Preceded by extensive coverage in major magazines, including a four-page spread in Elle, the 50th-anniversary edition of Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann lands in bookstores this week. The prepublication publicity generated enough orders that publisher Grove Atlantic has gone back to press for the trade paperback edition of the novel and now has 40,000 copies of it in print. The company has also released a limited edition hardcover with a printing of 10,000 copies.
Grove has been involved with the publication of Valley of the Dolls since 1996, when it released a 30th-anniversary edition of the book that has since sold more than 300,000 copies. That figure, however, is only a small slice of the book’s lifetime sales, which are more than 31 million. First released by Bernard Geis Associates in 1966, the hardcover sold 350,000 copies in its first year on sale. It was the mass market paperback edition, however, that turned the novel into a publishing sensation. Released by Bantam in 1967, the mass market edition, propelled by the whirlwind promotional efforts of Susann and the Bantam team, sold four million copies in its first week on sale and 6.8 million in the first six months.
When Grove began publishing Dolls, it created a new cover, and it has been using that design ever since, but to mark the 50th anniversary, the house felt it was time for a new look. “We wanted to bring the book back to life again,” explained Judy Hottensen, associate publisher of Grove, noting that the new cover was designed by Teddy Blanks, who did the cover for Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl (Dunham has name-checked Dolls in tweets and on Instagram).
The new edition also features an introduction by Simon Doonan, creative ambassador of Barneys New York, who writes that Dolls’ themes of fame, money, power, and prescription-pill addiction “are just so now.” Doonan also pointed to the positive portrayal of gay men in the novel, and Hottensen believes this will once again be an important market for the book. When it was first released, Dolls had a broad audience, Hottensen said, and she expects it to appeal to women and men of all ages. Among the accounts that have placed substantial orders for the book is the airport-bookstore specialist Hudson’s. “It is a great airplane read,” Hottensen said.
The digital market, of course, did not exist when Dolls was first released. E-book rights are controlled by the Susann estate and published through its company, Tiger. Whitney Robinson, coexecutor of the estate, said one reason the estate took back the rights was to help ensure that the cover art for the e-book edition will be the same across all global markets. “We want to maximize the brand recognition,” he said. Robinson, a step-grandson of Susann, said the e-book contains no additional features over the print edition, although he said that after the 50th anniversary passes, new elements may be added, “depending on the technology.” For now, Robinson said, the focus is to bring renewed attention to a pop culture classic.