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Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 7/31/00

Summertime and the Reading Is Easy | Women, Women, Women
Bad Rap on 'Rhapsody'

Summertime and the Reading Is Easy

What's easiest right now is the number of bestselling novels from which to choose. More than two-thirds of the top 15 hardcover fiction titles hit our charts in July. Contrast that with only three new nonfiction bestsellers, and one can see why the most popular time for launching fiction is the summer.
This week, four new works of fiction make their first appearance, and the strongest of all is Not a Day G s By by E. Lynn Harris, which jumps to the top after just a week in the stores; that's a first for the author, even though all his previous novels have spent two months or more on the national charts. Reviews were very good, including a PW star--his first--complimenting the book's "lean prose and witty dialogue." Random House reports 212,000 copies in print after four trips to press and boasts that after just one week on sale, Harris's latest is ahead of the total number of copies printed for his last novel, Abide with Me. Buzz began building when RH sent out "save the date" charts, followed by mock wedding invitations for the matrimonial union of two popular characters. The author's Web site was bombarded with suggestions about color schemes, first dance songs and more. Also, in an attempt to make the book "the ultimate beach read," the author wrote shorter and the publisher priced lower. Harris is on a 15-city tour; still on tap are features in Entertainment Weekly, People and a taped segment for PBS-TV's In the Life.

Women, Women, WomenThree popular female authors are enjoying excellent sales. Jackie Collins moves up to #9 for her second bestselling appearance for Lethal Seduction--her 19th top seller. Simon & Schuster launched the book with a 215,000-copy first printing; sales of her novels total more than two million worldwide. For this book, Collins did something a bit different-- she worked on a CD for Rhino Records. It's a compilation disc featuring some of Collins's favorite female artists of the last 20 years and features the author's recording debut as the sexy narrator on the title track.
Nora, Nora, #15 on the fiction list, is by Anne Rivers Siddons. The popular Southern author enjoys bestselling status in many countries, with more than 14 million copies of her books in print. HarperCollins launched her newest with a 215,000-copy first printing and has had particularly brisk sales, as there has been a two-year gap since her last novel. Nora, Nora was launched in Siddons's hometown, Atlanta (her family has lived there for six generations), where a talk and reception at the city's Margaret Mitchell house drew one of the largest crowds ever for an author.
A starred PW review and lots of media attention have been part of the charm for Alice Hoffman's latest bestseller, The River King. Putnam published the book with a 105,000-copy first printing, and the author's 14-city tour includes several appearances during the first week of August in her hometown, Boston.

Bad Rap on 'Rhapsody'A tidal wave of negative publicity greeted the publication of American Rhapsody by J Eszterhas, the screenwriter who brought us Basic Instinct and Jagged Edge. It d sn't seem to matter, as the book has already gone back for a second printing, making 211,000 copies in play. Just how bad are the reviews? The folks at Knopf say they are so bad that one just has to read the book. Here's an example from a front-page review in the L.A.Times by Linda Obst: "It's a dirty book but why should that surprise us?... As you do with any dirty book, you can skip through the boring stuff and go right to the scummy stuff, of which there's not nearly enough." While the book is being marketed as nonfiction featuring actual settings, people and events, the author then uses fictional embellishments to tell his story.
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