It will go down as the year of the sports bestseller. PW counts seven titles that made long stays on multiple bestseller lists in 2003: Who's Your Caddy? by Rick Reilly; Moneyball by Michael Lewis; The Teammates by David Halberstam; Open by John Feinstein; Seabiscuit: An American Legend and Seabiscuit: ...The Special Illustrated Collector's Edition, both by Laura Hillenbrand; and It's Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong.
Why did these books make it? What is it that brings two golf books, two baseball books, another horse racing and a biking book to the forefront of sports book publishing? PW decided to ask around.
"What I like about Seabiscuit, It's Not About the Bike, and The Teammates," says Leslie Gelbman, president of mass market paperbacks, Penguin Group USA and editor for Lance Armstrong, "is that they are as much about the individual personalities and triumphs as about the sport, and many times the defining moments that readers like to read take place outside the sports arena."
"I have to think," says Starling Lawrence, editor-in-chief at W.W. Norton, "that some of the impulse to read about sports is a mirror phenomenon to a general disinclination to read about other things. Readers are maxed out on news of the war, the economy and so forth." Lawrence, editor for Moneyball, the book that caught the nation's imagination this summer, notes, "This book is correctly perceived to be about more than baseball. It is about how people think, how that thinking can be improved and about how hard it is to change the way people think. The story itself is about baseball, but the book has been widely reviewed and recommended as a business book, an investment book, a book with ramifications for cognitive theory."
Jonathan Karp, v-p/editorial director of Random House, knows something about bestsellers; he's Laura Hillenbrand's editor, and Seabiscuit, in various versions, has spent 100 weeks and counting on the charts. He thinks it is the quality of the writing that is making the difference. "These authors are stylists," Karp says. "They're entertaining. They have cultural range. In their own way, they're all writing about more than sports, and they're reaching multiple audiences. Laura Hillenbrand, Michael Lewis and David Halberstam will write great books no matter what the subject is." Karp continues, "I think readers want to experience the drama of sports in a larger context—whether it's through history, business dealings, humor or, in the case of Lance Armstrong, inspiration and recovery."
"For the most part, sports books that become bestsellers are about more than just sports," says Stacy Creamer, v-p, executive editor, Doubleday and deputy editorial director, Broadway, and Lance Armstrong's editor at both Penguin and Broadway. "For example, Lance Armstrong's battle with cancer and subsequent return to competitive cycling is what made It's Not About the Bike so compelling for most readers."
Will Schwalbe, editor-in-chief of Hyperion, thinks there's nothing linking the success of these sports books beyond the fact that they are good books. "It was just a happy season when there was a variety of very distinct titles by major authors, each of which was enormously appealing in its own right," he says. "In the case of The Teammates [which Schwalbe edited], it was, of course, a book by David Halberstam. And it was also a book that really touched a chord with its depiction of a kind of friendship and loyalty that is unlikely to exist in the sports world today."
Bill Thomas, editor in chief, Doubleday/Broadway, is pretty sure why Who's Your Caddy? was such a success. "Rick Reilly," he says. "He is the most popular sports writer in America. Sports Illustrated [where Reilly has a back-page weekly column] has six million subscribers, and Reilly is one of the reasons. Who's Your Caddy? really delivered. It's a funny, irreverent book about golf, and people want something funnier and fresher." Thomas believes that Father's Day really gave a boost to Who's Your Caddy? and the title presently has 210,000 copies in print.
The other golf title on the bestseller lists was Open by the prolific John Feinstein. "Because of the reputation as an accurate and trustworthy writer Feinstein has developed over the past decade," says Michael Pietsch, publisher of Little, Brown and Feinstein's editor, "athletes and their managers let him farther inside their lives and their work than writers are usually allowed. And he comes out of that research with emotionally affecting stories that readers prize."
Seabiscuit as Pygmalion
One is always looking for words to describe the Seabiscuit phenomenon. Perhaps Jonathan Karp has come up with the best explanation. "I think the reason so many people love this book is because, at its essence, it's a transformation story—the three men change Seabiscuit and Seabiscuit in turn changes them. It's a classic literary theme—Pygmalion with a horse."
