Though most New York houses weren't interested in a book on First Lady Laura Bush before September 11, last spring, independent publisher Adams Media in Avon, Mass., gambled on a biography of George W.'s helpmate. Now, with Antonia Felix's Laura: America's First Lady, First Mother (Mar., $19.95) moving up the extended list of New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestsellers as well as the Bookscan list (compiled from sales at chain retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, Hastings and Target, as well as 500 independents), Adams has its first hardcover bestseller.

Executive editor Claire Gerus, one of several new hires from major houses who joined Adams last year, brought the unsold proposal with her. When she asked her publishing colleagues in New York, " 'Isn't anyone doing a book on Laura Bush?,' everyone said, 'Why bother?' But Adams stepped right up to the plate." The book, by Christie Todd Whitman biographer Felix, traces Laura Bush's life up to the present, and includes exclusive interviews with the First Lady's mother, Jenna Welch, as well as information added after September 11.

As far as founder Bob Adams is concerned, Adams Media's first political biography is part of the company's plan to diversify and increase growth, begun last year. "Our list is growing quite a bit," he notes. "Over half the books we publish are in series, like the Everything series and the Small Miracles series. Eight years ago, our list was probably 15 books. The fall '02 count is about 90 new titles."

After two printings, Laura has 200,000 copies in print, a hefty figure for any house. But what makes it all the more remarkable is that much of Felix's initial publicity during the first two weeks of March was focused on five Texas cities, with visits to places like the Petroleum Museum in Midland. The national media she did in New York certainly helped, including CNN's Morning News, Entertainment Tonight, Fox News Channel's Fox & Friends, and Oxygen Media's Pure Oxygen. During the first two weeks of April, Adams added seven more cities, sending Felix back on the road to Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota and Kansas.

Even before the extra push, the book was moving. "It's not John Adams," concedes Robin Stringer, new books manager at Davis-Kidd in Nashville, "but she's just missed being on our bestseller list for three weeks in a row." So far, the Nashville store's only promotion for Laura has been to display it face-out in the new arrivals area. "There was such a popularity swell for Bush," explains Stringer, "I thought people would want it."

Felix worried that "people would think Laura was a quickie book written after 9/11," although she actually submitted the completed manuscript last August. She wrote the book while she was living in New York, but has since moved to Texas where she was recently a guest artist—she's also an accomplished opera singer—at Texas A & M. Between singing engagements, Felix finds time to write, so much so that she has a second book, due out in June, the official tie-in to the Nicolas Cage movie Windtalkers: The Making of the John Woo Film About the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II (Newmarket Press).