Friday, August 03, 2007

New `Who Moved My Cheese?; Obama, McCain, Vampires: Book Buzz

Aug. 3 (Bloomberg) -- ``The Dream Manager'' tells the story of a fictional cleaning company suffering from high turnover and low morale. When the firm institutes a new employee-loyalty program that involves listening to and helping workers achieve their personal aspirations, it undergoes a massive turnaround.

Australian motivational speaker and writer Matthew Kelly's brief new book may sound like another ho-hum business parable. Yet Barnes & Noble's Dave Hathaway says, ``It is going to start a movement.''

Hathaway, who as a buyer assesses thousands of business books every year for B&N (they're one of the bookseller's top five categories), isn't prone to hyperbole. But he maintains, ``This is something unique. It moved me both personally and professionally and changed my own life.'' He's heard that Procter & Gamble plans to test the program. (Calls for comment to Procter & Gamble had not been returned by press time.)

Jack Covert, founder of the online bookseller 800-CEO-READ, is intrigued by the book, but he hesitates to anoint it the next ``Who Moved My Cheese?'' ``Parables,'' he says, ``no matter how good, have the success rate of minor league baseball players.'' (Hyperion, Aug. 21, $19.95, 80,000 first printing.)

Obama Biography

``Obama: From Promise to Power,'' a new biography by Chicago Tribune journalist David Mendell, promises a behind- closed-doors look at Senator's Barack Obama's home life and an assessment of his political agenda.

``There isn't any gotcha revelation,'' James Hornfischer, Mendell's literary agent, admits. ``But you do get a comprehensive, balanced portrait, which is something you can't get from the news.''

There are now more than 1.6 million copies of Obama's ``The Audacity of Hope'' and another 1.1 million of his autobiography ``Dreams From My Father'' in print. But Becky Anderson, owner of Anderson's Bookshops in Naperville and Downers Grove, Illinois, isn't convinced readers will buy something Obama himself didn't write. ``People are waiting for a book that tells us what he would do if elected,'' she says.

``That's never going to happen,'' responds George Shipley, a Democratic political consultant in Austin, Texas. ``Opposition researchers would comb it line by line for ammunition.'' (Amistad, Aug. 1, $25.95, 200,000 first printing.)

New McCain

Shipley can't swallow the title of John McCain's ``Hard Call: Great Decisions and the Extraordinary People Who Made Them.'' ``It's got to be ironic,'' he says, ``because in recent years McCain has failed to make the hard calls. What does he really think about the war? About the abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib? About the justice department and Alberto Gonzales?''

McCain's new collection of historical studies doesn't say. ``The essay on the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr offers valuable insight into McCain's thinking about Iraq,'' counters Cary Goldstein, publicist for McCain's publisher, Twelve, a fledgling imprint of Hachette Book Group.

McCain may be in better hands with Goldstein than with his campaign managers, who have been failing to boost his poll numbers. Twelve publishes just one book each month (hence its name), and as a consequence McCain will get Goldstein's undivided attention. So far the new imprint's track record is superb, with two of its first three books -- Christopher Buckley's ``Boomsday'' and Christopher Hitchens's ``God Is Not Great'' --hitting the bestseller lists and the latter topping many of them.

McCain's last four books -- written, like the new one, with his longtime chief legislative aide, Mark Salter -- have been popular; his most recent, ``Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember'' (Random House, 2005) sold a respectable 184,000 copies in hardcover. (Aug. 14, $25.99, 200,000 first printing.)

Meyer's `Eclipse'

Among August fiction, Anderson is most excited about children's writer Stephenie Meyer's ``Eclipse,'' the third novel in her young-adult vampire series. ``These books are extremely popular with teens, who find them very romantic,'' Anderson says. ``And since there's no sex and barely any kissing, parents like them as well.''

With 1.6 million copies in print of the first two titles, ``Twilight'' and ``New Moon,'' some booksellers are calling Meyer a possible successor to J.K. Rowling.

``Stephenie isn't comfortable with that kind of talk,'' says Faith Hochhalter, children's book buyer at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona (close to Meyer's home in Phoenix), ``but it's probably the truth. We may even sell more of `Eclipse' than we did of the last `Harry Potter.''' The store has sold more than 3,000 copies of Meyer's previous books and has pre-sold 500 copies of ``Eclipse.''

``The third book is typically the tipping point for children's series,'' she adds.

Meyer's first novel was picked up off the slush pile at the literary agency Writers House; she is now published in 28 countries. When Changing Hands hosted a vampire-themed ``prom'' based on the books in May, fans flew in from as far away as Costa Rica and Germany. (Little, Brown, Aug. 7, $18.99, 1 million first printing.)

(Edward Nawotka writes on books and publishing for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)