Not a follow-up to her novel, 'Small Things,' but an incendiary nonfiction manifesto.
Arundhati Roy came to this country only briefly to promote her 1998 Booker Prize-winning bestseller, The God of Small Things, which has sold some 750,000 copies in its Random House hardcover and HarperPerennial paperback editions combined. Booksellers were left hungry for more promo time with this photogenic literary sensation.
Now it looks as though they will get that chance, especially in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Seattle.
These are the cities that may be part of the itinerary of a still-developing lecture tour Roy will conduct in late October and early November. She will speak at Harvard, Columbia and other universities about her opposition to the multimillion-dollar Narmada Valley dam project in her native India, which she says displaces people for questionable gain.
Roy's denunciation of this project, as well as a separate essay condemning her country's development of an atomic bomb, will be collected in The Cost of Living, a 144-page, $11.95 trade paperback that Modern Library is crash-publishing for October.
Random House, which got dibs on the book since it published Roy's novel in hardcover, expects major review and media attention. The house plans to coordinate with booksellers to sell Roy's books at her lectures. Best of all, Random House plans to schedule as many bookstore visits in the tour cities as possible. Roy is already booked at Barnes & Noble's Union Square store in New York City on November 1.
When it was published in India, Roy's essay on the dam opened a floodgate of reaction, including a rebuke from the country's Supreme Court. Roy's essay on the atomic bomb was equally controversial, and will be expanded in the Modern Library edition.
Whether these issues will prove to be of similar concern here remains to be seen, although they should attract particular interest in cities with sizable Indian populations. Modern Library is issuing an ambitious 75,000-copy first printing for The Cost of Living, counting on a wide audience for the book thanks to Roy's name recognition and track record.
Of course, what booksellers would most likely prefer to sell is Roy's next novel. When Roy won the Booker, however, she made news with the comment that she may never write another novel. But that has been amended with a report that she is considering a second novel, "something to do with nuclear power." At the very least, then, The Cost of Living could provide Roy's fiction fans with hints of what's to come.
IN THE NEWS
Norton's Patently Good Book
A mathematical algorithm hardly seems like the typical topic to attract major media attention. But that's been the case for the "adjusted winner" (AW) formula presented in Steven Brams and Alan Taylor's The Win/Win Solution: Guaranteeing Fair Shares to Everyone, released by Norton in June.
The system, devised by Brams, a professor of politics at New York University, and Taylor, a professor of mathematics at New York's Union College, assigns point values to items in dispute to guarantee a fair deal. It has garnered high-profile writeups in the New Yorker, Newsweek and the New York Times, with a Fortune article soon to come. And while the 177-page small-sized hardcover has not gone back to press yet on its modest initial printing, Norton reps report some spikes in sales, thanks to the exposure.
Helping this publicity along is the authors' application of the formula to some sexy topics, like how to divvy up the spoils in such high-profile divorce cases as Donald and Ivana Trump and Prince Charles and Princess Diana. The recent split of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall also proved an opportune hook for British coverage of the book, with four newspapers picking up on the theory.
But perhaps the greatest boost for the book came when the adjusted-winner formula received a patent (to Brams's New York University) just as the book was released.
"You couldn't ask for better timing," said Norton president Drake McFeely, who personally acquired the unagented book. McFeely, who worked his way up from the house's college division, saw the book, as the authors intended, as an important "crossover" title to convey an academic concept to laypeople.
The authors also apply their theories to the modern reality of mergers, noting that often financial terms aren't the sticking points so much as "social issues," such as who will be the new CEO, the new name of the company and which side will become the combined headquarters. These are all points familiar to anyone in publishing nowadays, and Brams admitted to PW that these are indeed less easy to resolve.
Brams said AW calculations are already being used by at least one divorce mediator. But if anyone thinks to market the idea for widespread commercial use -- Brams envisions a software program that would run AW calculations or even an Internet site that would use AW to resolve disputes -- rights would have to be bought to do so.
An approach to buy such rights happened during Norton's negotiations for the book -- with the interested party asking for and getting an unusual rider in the book contract. While that deal fell through, the current contract still states that if patent rights are bought, that buyer also would have use of a significant portion of the book.
And Norton d sn't lose out on this kind of deal, Brams said. "If there is ever a large application of AW, people are going to want to consult the entire book, which will be the bible on the process. It could be a win-win situation for Norton."
Rutledge Hill's Home-Grown Hit
Looks like college footBALL fans are a pretty good target market for books.
Just ask St. Martin's, which got a surprise mid-six-figure-copy sell-in for The Junction Boys (Thomas Dunne Books; Sept.), journalist Jim Dent's account of former college football coach great Bear Bryant's Texas A&M training camp. Even the fans themselves make for good copy: Crown reportedly paid $200,000 for Wired columnist Warren St. John's report on the people who camp outside the University of Alabama football stadium to cheer on Bryant's former team, the Crimson Tide.
But down Tennessee way right now, it's University of Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer's A Perfect Season that is the hot book.
And unlike the above titles, as well as UT women's basketball coach Pat Summit's bestsellers from Broadway Books, Fulmer's book is a completely local production: it's published by close-to-home Rutledge Hill Press.
"It's an all-state product," said Rutledge Hill Press publisher Larry Stone. "Written in Knoxville, printed in Kingsport and published in Nashville."
And all in a remarkably short time span, too. Fulmer and cowriter Jeff Hagood wrapped up the manuscript in early 1999, soon after UT's Volunteers completed their amazing 13-0 drive to win the national collegiate championship last year.
Stone got the manuscript in March, but the almost immediate contract signing fell after the cutoff date for his fall catalogue, so the full-color illustrated hardcover was left out.
Despite that omission, though, a 15,000-copy first printing had to be supplemented with a second of the same quantity before the August 1 pub date; a third, similarly sized one is now under way.
"We knew we had only a small window of opportunity for Coach Fulmer's help in promotion before he began fall practice," Stone added, "and he's cooperated generously."
Indeed, to date, the lionized coach has signed copies for large turnouts at bookstores throughout the state.
Bookstores in nearby states in the football-strong Southeastern Conference also are stocking the book. And when UT's home games begin on September 4, the regionally hot item will be sold at concession booths in the 103,000-seat Neyland Stadium.
Rutledge Hill credits the spreading enthusiasm in part to intensifying fan fever for a repeat national championship; the house is hardly alone in hoping for A Perfect Season II. Even so, Fulmer was too modest, according to publicist Hugh Waddell, to present a copy of the book to President Clinton when the Vols visited at the White House for an August 17 tribute. That afternoon, however, Waddell overnighted a signed copy to the First Fan of the Arkansas Razorbacks -- a team his guests defeated during their most memorable season so far.