were frightened by horseracing books, they were terrified by Olympics books. To capitalize on an Olympian's two weeks of television stardom, a publisher has to have books ready to go, and must pray that the sure-thing gold medalist comes through, otherwise there might be Olympian stacks of books sitting in a warehouse.
"Some publishers are right to be 'Olympic weary,' " agrees Lionel Koffler, president of Firefly Books. "At the time of the Olympics, fans are watching TV, not haunting bookstores. It is a brief portion of the year, and trying to have the peak sales at Olympic time is impossible."
The big story of the Olympics this year was, of course, Sarah Hughes, the dark horse--if you'll excuse the expression--who won the gold in figure skating. Almost no one had ever heard of her--except Berkley editor Cindy Hwang. PW asked Hwang how Sarah Hughes: Skating to the Stars by Alina Sivorinovsky came into being. "I'm a huge figure skating fan," Hwang said, "and have been for many years. I've known of Sarah Hughes ever since her first senior national championship appearance, and one of the qualities that has most impressed me about Sarah is her competitive mettle. After she won the bronze medal at the 2001 World Championships in March, I knew that, barring injuries, there was a strong likelihood that Sarah would make it to the Olympics and skate well there. I then contacted Alina Sivorinovsky, who, besides having experience as a figure skating researcher for ABC, had written two nonfiction books about figure skating. Plus, she was already a fan of Sarah Hughes, so she was a natural choice."
Right now Berkley has 75,000 copies of the trade paperback in print. There are Wheaties boxes in the works and other fantastic publicity opportunities that could propel this title on to the bestseller lists. "Obviously, there's now tremendous interest in Sarah Hughes," concedes Hwang, "and we have a great shot of hitting lists. But even if the book doesn't hit bestseller lists, I'm confident that it will sell well into the future. Sarah may decide to continue competing, or she may retire or turn professional. Whatever she chooses, I think the spotlight will be on her for a long time to come."
Another Olympic success was Figure Skating Now: Olympic and World Stars by Steve Milton, with photographs by Gerard Chataigneau, which Firefly released in October 2001. "I am not surprised at our success," says Firefly's Koffler bluntly. "We chose a photographer who used to be a competitive skater, so the skaters know him and feel that he's sympathetic. That gave him extra access to practices and post-competition time. We also chose to publish in the lead-up to the Olympics, with the interest rising all through the fall, when trials and other world competitions get a lot of press. It was all meant to peak in January and February, and we actually had the good luck of controversy [pairs' judging scandal] and upsets [women's] to give us far more press than we expected."
Firefly sold all 25,000 copies of Figure Skating Now and, showing remarkable restraint, has decided not to go back to press. "We felt that we wanted to sell 25,000, and we did," explains Koffler. "And the 'now' of Figure Skating Now has just passed. There are new stars, new skaters developing and new books to showcase them in."
Triumph Books is going for the Olympic book gold with an "instant" book: Golden Glory: A Celebration of Canada's Olympic Hockey Victory. Text will be supplied by the staff of the Toronto Star and there will be many photographs. First printing will be 100,000 copies and the focus will be on Canadian sales. "Team Canada's gold medal hockey victory," says Thomas H. Bast, editorial director of Triumph, "is easily the biggest sports story in Canada in the last 50 years."
Perhaps the publishing frontrunner before the Olympics began was Picabo: Nothing to Hide by Picabo Street with Dana White. And although Street finished out of the gold, the book has done consistently well. "We acquired this book more because it's such an incredible story," says Matthew Carnicelli of McGraw-Hill/Contemporary, "and less because she was competing again at the Olympics. Of course, all of us would have been simply thrilled if she had won a medal, but Picabo has a huge fan base so we expected the book to sell regardless of her performance at the Olympics, and it has. If Picabo had won a medal, there would have been the strong possibility that the book would have hit the bestseller lists."
