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The Tip of the Iceberg
Daisy Maryles, with Dick Donahue -- 1/12/98
Movie tie-in titles often make it onto bestseller charts but Titanic, the country's hottest movie ticket -- $157.5 million during its first 17 days (not to mention Broadway's Tony Award-winning musical, which, last week broke its own box-office record for the ninth time) -- seems to be creating a floodtide of sales for a whole slew of books, both new and backlist. And while none of the Titanic titles have yet made it onto any of PW's weekly lists -- although HarperCollins's James Cameron's Titanic comes closest -- several are being reported by independents and chains. Indeed, many booksellers, including Barbara Morrow at Northshire Books in Manchester Center, Vt., have set up special Titanic displays.
Roberta Rubin, owner of the Bookstall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Ill., reported that she just keeps reordering. "I was skeptical; I thought, 'How many titles can we have?' Then I saw the movie, and I started looking carefully at every title, and I gained a whole new respect for these books -- there are some incredible titles out there." The spate of books is benefiting the major houses as well as smaller ones. One of the books cited by many booksellers is Carroll &Graf's novel Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge. Publisher Kent Carroll said, "We now have about 20,000 copies in print, and I'm sure we'll be going back to press real soon. He credited the book's success to "all the related articles" about the movie: "Beryl's book must have had 50 mentions already." Academy Chicago Publishers had reorders for more than 2000 copies over just a few days in early January for its 1986 title, Titanic: A Survivor's Story by Colonel Archibald Gracie -- one of the few eyewitness accounts of the tragedy.

At New York City's Coliseum Books, a title that has been on the store's bestseller list for the last two weeks is Walter Lord's A Night to Remember, first published by Bantam in mass market back in 1958, the same year the acclaimed British film was released. The book has 2,777,000 copies in print after 71 trips to press. HC's James Cameron's Titanic has been "hard to keep in stock," according to some booksellers. "Everybody wants that one," said Jane Cochran, manager of Book Hampton in tony East Hampton, N.Y. Harper published the official movie tie-in book in a dual edition -- a $20 HarperPerennial trade paperback (99,000 copies after three trips to press) and a $50 hardcover (11,000 copies after the latest printing). For Titanic followers, the book holds great interest, as film director Cameron explored places not seen by human eyes since the 1912 tragedy; the book is filled with his photos.

Cameron was also inspired by the Titanic paintings of Ken Marschall, commenting on "the vividness of the imagery" that he believed he could re-create for the film using cutting-edge technology. Marschall's paintings are collected in Hyperion's Titanic: An Illustrated History, first published in hardcover in 1992; copies in print total 85,500. A paperback edition boasts 80,00 copies, while a gift edition (published in November) has more than 32,000 copies in print.

Three Norton titles, too, are getting some mentions: two, both by John Eaton and Charles Haas, are Titanic: Destination Disaster (60,000 in print in paper) and Titanic Triumph and Tragedy (42,500 hardcover copies); a third, Steven Biel's Down with the Old Can : A Cultural History of the Titanic Disaster, a September title, has about 18,000 copies in print. Authors Eaton, Haas and Biel were all affiliated with the History and Discovery channel documentaries on the disaster.

Considering that in his book, Biel writes that "...the three most written-about subjects of all time are Jesus, the Civil War and the Titanic disaster," we apologize in advance for not mentioning all the others that are selling well. But it seems that, at least for now, the public's interest in the subject seems insatiable; we will revisit sales of these books before the 86th anniversary of the ill-fated event on April 15.
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