And if the people want more, that is what they get from Random House. "Readers had expressed a desire for more photographs and Seabiscuit memorabilia in fan mail to Laura Hillenbrand," says Karp. "Ann Godoff, Ivan Held, Howard Weill and I all realized the original hardcover was continuing to sell steadily and that we'd have another chance to reach a mass audience in hardcover with the release of the movie, so we asked Laura if she was interested in a special collector's edition. She was delighted, and gathered the photos herself."
Just how does Seabiscuit: An American Legend: Special Illustrated Collector's Edition differ from the original Seabiscuit? "The illustrated edition," Karp explains, "contains a new introduction by the author, 150 new photos with captions written by the author and the complete text of the hardcover, redesigned by award-winning graphic designer Barbara Bachman. Many of the photos have never been published before, and there are some wonderfully surprising images, including a picture of jockey Red Pollard in which it's evident he's blind in one eye."
Seabiscuit: An American Legend, the original hardcover, has 477,000 copies in print. The trade paperback, published in April 2002 and reissued with movie tie-in cover, has 2,226,000. The mass market published July 1, 2003, has 1,564,000 copies in print. And Seabiscuit: ...Special Illustrated Collector's Edition has 214,000 copies in print. The grand total comes to 4,481,000. Karp adds with pride: "According to Newsweek, Seabiscuit is the bestselling sports book of all time."
For a time, the Ballantine mass market and trade paperback editions of Seabiscuit were both at number one on PW's bestseller list. "We decided to offer the mass edition for the mass merchandise customers," says Anthony Ziccardi, senior v-p, director of sales/marketing for Ballantine. "Accounts such as Wal-Mart, Target and supermarket chains never really capitalized on the bestselling success of Seabiscuit in trade paperback. We also believed that this type of customer will sell a mass market movie tie-in edition better than a trade edition. We also decided to ship the trade edition with the movie art in June and the mass edition in July. This enabled us to maintain and increase the sales rate of the trade while allowing the mass edition to release closer to the movie. This strategy paid off as we had both editions on several accounts' bestseller lists." Ziccardi also says that come November Ballantine will also be offering in trade paperback Seabiscuit: The Screenplay by Gary Ross, with Hillenbrand supplying the foreword.
Other publishers are hot to jump on the Seabiscuit bandwagon, including exclusive horseracing/equestrian press Eclipse. "When plans got under way to film Seabiscuit the movie," recalls Jackie Duke, an editor at the Eclipse Press in Kentucky, "we realized that we owned a unique asset: actual accounts of Seabiscuit's career. The Blood-Horse magazine, the leading international racing journal, chronicled the champion's races during the 1930s and early '40s and reported on every development and rumor. Hillenbrand relied very much on the resources of The Blood-Horse in writing Seabiscuit: An American Legend. We decided to assemble these old news accounts, stories and historic photos under one cover and release the book in time for the Universal Studios movie." Duke stresses, "We've been very careful to differentiate our story from any others. We are in the wonderfully unique position of having created, and therefore owning, the real-life, real-time accounts of Seabiscuit's amazing rags-to-riches story."
The result is The Seabiscuit Story: From the Pages of the Nation's Most Prominent Racing Magazine, edited by John McEvoy. Catching some by surprise, Eclipse decided to publish The Seabiscuit Story in trade paper instead of hardcover. "We could afford to," says Duke, "and we thought the package worked well at $16.95. The demand for the book has proved us out. We have had four printings thus far and anticipate going back for a fifth. Demand for the book is such that we have scored big points with our distributor, NBN." Eclipse plans to participate in a Barnes & Noble horseracing promotion and an extensive ad campaign in racing-related publications. Editor McEvoy and Ray Paulick, editor in chief of The Blood-Horse, will be working radio, print and TV media. So far Eclipse has nearly 23,000 copies in print.
Even small mom-and-pop publishers have been quick to recognize how Seabiscuit can help them. Angel Bea Publishing is not exactly mom-and-pop, it's more mom-and-daughter because it's owned by Kat Shehata and her mother, Jo McElwee. "We are responsible for almost every aspect of the book from start to finish," publisher Shehata proudly told PW. The July movie release of Seabiscuit proved also to be a catalyst for Angel Bea. "Timing is everything," said Shehata. "As a small publisher, we are able to turn around titles a lot faster than the big houses. When I heard that Seabiscuit was going to be released in July, my mom, the illustrator and I [the author] put everything else on hold. The pub date was September 1, and we got Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral in stores just in time for the movie premier weekend, July 25."