Sports Bios: Good Boy vs. Bad Boy
In sports biographies and autobiographies, there are the "good boys" (the Joe Gibbses and Michael Changs) and there are the "bad boys" (the Bobby Knights and John McEnroes). But as Peter J. Wolverton, associate publisher, Thomas Dunne Books, observes, "Personality is always the key element." Wolverton should know. This month, St. Martin's/Dunne is publishing Knight: My Story by Bob Knight with Bob Hammel. Although Wolverton admits that "the bottom line is always in the content," controversy, even notoriety, sells. It's remarkable that Knight, whose coaching career, only a few years ago, looked like it was over, is now back in vogue--big time. March being the month of the mad college basketball marathon that culminates in the "Final Four," much focus has been put on Knight, the king of the red sweater, the flying chair and the courtside profanity. The book was a hot property, and Wolverton recalls how he corralled it: "A phone call, a meeting, a heated auction and a winning deal. Coach Knight in person is, of course, a dynamic personality. We talked about some books and some topics that he planned to stress in the autobiography. I left the meeting knowing that Coach Knight had the necessary drive to put together a great book. Then it was just a process of getting the right people together to formulate our offer. A heated auction followed."
Knight was as hands-on an author as he is a coach. "He was very involved with the writing process," Wolverton recalls. "I'd get daily phone calls for Bob Hammel on how Coach wanted to add an anecdote to this or that chapter. Coach Knight is a legendary coach and--without question--one of the most controversial people involved with college sports. He's in a different league." St. Martin's has already gone back for a second printing of 20,000 copies before pub date and now has 125,000 hardcover copies in print. Knight will be backed with national promotion and publicity.
Knight's league may be different from everyone else's, but apparently a lot of publishers are trying to join it. Triumph Books in Chicago has put together an "instant" trade paperback on the Texas Tech coach called Good Knight/Knightmares: The Good Side of Bobby Knight from Those Who Know Him Best/The Dark Side of Bobby Knight from Those Who Know Him Best by Rich Wolfe. This is an unusual publishing product: it has two covers. Fans can read Good Knight for the stories about the guy people admire, and detractors can flip the book over to Knightmares to read about the coach people love to hate. "The Knight book was put together by a sort of a 'maverick' publisher named Rich Wolfe, whom we've worked with before," said Triumph's Tom Bast. "He has a real knack for getting interviews with people who know the subject well in various capacities and he has translated that into several very successful books." Triumph is planning a 20,000 first printing and backing it with major publicity and promotion.
Another factor in the Knight phenomena is the ESPN TV movie based on John Feinstein's bestseller, A Season on the Brink, starring Brian Dennehy as Knight. It premiered March 10 and caused some controversy of its own because of its extensive use of profanity. (ESPN2 aired a version with the profanity bleeped out.) The reviews were not very favorable, but publishers couldn't be happier. "It's going to help immensely," says Bast positively. "And if Texas Tech should happen to meet Indiana in the NCAA tournament, that would be another big publicity hit." (Sorry, but Texas Tech was a first-round loser.) All the Knightmania has also given new life to A Season on the Brink in trade paperback. Fireside has already gone back to press twice this year because of the ESPN movie. And Simon & Schuster just announced that it has commissioned a new, unauthorized Bobby Knight biography. "It's the first full, thorough, objective biography of Knight," says S&S's v-p/director of sports books, Jeff Neuman. Veteran writer and ESPN reporter Steve Delsohn will be the author.
Another sports bad boy hitting the bookshelves this June will be John McEnroe, with the appropriately titled You Cannot Be Serious . "McEnroe is represented by IMG," recalls Putnam editor-in-chief Neil Nyren, "and last year, we and other publishers were approached as to our interest in him. We jumped at the idea, and then when he came in to talk with us, our enthusiasm became even greater. We bid very strongly--and were lucky enough to get him."
Although McEnroe's game show, The Chair, has been temporarily yanked from the ABC schedule, Nyren is enthusiastic about the prospects for success for You Cannot Be Serious . "Another factor in favor of McEnroe is the very strong work he's done as a tennis commentator during the last several years," says Nyren. "He's emerged as one of the best sports commentators in the business--smart, funny, unflinchingly candid. It's the same for this book." Putnam will help McEnroe's zeitgeist along with a 10-city national author/book signing tour.
