Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 9/11/00

A New Guinness Record | A Fast Track to the Top
Catching the Last Rays

A New Guinness Record
This one is actually for the latest Guinness book itself--Guinness World Records 2001. According to the publisher, the first printing of nearly 2.5 million copies is "the largest print order in the world placed at one time for a casebound book printed in four colors." Here are some other fun stats that also might be record-breaking: the total first printing used 3,422 tons of paper, costing more than $3,164,700; 51 tons of ink were required: and the print run was accomplished in 12 days (the press was rolling for all 24 hours of each of those days). The book showcases 1,000 new records (for a total of 4,000 ) in 200 categories. What were some of the other book records? Harry Potter (what a surprise!) set one for bestselling children's book series in one year (in 1999, according to Guinness, the first three books sold more than 18.5 million copies in the U.S., plus more than 4.5 million in the U.K. and the Commonwealth). Bestselling novels of all time? To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), Gone with the Wind (1936) and Valley of the Dolls (1966), each boasting sales of more than 30 million. Bestselling author: Dame Agatha Christie; her 78 crime novels, according to Guinness, have sold two billion copies in 44 languages.

A Fast Track to the Top
Bestselling historian Stephen E. Ambrose moves his expertise and craftsmanship to a new subject in his latest, Nothing Like It in the World, in which he tells the story of, as noted in the book's subtitle, "The Men Who Build the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869." Simon & Schuster reports 350,000 copies in print after two trips to press; the book lands in the #4 slot and is selling very briskly at chains and independents. The author's nine-city tour includes stops in places that were key in the railroad's epic history, including Omaha, Neb., one of the first towns to make it big as a result of being the eastern terminus. Another stop is Salt Lake City, Utah; Brigham Young and his followers did whatever was needed to bring the train tracks to that part of the country. And there is also a stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where Grenville Mellen Dodge, the chief engineer of the Union Pacific, had a chance meeting in 1859 with the campaigning president-wannabe Abraham Lincoln, one of the foremost railroad lawyers of his time; that conversation, according to Ambrose, set the course for the railroad's route.

Catching the Last RaysIn time for the final summer weekend, four new novels land on the list. The strongest was by Sandra Brown, author of more than 40 national bestsellers. Her latest, The Switch, will keep her on the road through September, with additional appearances at book festivals and book-and-author fetes until mid-November. Warner launched the book with a 600,000-copy first printing.

Colleen McCullough undertakes the English colonization of Australia in Morgan's Run, a historical epic that she says is shorter than The Thorn Birds (her first major bestselling success) and "much shorter than the Roman books." Simon & Schuster's in-print total after three trips to press is 150,000.

HarperCollins pulled out all the stops for its newest bestseller, Wild Justice, by Phillip Margolin, including a $250,000 marketing campaign and a 15-city author tour. A starred PW review was just one of the many raves received by the book. An early quote from Larry King in USA Today put the book onto the Amazon Top 50 two months before publication. The book's initial printing was 87,500 copies, and three additional trips to press bring the total to 100,000.

Former New York Observer columnist Candace Bushnell, whose Sex and the City observations inspired the HBO-TV show, has hit the national bestseller charts with Four Blondes. Atlantic Monthly Press has Bushnell on the road through the first week of November with stops in at least 22 cities. While the author already has garnered lots of media attention, there are more print features, interviews and reviews scheduled. First printing was 50,000 copies, followed by a 15,000 second and a 95,000-copy third printing.