Seabiscuit was right up Angel Bea's alley because it publishes "true stories about real animals." "I wanted our book to be a 'story,' " says Shehata, "not just a bunch of facts about Seabiscuit. I immediately thought of the match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. Everybody roots for the underdog." The book is aimed at the 8—12 age reading level, but Angel Bea also plans to promote it as an "art book" for adults. As promotion, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association is giving away Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral to all VIP ticket holders at this year's Breeder's Cup. Angel Bea also has designed a metal lunch box with art from the book on one side and Seabiscuit facts on the other, which Shehata gives away as a special promotion at book signings and author events.
Not since Mr. Ed has a horse received so much fan mail. And Jim Riordan, publisher of Seven Locks Press in Los Angeles, has turned it into a book, Letters to Seabiscuit. "I met with editor Barbara Howard and marveled at her collection of 1939 and 1940 letters written to Seabiscuit and his owner. There were birthday cards from kids and a letter of congratulations from Mr. Warner of Warner Bros. There was even a letter from officers aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis. We are trying to determine if the officer who signed the letter was a survivor of that ship's sinking [after it transported the atomic bomb in 1945]. We started on the book June 16 and took delivery on July 24, the day before the public premiere of the movie. Our goal was to catch up to the movie. I believe my comment was that I saw a horse with a wagon behind him and wanted to go for a ride." Letters to Seabiscuit presently is in its second printing with 40,000 copies.
The first book for Westholme Publishing will be Seabiscuit: The Saga of a Great Champion by B.K. Beckwith, drawings by Howard Brodie, foreword by Grantland Rice, which was originally published in 1940. Publisher Bruce H. Franklin found an old copy at an outdoor flea market in New Jersey and knew it was for him. "What makes Seabiscuit: The Saga of a Great Champion an important book," says Franklin, "and why I decided to publish it, is that it confirms Hillenbrand's story. Here it is, a really interesting book, the ur-text, if you will, of a major bestseller." The book is now in its third printing with 15,000 copies.
Lance Armstrong and His Racing Heart
A bike is his prop, but it seems much of Lance Armstrong's following has to do with his heart. He is a cancer survivor and a world-class cyclist, and that dynamic combination has made him into one of the hottest bestselling celebrities around.
"Lance Armstrong first captured the hearts of Americans by not only surviving cancer," says Stacy Creamer, his editor at Broadway, "but by succeeding so spectacularly afterward with his first Tour de France win. He showed fellow survivors just how rich life after cancer can be. The Tour de France has gotten a lot more coverage in the U.S. thanks to Lance. As a result, Americans have a much clearer picture of just what the race involves—how grueling it is, and how exciting. I think there are not only a lot of Armstrong fans now, but also Tour fans."
"Lance is the classic sports example of overcoming obstacles," says Brian Tart, editorial director at Dutton. "Cycling is a grueling sport, and being a five-time Tour de France winner after overcoming cancer is an almost mythic accomplishment that anyone—athlete or nonathlete—can appreciate. It has universal appeal."
"Lance's incredible human drama makes people want to read about him," says Jeremy Katz, executive editor, Men's Health and Sports Books at Rodale. "His status as the best racer in the world only solidifies that appeal. I think, moreover, that many people who had no interest in biking have found the sport interesting through Lance."
"Lance is a hero," adds Leslie Gelbman of Penguin Group USA, "not just a super athlete or a celebrity. He is a survivor who has come through his illness with a grace that is inspirational to many people."
It must be a publisher's dream to have a backlist title that once a year, like clockwork, hits the bestseller list for the entire summer. "It's terrific," Gelbman enthuses, "because Lance is such a fabulous person, as well as being an incredible athlete. He speaks to so many people on so many different levels, and it's wonderful when good things happen to good people."
Of course, it's not all luck. "We start promoting in early April," Gelbman says, "with up-front tables to catch all the media and hype about the Tour de France. We do a substantial reprint in anticipation of the huge sales we've been getting." It's Not About the Bike now has over one-million trade paperback copies in print. The cover, which Gelbman declares "just about perfect," has only been changed to show the number of times Armstrong has won the Tour de France. Unlike Ballantine's strategy of simultaneously publishing a mass market and trade paperback edition of Seabiscuit, Penguin has no plans at this time for a mass market edition.