One sports figure who's sitting on the good boy/bad boy fence is home-run champion Barry Bonds. "I would list Barry Bonds as a hero to the fans of his team," says Peter Bannon of Sports Publishing, "and a 'bad boy' to most of the rest of the country. Our primary focus for the title is San Francisco. But Bonds is clearly the best player in baseball today and will attract other fans from around the country." Sports Publishing is planning a 10,000 first printing with many promotions and events in the San Francisco area.
"Nice guys finish last," Leo Durocher once said, but you'd never know it looking at the books coming out from several houses this spring. Apparently, nice is in.
Joe Gibbs, the former Super Bowl-winning coach of the Washington Redskins, who now is involved with NASCAR as a car owner, has Racing to Win coming out from Multnomah in May. "Joe Gibbs is just as fascinating as Knight," says David Webb, editorial director of Multnomah, "but for very different reasons. Here is a soft-spoken man of faith who achieved something that has never been done before, reaching the pinnacle of his profession in two completely different major sports." One of the primary focuses of the book, besides football and NASCAR tales, is religious belief. "Joe writes about how he came to recommit his life to Jesus Christ," notes Webb, "and how that has changed his approach to everything from leadership to relationships to how he manages his money." Racing to Win will have a hefty 120,000-copy first printing and major promotion/publicity is planned.
Another faith-based book is Holding Serve: Persevering On and Off the Court by tennis star Michael Chang, written with Mike Yorkey, which Thomas Nelson will publish in June. "Michael talks about his faith in this book," says co-author Yorkey, "because it's a pivotal piece of who he is and what he has become. He became a Christian when he was 15, just before he turned pro, and knowing the Lord before he became famous and won the French Open helped him cope with the sudden fame much better. The book describes his conversion experience, but it's not preachy; there's not God on every page." And there's plenty of tennis. "There are many great and fun stories from his playing days," says Yorkey.
Baseball--Nostalgia's Still the Word
After listening all winter to the commissioner of baseball having conniptions about contraction, it's a wonder that this group of dreary multimillionaires--commonly known as the owners--will have enough money for bats and balls come Opening Day. There's a lot of insider trading going on in major league baseball--it's called musical owners as the Montreal owner is suddenly the Florida owner and the Florida owner is suddenly the Boston Red Sox owner, and all the owners get to own a piece of the Expos. Speaking of the Expos, one gets a sharp sense of the everyday wheeling and dealing among baseball's upper management in My Turn at Bat: The Sad Saga of the Montreal Expos by Claude Brochu, translated by Stephanie Myles. This book did not get much play when it came out in its French-language edition, but the ECW Press translation should get lots of attention because it tells the sorry story of what once was a very successful franchise, with an organization that was the envy of teams in both leagues. If Montreal is indeed entering its last year of existence, this story of its demise will serve as a sort of eulogy, rendered in stunning detail by Brochu, its one-time general partner.
But no matter how the baseball owners try to denigrate their product by insisting on its unprofitability, they are continuously saved by the grace and wonderful history of what is still the national pastime. "Baseball is our game," reminds Mark Weinstein, associate editor at Lyons Press. "It has a rich tradition and a history that is unmatched by the other major professional sports. It has been a constant in our lives as Americans through wartime and in peacetime, through times of social upheaval and change and in times of relative prosperity, and the game has brought us some of the brightest, most identifiable stars the world stage has seen."
Baseball is still the fan's game and this fact is reflected in some of the new titles this spring. Warner in May will be bringing out What Baseball Means to Me: A Celebration of Our National Pastime , edited by Curt Smith. Rick Wolff, v-p/executive editor at the AOL Time Warner Book Group, says Smith is "well known as a baseball historian and has several wonderful baseball books to his credit--including the classic baseball broadcasters volume, Voices of the Game." Smith told Wolf "he wanted to do a book in which he went around to actors, politicians, comedians, singers, executives, ballplayers, et al., to see just what baseball meant to them. Curt and I were stunned and amazed by the way in which these people related how baseball had touched their personal lives." The book is published in conjunction with the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Warner will go out with at least 50,000 copies of this coffee-table book.
