Canadian couple hustles success with self-published household tips book
Hint to Heloise: There's someone going after your turf. Haley's Hints, a household advice compilation written by Toronto-area couple Grahamand Rosemary Haley, has sold some 25,000 copies in the U.S. retail market since the 400-page, $24.95 hardcover, an update of a 1995 title previously only published in Canada, first was given American distribution three months ago.
"We definitely looked at Heloise numbers as a point of comparison when we did the sell-in of this book," said Cary Johnson, vice-president of sales at Nashville, Tenn.“based APG, the U.S. distributor for the book, self-published by the Haleys' 3H Productions. "And of course Heloise sells in the millions. But that's cumulative. I think we're off to a pretty good start."
Johnson said she encountered some skepticism during the initial sell-in of the book, but the Haleys' constant and engaging media promotion (Graham is also an actor) is bringing about converts. Johnson recalls as a turning point the day a Borders in Minneapolis called to order the book after the Haleys had appeared on a local television, claiming the demand for the book was a strong as after Oprah made a Book Club selection.
U.S. book clubs have selected the book, with BOMC offering the title through six of its clubs, including QPB. A deal with the Rodale Book Club has just been signed. This past May, Eagle Book Clubs started offering the book through its Christian Family Book Club; it's now the club's #2 selling title.
And the Haleys continue to promote the book. After opening with a 10-city-tour for the book's launch, the Haleys will stay on the road with radio and TV gigs through the holidays. They've also taped four segments for cable channel Home and Garden TV, which will run this fall, with eight more segments planned throughout next year. They are also scheduled to appear on the Discovery Channel's Home Matters in October.
Like many self-publishing entrepreneurs, the Haleys have approached traditional retailers as just one avenue for sales: they've also sold the book on QVCs in the U.S. and in England. All told, the couple have sold 300,000 books worldwide. And in another savvy maneuver, the Haleys have decided to in effect give away their expertise now in hopes of some sort of media deal later. For example, columns of their tips run for free in Canadian newspapers and they've just offered their tips to the National Enquirer, which plans to run them on a regular basis during the coming months. They're also in talks with Amazon.com to create a free, non-co-op Haley's Hints corner on its site, with a link to their book, currently the #4 bestseller in its Household Hints sub-sub-category of its Home and Garden category.
In addition, the Haleys have created some 260 two-minute TV bits about their tip ideas; these are offered throughout the world. "We find a lot of people like to put them in as a filler between shows," said Margie Henderson, the final "H" in the Haley's 3H Productions.
It's all been quite a ride from when the Haleys stumbled into the business after getting into a heated discussion about the best way to lift a red wine stain from a carpet over a decade ago.
And yes, they've gotten the inevitable approach from a trade house for a reprint deal, but for now, the book stays in house. "We're just having too much fun," said Henderson.
Hannah's Mystical Appeal
Published some six months ago, Kristin Hannah's On Mystic Lake is still a surprising mover in stores. The novel, about 40-something deserted wife Annie Colwater's return to her Mystic, Wash., home and her reunion with now troubled, widowed first love Nick Delacroix, is, for example, the #14 top-selling fiction title at Davis-Kidd Booksellers' Jackson, Tenn., store.
The book's performance -- an impressive 80,000-copy net, which equals an 83% sell-through -- validates Crown's decision, in a rather unusual arrangement, to take on this mid-level-selling mass market romance author from sister house Ballantine and break her out as a contemporary women's fiction hardcover author.
"We definitely were taking a bit of a chance," said Crown executive editor and esteemed women's fiction editor Ann Patty, who now serves as Hannah's hardcover editor. Hannah, who is represented by Andrea Cirillo at the Jane Rotrosen Agency, had written eight romances for Ballantine's Fawcett mass market line and had sold at a reasonable if not spectacular six-figure levels.
"It was very clear she wasn't writing strictly in category," said Patty. In Hannah's draft of On Mystic Lake, Patty was arrested, for example, by Hannah's description of a Nick's little girl, Izzie, who, because she worries about 'disappearing,' always wears a glove on her left hand. "Kristin also has a way of playing with not exactly mysticism but some spiritual sense," said Patty.
Crown conducted a six-figure marketing push for the book, which included having the Washington State-based Hannah meet with buyers prior to publication; advance copies with bounce-back cards to solicit bookseller recommendations; Mystic Lake postcards (used by many as postcards from their own summer vacations); and various co-op offers. The book also was launched with a key first serial in Good Housekeeping and was a selection of the Literary Guild.
