A new hardcover is pulling into the lead at New World Library. After author Janis Amatuzio, M.D., did 100 radio interviews, many of which were national or syndicated, weekly sales of Forever Ours:Real Stories of Immortality and Living from a Forensic Pathologist began outpacing those of the press's long-running top seller, Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now. "The big difference here is that Eckhart was a bit of a recluse," said the press's associate publisher, Munro Magruder. "With Dr. Amatuzio, we have a pretty marketable commodity."
The coroner of several counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Amatuzio has gone out of her way to speak with the friends and families of the deceased after doing an autopsy. And for more than 25 years, she's found that most grieving people need to share stories of visions, synchronicities and other spiritual connections with their lost loved ones. In one instance, she tells of a woman who was awakened at home by her husband, who had died moments before in a car accident; he told her that he loved her and where his body was located, allowing his wife to quickly direct the police to the scene.
After 9/11, Amatuzio decided to collect some of the stories she had jotted down over the years into a self-published book. "These stories comforted me; I thought they might comfort others," she told PW. She never even tried to find a "real" publisher. "I just self-published it, thinking it wouldn't get past the Mercy Hospital gift shop," she said in a telephone interview from the morgue at the Minneapolis hospital. Yet the first printing of 2,000 copies sold out immediately, prompting additional reprints over the course of a year, until she had sold 14,000 copies on her own. Then New York literary agent Susan Schulman called, after a friend sent her the book, to say that three publishers had expressed interest in buying the rights. "You've got to be kidding," is how Amatuzio responded.
New World Library published its $20 hardcover edition of Forever Ours on September 28. By the time feature articles about the "compassionate coroner" and her book appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minneapolis Star Tribune on October 3, the Novato, Calif.—based press had sold out of its 10,000-copy first printing. Since then, Minnesota Public Radio has aired an hour-long feature on Amatuzio, on November 18; she has done a handful of appearances around Minneapolis; and New World Library has ordered a second printing of 12,500 copies and a third of 10,000 more.
A December 9 event with the author at Transitions bookstore in Chicago should get a boost from the feature on Amatuzio that ran in the Chicago Tribune on November 28. "It's gotten harder to turn out an audience for a bookstore event," observed Magruder. "But there has been no problem with this book; she has had up to 150 and 200 people at every event."
Georgia Hughes, New World's editorial director, believes that Amatuzio's stories resonate with many people because everyone has experience with death and grieving. "I just thought the writing was amazing and her approach was very gentle and kind and helpful," Hughes said. "It felt like a gift when it first arrived and I read it, and it still does."
The most common reaction Amatuzio has gotten from readers of Forever Ours has been gratitude. "There is a hunger for this," Amatuzio told PW. "People hear these stories and something in them wakes up, or it's as if they remembered something they already knew."
Amatuzio is working on a second book in which she tries to find patterns and meaning in stories science cannot explain. "It's a delicious coincidence," she told PW, "that I care for the dead and yet my message is: we don't die."