Triumph Books will also look at baseball's golden history with Perfect: The InsideStory of Baseball's Sixteen Perfect Games by James Buckley Jr. But the company's biggest titles are about two baseball "lifers" who have wonderful stories to tell. First up, is Ernie Harwell: My 60 Years in Baseball by Tom Keegan. "Since this will be his last year in the booth," says Triumph's Tom Bast, "there will be season-long tributes to him in every baseball city across the country." Triumph is planning major ad/promotion and will start this title out with a 35,000-copy first printing.
Another book that Triumph is publishing that may turn out to be a sleeper is Birdie: Confessions of a Baseball Nomad by Birdie Tebbetts with James Morrison. Birdie in many ways is like Zim (out in paperback this spring from McGraw-Hill/ Contemporary), Don Zimmer's bestseller of last summer, in that it is unpretentious and tells it like it is.
There are the Bonds, the Griffeys, the Bells, the Boones, the Matthews--all baseball father-son combinations. Lyons Press has taken a complete look at the families of baseball in Fathers, Sons and Baseball: Our National Pastime and the Ties that Bond by Wayne Stewart. Lyons is planning a 25,000-copy first printing and plans extensive publicity and promotion, especially around Father's Day.
Novels about baseball, from The Natural to Shoeless Joe Jackson, go with the national pastime like, well, a hand in a glove. Sleeping Bear has a unique one this spring in A Lifetime of Yankee Octobers by Sal Maiorana. "The main character," says Brian Lewis, Sleeping Bear Press publisher, "has seen every Yankee championship since 1923, when he was seven years old, through 2000, when he was 84. It is a fascinating account of a man who not only has seen every Yankee championship, but had an inside relationship with many of the players." Other baseball novels this spring include The Kid Who Batted 1.000 by Troon McAllister (Doubleday), The Spoiler by Domenic Stansberry and The Rail by Howard Owen (both from Permanent Press).
If you want your kid to play ball like Roberto Alomar, Pedro Martinez or Pudge Rodriguez, the answers will be found in Play Ball like the Pros: Tips for Kids from 20 Big League Stars by Steven Krasner, out in trade paperback from Peachtree.
NASCAR--The Ladies Take Over
Name a real "he-man" sport. How about NASCAR? Lots of grease monkeys with oil stains all over their overalls, along with lots of cars decorated in the red-white-and-blue Budweiser logo. Think again.
"By the mid-1980s, women made up 42% of the NASCAR audience," says Dee Dee De Bartlo, assistant director of publicity, HarperEntertainment. "It was a number so astounding that it convinced Procter & Gamble to enter the racing arena with a race car sponsorship using their Folgers coffee brand. P&G was the first nonautomotive, nonmale consumer-oriented company to step up to the sponsorship plate. Prior to their involvement, the sport was supported by automotive products, tobacco and beer. The results were so immediate and so astounding to P&G--after all, women are the majority of the company's consumers--that they brought the Tide and Crisco brands in as car sponsors."
Once the floodgates were opened, Winston Cup racing was saturated with companies targeting female consumers. Today, sponsors include Tide, M&Ms, Cheerios, Betty Crocker's Hamburger Helper, Brawny Paper Towels, Nabisco crackers and cookies. As the sport has grown in popularity, the number of women fans have continued to inch upward until it now reaches almost 50%. "When all is said and done," adds De Bartlo, "a lot of credit for the sport's growth belongs to women because of the female consumers that came into the stock car racing and supported it economically."