One book this fall that should give an additional bounce to It's Not About the Bike is Armstrong's new book, Every Second Counts. Editor Stacy Creamer has brought the winning writing team of Armstrong and Sally Jenkins back together again. "Lance decided that he wanted to do another book, and he and his manager, Bill Stapleton, came to me," recalls Creamer. "We'd all worked on the first book together and that was such a happy and successful experience, it made sense to combine forces again for this one. Sally Jenkins and Lance have a terrific rapport. Sally did such a fabulous job of capturing his voice in the first book. It was critical to get her again for this one."
Broadway is planning a 350,000-copy first printing for this October title. At publication time, Armstrong is embarking on the Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope bike ride across the country with 20 specially chosen riders to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. There will be national print and media and signings in select bookstores coast-to-coast.
For those Lance Armstrong fans who are really into biking, Putnam has The Ultimate Ride by Chris Carmichael with Jim Rutberg. Carmichael is Armstrong's official trainer. "The opportunity to work with Chris Carmichael was difficult to pass up," says Brian Tart. "He shares many of Lance's training secrets, his programs and anecdotes about one of the world's greatest athletes. He goes from the basics, like goal setting and cardio strengthening, all the way to the particular benefits of periodization, diet and the peaking process. With this book, readers can train like Lance, but at their own speed."
Rodale first published The Lance Armstrong Performance Program by Armstrong and Carmichael with Peter Joffre Nye in 2000. "There's a bicycling boom going on in this country right now," says Rodale's Katz, "and Lance is leader of it. His influence—unlike that of many other sports heroes—has a positive affect on the health and fitness of the nation." Rodale sees a "spike" in sales at the start of Tour de France season. "It's been happening year after year," says Katz, "and our sales on this book are only accelerating."
Other books about the Tour de France include MBI's Le Tour: A History of the Tour de France by Jeremy Whittle and The Official Tour de France Centennial 1903—2003, foreword by Lance Armstrong, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and distributed by Sterling.
There is no doubt that baseball books represent the backbone of the sports publishing industry. Year after year the industry has been able to depend on the National Pastime when other categories have weakened. What makes baseball so attractive a subject, year after year?
"First," says Zachary Schisgal, senior editor at Ballantine, "you just have so many great writers with a passion for baseball. Second, baseball offers an endless number of facets through which to examine American life and achievement—from business to spirituality, pure physical accomplishment to chess-like strategy."
"Being on the bestseller list and being literature in many instances are quite different," says Robert Weil, executive editor of W.W. Norton. Not so when it comes to baseball books. "Baseball, traditionally, has attracted great writers and readers of literature. The intricacies of the game—from the art of fine pitching to the grace of the fielder, the unique talents of the patient batter—all present a drama that also reflects literature at its best. There is a nuance here that may not be as evident in more rough contact sports."
"Baseball stories work in book form because they enjoy a long timeline," says Gary Luke, editorial director of Sasquatch Books, "and that gives a writer enough material to develop a truly interesting and engaging narrative."
There probably isn't a more endearing sports icon alive in America today than Yogi Berra. The Hall of Fame Yankee catcher is a star in numerous TV commercials and was a bestselling author in his own right several seasons ago with When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It! Yogi's latest, Ten Rings: My ChampionshipSeasons (with Dave Kaplan), has already hit the shelves and should do exceedingly well because it gives tremendous insight into Berra's career, with 10 world championships in his 18 years as an active player.
"I actually approached Yogi with the idea," says Mauro DiPreta, executive editor, William Morrow. "I'd read a lot of stories about Yogi and the record number of rings he'd owned. And I thought, 'Wouldn't it be cool if he did a chapter on each ring, telling us the story behind how he won it?' So I pitched them, he loved the idea and we made a deal."
The thing that makes this book different is that Yogi tells of his personal battles, whether with his father (who didn't want him to play ball) or with Yankee general manager George Weiss (who didn't want to pay him a fair salary). "This book is great history," continues DiPreta. "Yogi tells stories in his own words and talks about things we haven't heard from his own lips before." Morrow plans a 65,000-copy initial printing and major media appearances, bookstore signings and events at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Montclair, N.J.
