Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 11/13/00

Long Live Jacqueline | Ahab's Wife's Paper Life
The Veterans Keep Shining | Look, Ma, No Title

Long Live JacquelineThe Kennedy clan, and the public's fascination with this troubled dynasty, has long been the stuff of which bestsellers are made--thus it's no surprise that America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is starting to hit the national charts. Sarah Bradford's biography, which marks its second week on PW's nonfiction list, was published by Viking on October 23 with a 95,000-copy first printing; five trips back to press have brought that total to 150,000. Bradford is no stranger to royalty (she herself is Viscountess Bangor), having written Elizabeth: A Biography of Britain's Queen; The Reluctant King: The Life and Reign of George VI; and Princess Grace. The first serialization of America's Queen ran last month in USA Today, and a Barbara Walters interview with Bradford aired, also last month, on 20/20. Other TV appearances have included Good Morning America, NBC's Weekend Today, Geraldo, Entertainment Tonight, Extra and CNN. Prominent mentions of the book have appeared in Newsweek, Time and New York, and a review is set for People.

Ahab's Wife's Paper LifeFor the past several weeks, Sena Jeter Naslund's Ahab's Wife or, The Star Gazer has been lurking just below PW's trade paperback bestsellers top 15. Considering its stellar reviews and HarperPerennial's massive promotional efforts, it seems only a matter of time before the book lands on the list. Published in hardcover by Morrow in October 1999, the book garnered a starred and boxed PW review ("deliciously old-fashioned bildungsroman, adventure story and romance"), followed by kudos from critics nationwide. At the time, Naslund visited about 40 cities and was also a finalist for the Book Sense book of the year award. The book sold nearly 80,000 copies. All this helped create substantial buzz for the paperback version, which was released last month (total copies in print: 110,000, after three trips to press). A second tour will take the author to 15 cities; she also did an NPR radio satellite tour to 15 markets. HarperPerennial published a reading group guide, available both online and as a brochure for retailers.

The Veterans Keep ShiningDelacorte Press is celebrating Danielle Steel's 50th bestseller, Journey, published November 1 with the customary one-million-copy first printing. This megaselling author has been gracing PW's bestseller charts since 1981 and has managed to land at least one, and sometimes three, books on our yearly charts. Her first annual appearance was back in 1982, when Crossings took the #13 spot with about 198,000 copies sold that year. (Steel also makes an appearance on this week's mass market list, as Irresistible Forces debuts in the #4 spot. Dell's on-sale date was October 31; copies in print: two million.)

Robert Ludlum has been a bestselling fixture since the early '70s. In 1979, he had the fiction bestseller of the year on PW's annual list--The Matarese Circle, with sales of 250,000 copies. Clearly, those were much simpler times; these days that figure wouldn't even place a novelist in the annual top 30. St. Martin's launched his latest bestseller, The Prometheus Deception, with a 550,000-copy printing and lots of Web site activity.

Look, Ma, No Title

The front-of-the-jacket image on Tom Wolfe's latest bestseller bears no title--perhaps none is needed for an author of this stature? Readers need to check either the book's spine and/or title page to find out that Wolfe's latest collection of essays is called Hooking Up. The folks at FSG think this jacket--designed by typographer Susan Mitchell, who also did the design for A Man in Full--gives the book an "upbeat, fun and cheeky look." On the book's pub date (October 31), the author did only Today and a New York Times interview. (He's hard at work on his next novel and did not want to be distracted.) FSG doubtless didn't argue: Wolfe's first two novels--The Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full--racked up hardcover sales of more than 800,000 and close to 1.4 million, respectively.
With reporting by Dick Donahue.