And publishers have become acutely aware, with NASCAR's audience now half women, that it's time to pursue them as a market. The result this spring are books from two of racing's hottest female drivers. In May HarperEntertainment is bringing out My Life in the Pits: Living and Learning on the NASCAR Winston Cup Circuit by Ronda Rich. "Editor Tom Dupree has worked on many NASCAR books and like the author, Ronda Rich, is a Southerner," says De Bartlo, "so agent Richard Curtis brought it to Tom thinking it was a natural. And it was. Tom bought the book in a preemptive deal." HarperEntertainment will go out with a first printing of 50,000 copies and plans to promote via national media, ads in Winston Cup Scene, radio promotions and a 12-city author tour. "This book," says De Bartlo, "is not just for NASCAR fans, it's for women who are interested in the lives of other women as well as women working in professions dominated by men."
Hyperion has also jumped on the women's racing bandwagon with Ride of Your Life: A Race Car Driver's Journey by Lyn St. James, the first woman to win Rookie of the Year at the Indy 500. According to Hyperion senior editor Gretchen Young, St. James and Hyperion editor-in-chief Will Schwalbe "spoke because Lyn had read The Hungry Ocean and we felt, like Lyn did, that Ride of Your Life had similarities to that book, which was such a huge success."
And the audience for Ride of Your Life ? "Of course, more women will be interested in reading an inspirational story of a woman driver," says Young. "We prefer that readers come to it because they are interested in a great driver's story, and because they love racing--but there will be those readers who want to find out how a woman succeeded in a man's world." Hyperion's first printing for Ride of Your Life will be 60,000 copies, and the author will do publicity surrounding the Indy 500 in Indianapolis.
You know something is happening to a publishing niche like NASCAR when companies like Public Affairs--publisher of authors like Vernon Jordan and Boris Yeltsin--begin to publish books on the subject. "Public Affairs wasn't trying to get into NASCAR publishing," says Paul Golob, Public Affairs' executive editor. "We were simply on the lookout for a good story, and NASCAR provided one." The good story is Men and Speed: A Wild Ride Through NASCAR's Breakout Season by G. Wayne Miller. "This is a compelling story," insists Golob, "about a growing cultural phenomenon in the United States, by an award-winning reporter who has written four previously well-received books. If you look at it that way, it's a natural for our list." Public Affairs publicity director Gene Taft refers to Men and Speed as "the NASCAR book for the NPR--or New Yorker--crowd" and plans promotions at race tracks and a national radio satellite campaign.
Presently riding high on both PW's and the New York Times 's bestseller lists is Driver #8 by Dale Earnhardt Jr. According to a Warner spokesperson, the book was acquired after the death of Dale Sr. The book hardly touches on his father's death but rather is an uncompromising and brutally honest account of Junior's rookie NASCAR season. Earnhardt has only done two signings, but the book seems to have taken on a life of its own, thanks to Junior's appearances on national TV and two new Budweiser commercials featuring the younger Earnhardt. After five printings, Warner has 250,000 hardback copies in print. Warner has also had success with a title published just before Christmas--Daytona by Ed Hinton. After two trips to the press, they have 62,000 copies in print.
Another company publishing its first NASCAR title is the Sporting News. "NASCAR is such a growth sport," says Steve Meyerhoff, the Sporting News's editor director/books publishing. "Last year, the Sporting News weekly magazine added the sport to our regular coverage. Previously, our mission was to provide deep coverage on the Big Six sports [baseball, NFL, NBA, NHL and major college football and men's basketball]. Now, with the addition of NASCAR, we cover the Super Seven." The Sporting News published Stock Car Racing's 50 Greatest Drivers in January with a first printing of 30,000 copies.
Golf--More Than a Novel Approach
When Shawn Coyne left Doubleday and teamed up with Webster Stone, a Hollywood film producer and book packager, to launch Rugged Land Books in 2001, he knew he wanted to continue the success he had at Doubleday by publishing golf novels. "When we began planning the publishing program at Rugged Land," recalls Coyne, "we wanted to do what we have had success with in our previous incarnations. Naturally, golf fiction has been very, very good to me, and I have a sense of what the golf reader wants for his/her library, being a golfer myself. And what I found lacking in the genre is more of the outrageous works--the core entertainers that have the sensibility of Caddyshack --and as David Feherty is that rare creature who played golf professionally, but sees the absurdity in the enterprise and the priggishness of some who play it, he was my first choice to launch our program."