It's amazing how many books are published on the Yankees each year, and one of the most intriguing titles belongs to Norton. "Taking On the Yankees: Winning and Losing in the Business of Baseball, 1903— 2003 by Henry D. Fetter is unique in its combination of business and economic history applied to the growth of baseball," says Norton's Weil. "Rarely does one see baseball books that attempt to address the financial and managerial motivations of the game. Fetter is unique in tracing the ebb and flow of various teams as they interact with the Yankees, so that you see the entire sweep of 20th-century baseball history."
It's no coincidence that Norton gave us Moneyball this summer, and PW asked if the publisher expected similar success from Taking On the Yankees. "Michael Lewis has a huge following that is simply quite unique in publishing," said Weil. "This is Henry Fetter's first book, and we feel he has succeeded marvelously. We hope that he will grow one day into a Michael Lewis, but we certainly feel that we can rely on a great track record in presenting new baseball books." Fetter will be making New York and Los Angeles media appearances.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the World Series. "When you think about the ultimate moments in sports," says Ballantine's Schisgal, "and the greatest players to play in them, they inevitably intersect at the World Series. This is pure drama, and 100 years is a significant anniversary."
Ballantine plans a November pub date for An American Classic: The World Series at 100 by Ken Leiker. "This isn't one of those dry, chronological, black-and-white endeavors," says Schisgal. "Visually, the book bursts with gorgeous images and unparalleled design. Editorially, it's a totally fresh look at the history of the Series through its greatest victories, most fantastic upsets, most remarkable one-day accomplishments." A 50,000-copy first printing is planned, and Ballantine will advertise in Major League Baseball's World Series program.
Abrams will publish World Series: An Opinionated Chronicle by Joseph Wallace this month. This coffee-table book contains 210 photos, 73 in color. Carroll & Graf has a biography of one of the great baseball villains: Rothstein: The Life, Times and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series by David Pietrusza. Hill & Wang celebrates the 1903 World Series between the Boston Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates with Autumn Glory: Baseball's First World Series by Louis P. Masur. And 100 Years of the World Series by Eric Enders (Barnes & Noble Books) is chock-full of wonderful vintage photos.
Moneyball chronicled the rise of the Oakland A's under general manager Billy Beane. Well, just up the left coast a bit is another successful franchise called the Seattle Mariners. In Out of Left Field: How the Mariners Made Baseball Fly in Seattle, Seattle-Post Intelligencer sports columnist Art Thiel tells the story of how the Mariners went from a laughingstock to one of the premiere franchises in baseball. "This is the first book about the rise of the Seattle Mariners," says Gary Luke of Seattle publisher Sasquatch Books. "Baseball has had a somewhat short and conflicted existence in Seattle, a town with demographic leanings toward aerospace engineers, salmon fishermen, tree huggers and software geeks. Not sports fans. So, a strong element to the story is how the Pacific Northwest population learned how to become the stark-raving sports fans they are today."
In the past, there have been some beautifully written football books, from North Dallas Forty back in the 1970s, to The Junction Boys and Friday Night Lights in the last decade. Baseball and golf books have always had a reputation for staying power and literary excellence. Are football books catching up?
"Football has become our new national pastime," says Tom Bast, editorial director of Triumph Books in Chicago. "The recent gala on the mall in Washington to kick off the new NFL season is evidence of the marketing clout the sport enjoys."
"With the continued marketing and promotion of the league," says Peter Bannon, president of Sports Publishing, "football is beginning to chip away at baseball's dominance in the publishing world, as far as quality and probably in number of books sold as well."
"Mike Freeman, author of Bloody Sundays, has told me that football is the most popular sport in the country, that it has replaced baseball as America's favorite pastime," says Mauro DiPreta of Morrow. "So I think you'd have to be foolish not to try and tap that market."
"I think there are several factors for this," says Matthew Carnicelli, executive editor at McGraw-Hill trade, "but probably the most important is that publishers are waking up and seeing that football is the most popular sport in America today, and that events like the Super Bowl or the opening of football season have millions of TV and stadium viewers, so why wouldn't such people be interested in books? The assumption that football fans don't read books is silly."
The football book that may make the biggest noise in October is Freeman's Bloody Sundays: Inside the Dazzling, Rough-and-Tumble World of the NFL. In a chapter called "Secret Society," Freeman, a reporter for the New York Times, writes, "[T]here is a secret society of some 100 to 200 gay and bisexual NFL players... there are at least several gay players on each team, maybe more."
