The year begins with self-help successes

While Phillip McGraw's Life Strategies is a current self-help bestseller, thanks in part to Oprah's hearty endorsement, other publishers are finding smaller yet still significant successes with January titles in this category.

For Times Books, the performance of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger and Impulsiveness by Fairfield, Calif. -- based neuroscientist and psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen has come as a "wonderful surprise," said publicity manager T.J. Snyder. Amen's rather technical look at how the systems in the brain affect behavior and how to tailor diet to regulate them apparently struck a nerve with readers who love a "scientific" hook -- much the way Putnam's Eat Right 4 Your Type proved popular. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life's initial 17,500-copy first printing starting selling even before Amen's initial national media appearance on The Today Show on January 14; after that, Times Books went back to press for another 7500 copies, to fulfill post-show demand and 3000 pre-show backorders.

Change Your Brain's second printing is just now in stores; thus, Times Books wasn't too perturbed when Amen's planned national media tour, originally scheduled to take place right after his Today Show appearance, got bumped as media outlets sought to book hotter author McGraw first. "Now we have more books in stores, so we didn't really mind waiting," Snyder said. The publisher now plans to send Amen, already a popular speaker with his own Web site (, on a more extensive tour than planned because of the book's stronger than expected out-of-the-gate success.

Broadway Books' Take Time for Your Life: A Personal Coach's Seven-Step Program for Creating the Life You Want has been moving up and down's Hot 100 list and is now going back for a second printing. The impetus behind sales? That Take Time for Your Life author Cheryl Richardson takes time in her life to be very plugged in online. Knowing "bookstores didn't want to deal with authors in their stores right at holiday sales in December," Richardson, a Newburyport, Mass.-based consultant who is the first ever president of the International Coach Federation, instead set up a 15-city "teletour," which she coordinated with regional coaching organization offices as well as some of her corporate clients, to conduct group call-ins. Thanks to her sophisticated "bridge" teleconferencing system, Richardson can accept up to 150 (and with notice, even more) calls at the same time. Book sales were simultaneous, too -- many call-in participants ordered the title online during the discussion (Richardson's Web site,, has a link to

At the start of 1999, Richardson also launched a free weekly e-mail newsletter, Life Makeover for the Year 2000, which touches on the principles of her book, and is building an interactive community that is now feeding her ideas for her next one. Richardson is continuing to conduct call-ins on a monthly basis and alerts her newsletter audience (now 2000 and growing) to upcoming dates.

And online is by no means Richardson's only promotional arena. A constant lecturer on the speaker circuit, she contacts local bookstores to come sell her books at these events (and alerts her newsletter audience to her touring schedule as well) and makes bookstore appearances where she can during her national travels. "I'm kicking butt," said this proud author, who will soon get some print media attention -- an upcoming USA Today interview -- to expand her reach even more.