Two weeks ago, in our News department (Oct. 28), a story on flat sales at S&S had a quote from company president Jack Romanos: "Stephen King's From a Buick 8 was not immune from what has been a fall-off of several brand-name authors." We thought it would be interesting to see if we could measure the dropoff.

We chose seven brand-name novelists and compared hardcover first-week sales for each at three national chains—Barnes & Noble, Borders and Waldenbooks—over the past five years. In this period, sales for these authors may have increased at the price clubs and discount chains, and we guess that their sales did not significantly grow at the independents. So while these are assumptions, we do have the figures for sales comparisons for the three national chains. All gains and losses noted here reflect only the first week of sales for these authors at these three chains. And yes, the King's numbers are down, as were those for Tom Clancy and Mary Higgins Clark.

King's best first week since 1998 was in April 2001, when Dreamcatcher's first-week sales were more than 55,000. Neither of his two 2002 bestsellers even came close. His April bestseller, Everything's Eventual, sold about 32,000 copies—a drop of 42%. King's current bestseller, From a Buick 8, saw unit sales for the first week drop 48% from the 2001 high. Clancy, too, had a hefty drop. His first-week total for The Bear & the Dragon back in September 2000 was close to 100,000. This August, opening week for Red Rabbit was about 68,000, a drop of 32%. Mary Higgins Clark averaged about 36,000 copies in week 1 for both 2000's Before I Say Goodbye and 2001's On the Street Where You Live. This past April, Daddy's Little Girl sold about 26,750, a 25% decline. Sue Grafton's numbers for her current bestseller, Q Is for Quarry, are down about 20% from her June 2001 winner, P Is for Peril.