The result of this collaboration between publisher Coyne and Feherty is A Nasty Bit of Rough. "I read one of his columns about his fictional 'Uncle Dickie,' " remembers Coyne, "and the very odd cast of golfers who made up his strangely named private club, Scrought's Wood. David's sensibilities are certainly singular, but the closest comparison I can come up with is P.G. Wodehouse."
Another publisher with a penchant for golf novels is Brian Lewis of Sleeping Bear Press. "We started with The Greatest Player Who Never Lived by J. Michael Veron. Miramax bought the film rights and is already working on the screenplay. We've had the same success with Flatbellies, and now this spring we are seeing the same scenario happening with Take Dead Aim by Don Wade." This is a novel about an IRA man out to assassinate a British golfer. Sleeping Bear will also be publishing Unplayable Lie: A Chief Inspector St. George Mystery by Peter Jamesson, which takes place on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Printings for both books will be about 15,000 hardcovers each, and both will be backed by major promotion and author signings.
To get through life, you've got to follow the rules. Much of the same can be said about getting through 18 holes of golf. This spring, there are several "rule" books being published. PW asked Luke Dempsey, senior editor at Pocket Books, if there was still a market for this kind of book. "The last major 'rules' book," Dempsey recalls, "was by Tom Watson, and it pubbed in hardcover in 1984 and that book is still in print." With an 18-year gap to fill, Dempsey went out and acquired Arnold Palmer Explains the Rules of Golf by Arnold Palmer with Steve Eubanks. "This was my first major acquisition since I came over from Broadway Books, and it combines two things that are exactly what we're looking for: a fresh angle on a subject, married to high-level execution." Pocket plans to have a first printing of 50,000 copies and see not only frontlist potential, but a long backlist life: "We see this book," says Dempsey, "selling for many years. It's definitive, entertaining, and combines great stories from the world of golf with the authority that comes from being the best at what you do."
The Lyons Press is thinking along similar lines with its new rules volume. "Golf Magazine approached us with the idea of Golf Magazine's Golf Rules Explained," says Weinstein of Lyons. "They felt that they had a new angle on a rules book, and we agreed wholeheartedly. Golf Rules Explained takes the rules and applies them to actual golf situations that one might encounter on the course, and, in a sense, puts the golf back into the hands of the golfer, helping the golfer to make better sense of the game's intricacies." Lyons expects a first printing in the 10,000 to 20,000-copy range and sees big backlist potential for this title.
Like baseball, golf has a rich history. A book that takes full advantage of that history is Duel in the Sun: Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in the Battle of Turnberry by Michael Corcoran. "Duel in the Sun," says Jeff Neuman of Simon & Schuster, "is about one of the most dramatic confrontations in golf history, one that also provided one of those rare pivot points in the game: the 1977 British Open at Turnberry, when Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus battled each other over the final 36 holes, with Watson beating Jack by a stroke."
Everyone knows that golfers will try anything to chisel points from their score. There've been golf books by Zen masters, books by psychiatrists and now, science has been called in to try its magic. "Newton on the Tee: A Good Walk Through the Science of Golf by John Zumerchik," says S&S's Neuman, "is an entirely different kind of book. I felt it was time to take a look at all the science involved in the game--an incredible mix of physics, physiology, psychology, metallurgy, agronomy, aerodynamics and probability. The book never loses sight of the game, never drowns the reader in science for its own sake--it's a unique contribution to the literature of the sport." S&S will promote both Newton on the Tee and Duel in the Sun the same way. "We've got a very solid template for publishing golf books," says Neuman, "and we will follow the steps that have established our books so firmly in the market, utilizing golf and nongolf channels to drum up off-the-book-page coverage."