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Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 2/14/00

Nobody D s it Better
For the last 10 years or so, retailers -- not to mention Doubleday -- eagerly wait for the opening week of the latest John Grisham. He's the only fiction author who can be launched with a 2.8-million hardcover first printing, and can rack up double-digit runs at the top of the chart and not have a huge overstock destined for the remainder tables. In fact, with his 11th megaseller, The Brethren, the author has had an astounding opening week; laydown was February 1. If you add up figures from the three national chains -- Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, Borders -- and throw in sales numbers from the hottest e-retailer, plus the tallies at about a dozen independents nationwide, the total is about 155,000. That's about eight times more than the #2 fiction bestseller, Gap Creek, for the same period. (By the way, Algonquin went back to press for a fourth time on that book, bringing the in-print figure to 610,000 copies; before it was an Oprah book club pick, the first printing was set at 10,000 copies). The Brethren was also the first book in the last four months or so able to topple Harry Potter from the top of those charts that had the children's book in the lead.

"Hell," Yes!
Well, now she's done it. Hillary has announced her candidacy for New York State governor, making her the first First Lady to seek elected office. All this is good news for Regnery, whose Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton is marking its second week on our nonfiction chart. The book was #9 on yesterday's New York Times list, and #114 at Amazon.com as we went to press. Author Barbara Olson has done "tons of media," said Regnery senior publicist Gwen Nappi (Politically Incorrect, Larry King Live, Fox Morning News, C-Span, CNN's Cross Fire, etc.), and "continues to do countless radio interviews." After a 50,000-copy first print, five trips back to press have brought the in-print total to about 170,000.

A Scandalous Newcomer
William Safire jokingly reminds people that Scandalmonger is not his new autobiography -- it's a historical novel from Simon & Schuster that debuts at #14 on our fiction list. In his 24th book, the Pulitzer-winning New York Times columnist traces the origins of muckraking journalism and America's first political sex scandals, which featured some of our founding fathers, namely, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. At the center the tale is radical newspaper editor James Thomson Callender, regarded at the time as our country's "most scurrilous scandalmonger." Drawing on letters and historical records, Safire shows how media invasion of private lives -- as well as politicians' manipulation of the press -- are as old as the Constitution itself. The book's February 2 publication coincided with the start of primary season, and Safire has discussed parallels between Scandalmonger and present-day politics during his TV and radio appearances (Meet the Press, Today, Charlie Rose, Special Report with Britt Hume); still to come are CSPAN-2's Book TV, NPR's Diane Rehm and a chat on bn.com. The publisher reports 51,500 copies in print after two trips to press.

Mitford Mania

Penguin was extremely busy last month with goings-on in the town of Mitford, N.C. That's the setting, of course, for Jan Karon's exceptionally popular Mitford series; the publisher estimates that it has shipped 1,125,000 copies of the five books. The largest shipment was 550,000 paperback copies of A New Song, which enjoyed an almost three-month hardcover run on the national charts. In addition, Penguin shipped 175,000 copies of At Home in Mitford; 150,000 each of Out to Canaan and A Light in the Window; and 100,000 of These High Green Hills. Plans are to support all this activity with TV advertising on Today and Lifetime Cable; online publicity; various point-of-purchase displays and a reader's guide.

With reporting by Dick Donahue.
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