Given the response to the first book, Crown now plans a 125,000 first printing for Hannah's next hardcover, Angel Falls, due in spring 2000, and plans a similar six-figure marketing effort. The Fawcett mass market edition of On Mystic Lake will be published simultaneously, and will include a $2 rebate offer for the new hardcover.
Angel Falls, a challenging tale that keeps its heroine in a coma throughout much of the novel (until her secret famous first husband is called in to bring her out of it), isn't the sequel that Patty said readers have requested. That could figure in Crown's current negotiations to acquire more Hannah books. "But it's really a great sign of interest in Kristin and her book that people are asking for it," said Patty. -- J.Q.
CBS: Missionary For Mysteries
If the sales of books by the likes of the relatively little known Avon author Laura Lippman and Archer Mayor and K.C. Constantine, both now published by Mysterious Press, take a leap forward in coming months, it won't take a sleuth to figure out why: these mystery writers are set for upcoming profiles on CBS News Sunday Morning.
In the last three years, Sunday Morning reporter Anthony Mason has done some 17 segments on mystery writers, and his profiles of lesser known writers have been particularly instrumental in boosting sales. A case in point is last Sunday's spot on Alaskan private investigator/Bantam author John Straley. After the broadcast, sales of his Alaskan novels, in particular Signet's backlist title The Woman Who Married a Bear, surged, bringing the title into Amazon.com's top 50.
Mason is a big fan of the genre, and he's doing his best to be its missionary. On last Sunday's show, he and host Charles Osgood discussed the "interesting statistic" that "taken together, mysteries, spy novels, thrillers, are more popular than any other genre in the industrialized world today."
And there's more good news: producer, Douglas W. Smith told PW that the show may soon commit to doing the segments monthly instead of occasionally, as had been the case. Most likely they will air on the third Sunday of every month, according to Smith.
Sunday Morning's segments offer details about where the authors live and where they set their mysteries. Like her fictional PI, Lippman lives in Baltimore, and Mayor just became constable of New Fane, Vt., close to Brattleboro, where his fictional police officer, J Gunther, sleuths. As for the pseudonymous Constantine, who lives in Pennsylvania, no, the mystery about this mystery author, who d sn't even have an author photo on book jackets, won't be revealed.
Though he hardly needs the help, Putnam powerhouse Robert Parker also is scheduled for an upcoming profile, as is the similarly unneedy but no less deserving Umberto Eco. Smith admits a particular interest in that last profile -- he was once a student of Eco's -- and argues that The Name of the Rose (published by Harcourt Brace/Harvest) fits within the mystery format. "We want to stretch the barriers of the genre," he said. -- J.Q.
IN THE NEWS
East Timor Books Become Timely
As was the case with Rwanda and Kosovo, the current political unrest and violence in East Timor is bringing media attention to books that can provide background on the current conflict.
First signed up in 1996 after its subject won the Nobel Peace Prize, Arnold S. Kohen's From the Place of the Dead: The Epic Struggles of Bishop Belo of East Timor was released earlier this summer by St. Martin's Press, but received scant major review attention.
But that changed August 30, when East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia, which took over the former Portuguese colony in the mid 1970s. In reaction to the vote, anti-independence militias, aided by the Indonesian army, began looting and burning, and driving residents out of the territory, which has led to foreign peacekeeping intervention.
Kohen's book, which also features an introduction by the Dalai Lama, received a review in the Economist on September 3, a spot on ABC's Nightline on September 7, and New York Times and Boston Globe mentions on September 11, among other media hits. Former NBC News investigative reporter Kohen, who had access to Belo in crafting this book, is also appearing on a daily basis on the Catholic Family Radio Network. SMP says it's ambitious 10,000-copy first printing is meeting current demand.
Jose Ramos-Horta, the resistance spokesman who shared the Nobel with Belo, also has been called upon to comment on the East Timor situation. His book Funu: The Unfinished Saga of East Timor was first published by Lawrenceville, N.J.“based Red Sea Press in 1987, and received a second wave of orders with his 1996 Nobel Prize win. The press now says it is receiving its third round of orders, thanks to the current events.
Distributor LPC Group also reports increased demand for the March 1999 revised Odonian Press edition of Matthew Jardine's East Timor: Genocide in Paradise, which includes an introduction by Noam Chomsky. Jardine, who writes under a pseudonym for fear of government retribution, also wrote East Timor's Unfinished Struggle: Inside the Timorese Resistance for Consortium-distributed South End Press in 1997. --J.Q.