"The 'Secret Society' chapter," says editor DiPreta, "should help the book gain some attention. Mike interviewed an anonymous gay NFL player who takes us on a tour of the gay underground life. It's fascinating to see to what lengths gay men will lead a double life to protect not only their livelihood but also their lives in a homophobic locker-room. It should get us some news coverage—no active player has ever admitted he's gay—which will help bring attention to the book. It's not the only reason I bought the book, though—I think Mike gives us an inside look at football that's rarely seen." Major media is planned and the initial printing will be in the 20,000-copy range.
He's known as "Chucky" and right now he's the hottest coach in the NFL. Not many gave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a chance to win the Super Bowl against the Oakland Raiders, but Jon Gruden's team not only beat the Raiders, they pulverized them. "We had a conference call with Jon and Vic Carucci [the writer] not long after the Super Bowl," recalls DiPreta. "I was fortunate enough to have it in on an exclusive basis and we were able to come to terms. Jon is exactly as advertised—very intense and focused. Gruden is the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl, and the book is a wild study of his coaching mind—what he does, how he does it and why he does it." HarperCollins will promote Do You Love Football?!: Winning with Heart, Passion & Not Much Sleep with national media and a first printing of 50,000 copies.
Tom Bast, who says that by autumn 2004 half the Triumph list will be football books, has looked forward to publishing Sunday's Heroes by Richard Whittingham. "We felt it was an opportunity to create the ultimate football gift book for fans of any era," says Bast. "It's a feel-good, nostalgic tribute to the greatest players who ever played the game." Triumph has enlisted former announcer Pat Summerall to act as spokesman. "Summerall spent the NFL kickoff weekend in New York promoting the book," says Bast, "and later this fall he will do a satellite TV tour, national radio and additional signings." The first printing is 65,000 copies.
Triumph also has a couple of memoirs that are sure to cause controversy—Black and Honolulu Blue: In the Trenches of the NFL by Keith Dorney and Blazing Trails: Coming of Age in Football's Golden Era by John Mackey with Thom Loverro. Mackey was the first tight end in the NFL who could actually do more than block. In fact, he became the prototype for the tight end as wide receiver, paving the way for the likes of Kellen Winslow and Jeremy Shockey. Mackey was also a point man for the NFL Players Association and many think his delayed induction into the Hall of Fame was because of his union activities. Keith Dorney was the backbone of the Detroit Lions' offensive line for a decade. In Black and Honolulu Blue, he tells how it is to go up against the likes of Reggie White and Dan Hampton week after week. "We decided that each player's stories were unique," says Bast. "Dorney's in part because he wrote the book himself, but also how he paints a painfully accurate picture of life in the trenches, and Mackey's because of the impact not only of his play but his involvement in labor and race relations." Both Dorney and Mackey are promoting their books with media appearances and autograph sessions. Triumph also has a treat for fans who want to hear their favorite calls over the years with Not Till the Fat Lady Sings: The Most Dramatic Sports Finishes of All Time by Les Krantz. The DVD is hosted and narrated by famed announcer Jim McKay and covers all sports, but there are some exceptional football calls, including the finish of "The Greatest Game Ever Played," the Giants-Colts of 1958, and Doug Flutie's Hail Mary pass that allowed Boston College to beat Miami in 1984.
Old American Football League fans will absolutely love Going Long: The Wild Ten-Year Saga of the Renegade American Football League in the Words of Those Who Lived It by Jeff Miller. "This is a great story," says McGraw-Hill editor Matthew Carnicelli, "an entertaining oral history of the league that really competed with the NFL for a decade and launched the careers of such famous players as Joe Namath, Bob Griese, O.J. Simpson, Len Dawson and Lance Allworth." The initial printing was 20,000 copies and publicity is focused on old AFL cities like New York, Miami, San Diego and Denver.
According to an ESPN poll, nearly 6% of Americans call themselves Notre Dame fans. And there are several titles targeted at that fan base this fall. Return to Glory: Inside Tyrone Willingham's Amazing First Season at Notre Dame by Alan Grant is a project engineered by Liz Nagle, assistant editor at Little, Brown. "I am an ND alum," she proudly tells PW, "hence the initial interest in the project, but what made me want to publish the book was that I knew author Alan Grant would be able to get inside Coach Willingham's first season as no other author could. Grant played football under Willingham at Stanford, so he had incredible access to the coach and his players." There is a first printing of 36,500 and publicity is aimed at Notre Dame fans and alumni.
