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Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 6/12/00

Apocalyptic Sales | High on Hannibal | Worth Waiting For

Apocalyptic Sales
The phones here were ringing nonstop last week, as journalists wanted to talk about the country's latest #1 bestseller, The Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The interest was sparked by the fact that the book has landed on top of all the national lists (including PW's) in its first week of sales. Last Thursday (June 8), New York Times readers were greeted with the front-page story, "Apocalyptic Potboiler Is Publisher's Dream." Tyndale's two-million-copy first printing is the largest ever for a fiction title from an evangelical house (at least that's what this editor has been reporting to her journalist colleagues); within two weeks on sale, the publisher reported 1.9 million copies shipped and billed, with a trip back to press for an additional 300,000. Supersellers Stephen King and Michael Crichton, for comparison, usually get 1.5 million first printings. Only megastars John Grisham and Tom Clancy start off with first printings higher than Indwelling's (2.4 million and two million, respectively). Of course, these hefty numbers will soon be eclipsed by Scholastic's unprecedented 3.8-million-copy first printing for the fourth Harry Potter book (scheduled for a July 8 one-day laydown).

The Indwelling is book #7 in Tyndale's Left Behind series. In-print total for all seven books is 15 million; the first in the series, Left Behind,was a November 1995 hardcover. According to Tyndale, Indwelling sold 25,000 copies at Wal-mart the first day--a record, beating out John Grisham's The Brethren. Family Christian Stores sold 60,000 copies the first day; B&N, more than 8,500; and B. Dalton sold 3,000. Some Books-A-Million locations sold out completely, and all 50 Media Play stores opened for a special midnight sale. About 1,200 fans showed up in San Diego, the first stop of the authors' 12-city national tour. In a chatroom with the authors at the end of May (on leftbehind.com), the publisher reported that there were 1,700 people in the chat at one time.

High on Hannibal
Another bestseller took the top spot on the national paperback bestseller lists after just a week in the stores--Hannibal by Thomas Harris. Dell launched the mass market edition with a 2.4-million first printing and expects sales to exceed that number in future months, especially since the movie is currently in production. (As most fans know, Anthony Hopkins is reprising his Oscar-winning role as the noted cannibal and Julianne Moore is stepping into Jodie Foster's pumps as Clarice.) The book was one of last year's most anticipated titles--it appeared about 11 years after The Silence of the Lambs,which made Hannibal Lecter a household name. (The character was introduced in 1981's The Red Dragon, which many booksellers are reporting among their bestsellers.) Delacorte's hardcover Hannibal also debuted in the #1 slot after just a week in the stores; it held that spot on our list for six weeks. After nine trips to press, there are 1.7 million copies of the hardcover in print. Dell reports that it has gone back to press for an additional three million copies of Red Dragon since Hannibal was originally released; it's #17 on PW's mass market list this week.

Worth Waiting For
Nonagenarians are usually not a demographic represented on the national or even regional bestseller charts. And neither is a book that boasts a first serialization in American Scholar. But the author is noted historian Jacques Barzun, and critics and scholars agree that From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present,500 Years of Western Cultural Life is the summation of Barzun's life work and the book he was meant to write. HarperCollins points out that his last bestseller, The House of Intellect, was published more than 40 years ago by Harper & Brothers. Glowing reviews, including a PW star and a full-page Newsweek rave, helped launch the book, as did an interview with Barzun in the New York Times "Idea" column. Interviews with Charlie Rose and Jim Lehrer on PBS were also part of the publicity mix. HarperCollins now has 90,000 copies in print after eight trips to press.

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