Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 10/2/00

Oprah, Meet Ruth | A Spark-ling Launch
This Dish Is Hot | Queen of the Charts

Oprah, Meet Ruth"It will drive you crazy with suspense," said Ms. Winfrey in last Wednesday's announcement of selection #37 for her on-air book club--"I loved it, loved it, loved it; I stayed up all night reading it." The latest work to be Oprah-ized is Drowning Ruth, a debut novel by Christina Schwarz that was published by Doubleday on August 1. According to publicity director Allison Rich, a trip back to press has just added 750,000 copies to the 25,000 first printing (that number had increased to 50,000 by the time of Oprah's announcement). PW, in a starred review, lauded the "bewitching" prose of "this brilliantly understated psychological thriller." In addition to the book's many other glowing reviews, Rich noted, it "has also received tremendous bookseller support from the outset--independent booksellers named it to the Booksense 76 list for September, and Wisconsin booksellers in particular have rallied around it since it is set in Wisconsin, and the author hails from there."The book's publication, Rich added, is something of a rags-to-riches story: Schwarz was a schoolteacher living in L.A. when she sent a query and the novel's first few pages to NYC agent Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. But when Walsh called and begged her to send the rest of the manuscript overnight, the author was forced to explain that she could not afford the cost of Federal Express.

A Spark-ling LaunchWith his fourth book, The Rescue, Nicholas Sparks joins the select cadre of authors who land in the #1 spot after just a week in the stores. Warner's September 19 one-day laydown was a major success; there are 950,000 copies in print after three trips to press. Sparks is one of those lucky (read: well-published) authors who was an immediate commercial success. His debut novel, The Notebook, published back in October 1996, had a hefty 250,000 first printing. The house had great faith in the author's and book's marketability, and sent the new writer on a 20-city tour, backed by lots of print and TV advertising. The book enjoyed a 54-week run on PW's hardcover list and had combined hardcover and paper sales of about 3.5 million copies. Book #2, Message in a Bottle, published April 1998, had about 450,000 copies in print by its publication date and enjoyed a 28-week bestseller run. It sold 2.9 million copies (2.2 million of that in paper). Last year's A Walk to Remember, with a first printing of 650,000, landed in the #2 spot in its first week; it had a 21-week run on the charts. To date there are 950,000 copies in print of the hardcover and 1.75 million of the paperback, which was published last month and is currently #3 on the mass market chart. Rescue marks the first time Sparks has been in the lead spot on PW's list. The author kicked off a 27-city tour at the Waldenbooks in his home town of New Bern, N.C., where he sold about 12,000 copies.

This Dish Is HotLiz Smith is booked for media and in-store appearances through mid-November on a 12-city tour for her bestselling memoir, Natural Blonde. Hyperion reports 140,000 copies in print after two trips to press. (Her editor, Maureen O'Brien, was formerly Book News editor here at PW.) Smith's bylined column has appeared daily since 1976 and is syndicated in more than 70 newspapers. The Texas-born Smith came to New York in 1949 with about $50 in her pocket. Five decades later, the guest list for her star-studded party at Le Cirque included Prince Edward, Brooke Astor, Ivana Trump, Lauren Bacall, Victoria Gotti and Graydon Carter. "Only in New York, only in New York," as her fellow gossip Cindy Adams (also in attendance) would say.

Queen of the ChartsLinda Cobb is really cleaning up since her appearance on Oprah landed her book, Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean, on the national charts even before any other publicity began (see last week's column). In her second week, and after several stops on her 10-city tour, she climbs to the #1 spot on the trade paper charts. Publisher Pocket Books reports that the in-print total has reached 695,000.

With reporting by Dick Donahue