"We also believe that there will be a keen interest in what Tyrone Willingham will accomplish for act two," says Sports Publishing's Bannon. "Love them or hate them, there never seem to be enough books to satisfy the fans' demand. Notre Dame seems like the Yankees of college football." Sports Publishing has Tyrone Willingham: The Meaning of Victory by Chicago Tribune sportswriter Fred Mitchell. Local promotion is planned. Bannon and Nagle can only hope that Willingham's Irish recover from their slow start this year.
Bringing down the echoes of past glories may make the Sporting News's Fighting Irish: The Might, the Magic, the Mystique of Notre Dame Football less vulnerable than the Willingham books. With a foreword by Joe Theismann, publicity will be centered around South Bend and Notre Dame alumni clubs.
One of the great football book success stories belongs to Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Dream, a Team by H.G. Bissinger. Originally published in 1990, it was reissued in paperback by the Da Capo Press in 2000. This fall Da Capo is taking the extraordinary step of reissuing it again, this time in hardcover. According to Sports Illustrated, it is the number one—selling football book of all time with over 500,000 copies sold.
Atria is trying to recapture the magic of Friday Night Lights with One Great Game by Don Wallace. This is an engaging and thorough examination of high school football's national championship game in 2001 between Long Beach Poly High School and Concord De La Salle High School. "The human stories and the wider significance of the games being played are what bring readers in," says Luke Dempsey, senior editor at Atria. "People read Seabiscuit for Laura Hillenbrand's brilliant portrait of a certain time in American life as much as they did for the horse. And that's what Don has done here. There's not all that much football in it. It's a book first, a sports book second. And I firmly believe it's those books that garner the widest possible general readership." Atria plans a 20,000-copy first printing and local California publicity.
Biography as Staple
Of all the sports titles published each year, at least a third—and maybe more—are biography. It's a rich field for sports publishers and they embrace it.
"The pleasure of reading a sports biography," says Marc Resnick, editor at St. Martin's Press, "is as much in the telling of the tale, and the insight gleaned on its subject and the period in which he lived as it is the facts and figures of the subject's life."
"Since the explosion of the Internet," says Bannon of Sports Publishing, "accessibility to information on sports personalities has greatly expanded. Fans searching the Web for information on their heroes quickly come across the books."
"Sports biography—and specifically autobiography—makes for great reading," says Jeremy Katz of Rodale. "We get a window into the lives of people who we think we know. After all, we watch them night after night, we track their stats, we follow their personal lives. We even refer to them by their first names as if they were trusted friends. But we never really know them. The sports autobiography allows us the opportunity to build out the armature of our knowledge into a complete person."
Katz has the autobiography of one of most influential people in NBA history—The Big O. "Oscar Robertson is a pivotal figure in basketball history," says Katz, "and his accomplishments on the court brought him to the peak of basketball fame. However, he is much more than just a basketball player. He revolutionized the style of play in the NBA. He spent decades fighting for the rights of players. He testified before the Senate on the future of the league, and he battled against racial discrimination without ever giving quarter. Oscar Robertson is to basketball what Curt Flood, Ted Williams and, to a limited extent, Jackie Robinson, were, collectively, for their sport. Like Flood, he brought free agency; like Williams, he was the last to reach a certain threshold [averaging a triple double for a whole season; Williams was the last to hit .400]; and like Robinson, he was a racial lightning rod and pioneer." Robertson will be doing extensive publicity starting in November and continuing through the NBA All-Star break. Rodale will start out with a 50,000-copy first printing.
When you think of basketball announcers, one of the first names that comes to mind is Dick Vitale of ESPN. "Living a Dream: Reflections on 25 Years Sitting in the Best Seat in the House by Vitale with Dick Weiss is definitely a big book for us," says Peter Bannon. "Vitale will appeal to a national audience, and I would be very disappointed if we do not sell more than 100,000 copies. I think one of the most appealing things about the Vitale book is that it will offer not only an autobiography of one of American sports media's most popular stars, but it will also offer some rare, behind-the-scenes looks at ESPN during its first 25 years of existence." A heavy publicity and marketing campaign is planned to back the 100,000-copy first printing this October.
