A single African-American woman who went on welfare to raise her three daughters and realize her dream—to create a thriving food business based on the honey-cream syrup recipe passed down from her great-great grandmother, who was born into slavery—may not be your typical business book author. But Michele Hoskins's story of how she turned a family legacy into an $8—million business, Sweet Expectations: Michele Hoskins' Recipe for Success (Oct., $19.95), written with Jean A. Williams, is being tracked by The New York Times based on sales following the book's first publicity push, begun last month. A second publicity effort, timed for February and Black History Month, could give Avon, Mass.—based Adams Media its first New York Times bestseller.

The 24-year-old publisher, which was purchased by F+W Publications last year, almost tasted that success with the paperback of Jodee Blanco's Please Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman's Inspirational Story (Mar. 2003), which reached #16 on the NYT extended list. A year earlier, Antonia Felix's Laura: American's First Lady, First Mother (Mar. 2002) landed on the extended list in hardcover. Publishing director Gary Krebs is convinced that Hoskins's homegrown book—Adams approached her after reading about her in People magazine—has bestseller potential. "We have a lot of opportunities with mass merchandisers that don't often come to us as a book publisher," he said, referring to the fact that Hoskins's syrups are sold in 10,000 groceries and Wal-Mart. To give the book more mass appeal, Adams went with a smaller trim size, 5-1/2"×7-1/2", and kept the price under $20.On top of that, Hoskins is feeding Adams information about the business contacts she's developed over her years selling her syrup. The book was featured in all Sam's stores in October and Hoskins visited Sam's headquarters in Fayetteville, Ark., and spoke to the managers. Sweet Expectations was also displayed along with the syrup on endcaps at Wal-Mart and K-Mart.

The initial round of publicity kicked off with a piece about the book in the Money section of USA Today, while Hoskins's five-city book tour took her to Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, New York and her hometown, Chicago. The giant grocery chain Kroger's will wait until February to mount a major display. At the same time, Hoskins will go back on the road for a second tour, to Portland, Washington, D.C., Phoenix and Houston, to give Sweet Expectations a double hit. According to Gildea, "the book is currently selling briskly in the mass merchandise and grocery accounts."

Though Michele Hoskins and her honey-cream syrup are largely unknown outside the Windy City and the mass merchandisers, Adams has been working to make the book stick by distributing thousands of bound galleys, many at BEA. Borders and Barnes & Noble are supporting it, and several African-American stores, including Black Images Book Bazaar in Dallas, Tex., where Hoskins spoke on her October tour, think that the book has all the right ingredients. "Every time adversity struck her," said co-owner Emma Rodgers, "she overcame it stronger than before."