Sports Publishing will also be publishing Ain't No Sense Worryin': The Wit and Wisdom of "Mick the Quick" Rivers by Mickey Rivers and Michael DeMarco. The legend of Rivers, one of the great eccentrics in baseball history, is still warmly remembered in New York, where he played on some championship Yankee teams. "Sports Illustrated recently dedicated two pages to [Mickey Rivers'] story," says Bannon. Bannon's Sports Publishing will also bring out this fall a bio of the current Yankee second baseman, Alfonso Soriano: The Dominican Dream Come True by Cody Monk.
One of the more erudite autobiographies this fall is The Rise and Fall of the Press Box by Leonard Koppett, the legendary New York Times sportswriter who died this past June. "Leonard has taken a well-worn literary form—the autobiography—and turned it into something much more grand," says Jim O'Leary, publisher of Sport Media Publications. "His book is a combination of academic professionalism and journalistic excellence. Unlike a standard autobiography, Leonard delivered a memoir that will quite comfortably fit on the shelf of a journalism student (or professor), a sports journalist, a media executive or a sports fan."
One of the most intriguing titles coming out this fall is The Tao of Yao by Oliver Chin, who also doubles as director of sales/marketing for his publisher, North Atlantic Books and Frog Ltd. The surprising thing about this "biography" of Yao Ming is that it is written as a novel. "This is less a biography than an examination of an inflection point in the relationship between Eastern and Western culture," says Chin. "Rather than simply recounting Yao's life story, I chose to investigate a more compelling angle: how Yao represents a different worldview that is really a viable alternative to how most of us in the West live our lives." The initial printing will be 20,000 copies.
One of the most revered figures in sport is John Wooden, the former UCLA coach. Regal Books has published Coach Wooden: One-on-One by Wooden and Jay Carty. "It explores issues of faith in God," says Deena Davis, managing editor of Regal Books, "with an icon of college basketball coaching who has influenced countless young people to live lives of character. Coach Wooden reveals the faith behind the success." A 60,000-copy first printing is backed by major promotional appearances by Wooden.
Another kind of faith was shown by Boston Bruin fans back in the 1970s when their team ruled the NHL. "Jesus Saves," said the bumper sticker, "but Esposito scores on the rebound." One of the most outspoken men in hockey history has put it on paper: Thunder and Lightning: A No-B.S. Hockey Memoir by Phil Esposito with Peter Golenbock this month. "Not only did Esposito have a compelling and significant career in hockey-obsessed cities," says Triumph editor Michael Emmerich, "he was willing to be blatantly open about his life and career. Moreover, Esposito proved to be a gifted storyteller." A 30,000-copy first printing will be followed by book signings and media appearances.
A little fairway philosophizing takes place in Golf & Life by Jack Nicklaus with Dr. John Tickell (Nov.). Internationally acclaimed speaker and specialist medical practitioner Tickell speaks with Nicklaus about his remarkable success, and in this book explains the how and the why. "I published Golf & Life," says St. Martin's editor Marc Resnick, "because it goes beyond simple golf instruction and provides advice on how to be successful in anything you do." St. Martin's plans a 50,000-copy first printing and major media.
He hasn't played a minute in the NBA yet, but LeBron James is already a legend. "I'm really excited about King James: Believe the Hype—The LeBron James Story by Ryan Jones," says Resnick. "This isn't just a quickie bio, because the author is terrific. He's a journalist for SLAM magazine and wrote the first national piece on LeBron James." St. Martin's will have an initial printing of 30,000 copies and plans on major promotion.
Perhaps the most intriguing autobiography of the fall belongs to NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor. "LT: Over the Edge will be pretty wild," confesses HarperCollins/Morrow editor Mauro DiPreta. "L.T. covers his career, but most of the book has to do with life after football, how one of the game's greatest players nearly destroyed himself with drugs. What's fascinating about the book is that L.T. couldn't remember certain stories— 'if you can't remember what you did last night, then you weren't having fun,' he says—and so he had to rely on family, friends, teammates and coaches to fill in the blanks. Their voices help fill out a portrait that's heartbreaking, compelling, provocative and, of course, inspiring." Taylor will be doing national promotion for this December title and the first printing will be 60,000 copies. "It's going to blow the world of sports memoirs out of the water," says Justin Loeber, HarperCollins's director of publicity. "It is brutally honest. The pages are so hot you can't touch them."