Friday, October 05, 2007

Colbert Hawks Colbert, Tries to Top Stewart; Coulter's `Brains'

By Edward Nawotka

Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Stephen Colbert hasn't been shy about using his mock talk show, ``The Colbert Report,'' to plug his own book, ``I Am America (And So Can You!).''

The branding of Colbert is an active industry. The Saginaw Spirit, a minor-league Michigan hockey team, named its mascot after him: Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle. Ben and Jerry's produced the flavor Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream (``a decadent melting pot of vanilla ice cream with fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and a caramel swirl'').

Last month, Colbert auctioned the plaster cast from his broken wrist on eBay Inc., garnering a winning bid of $17,200.

The book begins its exercise in arch right-wing smarm by pandering on the dust jacket: ``Congratulations, just by opening the cover of this book you became 25% more patriotic.'' There are satirical essays on cultural conservatism, a chart comparing the ``Jesus Train'' to the liquor ``Night Train,'' a list of ``things that are trying to turn me gay,'' and a photo of Colbert retching while reading the New York Times.

The big question is whether Colbert's book, which comes out Oct. 9, will outsell ``America (The Book)'' by fellow Comedy Central newscaster Jon Stewart. Grand Central, the publisher of both, thinks it might and is offering a first printing of 1.4 million copies -- just shy of the 1.5 million copies sold by Stewart.

Valerie Plame

Stewart, meanwhile, bagged Valerie Plame Wilson for his show. Her memoir, ``Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House,'' comes out on Oct. 22. Why not Colbert? ``This book just seemed better-suited to Jon,'' said Wilson's publicist, Elizabeth Mason, adding ``I don't think Valerie is going to be doing a lot of conservative media.''

With a first printing of 400,000 copies, Wilson's publisher, Simon & Schuster, will need more than Stewart's imprimatur to move books. Michael Persons, a bookseller at the Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, thinks Plame will need to provoke a response from the Bush administration. ``That's the only way the book will last beyond one or two news cycles,'' Persons said.

Coulter's `Brains'

Wilson will want to avoid another high-profile blond author making the media rounds, Ann Coulter. The conservative commentator's new, subtly titled ``If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans'' was released this week. Though Coulter seems to be slipping in popularity, her publisher, Crown, is counting on loyalists to snap up this best-of collection of Coulter quips and recent columns. The first printing is 600,000.

Sebold's Matricide

October also sees the return of novelist Alice Sebold. Her 2002 novel ``The Lovely Bones,'' featured a murdered narrator who observed events on Earth from the afterlife. It became a phenomenon in grieving post-9/11 America and sold 1.5 million copies.

Her new novel, ``The Almost Moon,'' due in stores on Oct. 16, also explores the psychology of murder and features a woman who commits matricide in the first pages. Publisher Little, Brown, confident that the grim story won't repel readers, is printing a whopping 750,000 copies.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

How Alan Greenspan Pushed Canadian Skier Off Top of Book Hill

By Edward Nawotka

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Alan Greenspan's ``Age of Turbulence,'' the former Fed chairman's memoir and apologia, sold 128,000 copies in its first full week, according to Nielsen BookScan.

In the process, the book grabbed the No. 1 spot among business bestsellers from Vince Poscente's ``Age of Speed,'' a motivational outpouring about our fast-paced lives by a former Olympic speed skier. (Among other things, Poscente asks the reader to mull whether he is a ``bottle rocket'' or a ``jet.'')

The two similarly titled books took different routes to the top.

Behind Greenspan -- and pushing hard after a reported advance of $8.5 million -- was the mighty Penguin Press and a powerful New York editor named Ann Godoff. The Fed's ex-maestro enjoyed a heavily orchestrated media campaign that included TV interviews and print embargoes, almost guaranteeing that the book would be a sales-galvanizing news event.

Poscente began with no advance and got the word out mainly through an e-mail blast to his own distribution list of 10,000 names. His chief asset was Ray Bard, the dynamo behind a one-man publishing operation based in Austin, Texas, called Bard Press.

Since Bard founded the press in 1996, 14 of the 26 books he has published have landed on national lists. These include ``Little Black Book of Connections'' by Jeffrey Gitomer (2006), which has sold about 110,000 copies, and Bard's top-selling title, Gitomer's ``Little Red Book of Selling,'' which has moved in excess of 500,000 copies since it was published in 2004.

Maximum Care and Feeding

Bard says his high ratio of bestsellers is attributable to the fact that he publishes only one or two books a year. That lets him give each manuscript maximum care and feeding, from the writing to aggressively promoting the book to retailers.

``The Age of Speed'' sold a modest 12,000 copies in its first two weeks (and 13,000 to date), according to BookScan, which tracks sales at about 70 percent of retail outlets. Yet Bard had pre-orders for 60,000 copies of his 70,000 first printing. Because the pre-orders are reported to those who compile bestseller lists, they helped create an ``instant bestseller.''

Bard also worked closely with the retail chain Hudson Booksellers because its locations in airports and other travel hubs make it a good platform for sales of business books. Sarah Hinckley, vice president of book buying at Hudson, uses bestseller lists to determine how many of her nearly 500 outlets will stock a title.

Promotional $5,000

Where Hinckley could confidently predict Greenspan's book would appeal to her core demographic -- one she describes as ``older, wealthy, male, well-educated'' -- Poscente's sales potential was harder to call. To help guarantee that ``The Age of Speed'' would be given some consideration at Hudson stores, Bard Press paid a promotional fee of approximately $5,000, which was used to give the book wider distribution and better placement in the stores than it might otherwise have received.

``The Age of Speed'' is not yet a top-10 bestseller at Hudson Booksellers, though it ``is a slow steady seller,'' Hinckley says. ``It's done pretty well at big business hubs, but not even a third of what the Greenspan has done. Greenspan's book is going to be absolutely huge for us.''

Surprise Mailer Book on Religion Will Hit Bookstores Next Month

By Edward Nawotka

Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Books on religion (mostly anti) have been popular this year.

Christopher Hitchens's ``God Is Not Great'' quickly topped the bestseller lists when it was published in May; it has since sold 224,000 copies. Richard Dawkins's ``The God Delusion'' has moved 318,000 copies since its publication last year -- both according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks book sales.

Now the combative octogenarian Norman Mailer is offering his own views on religion with the surprise publication of ``On God: An Uncommon Conversation.'' The final manuscript reached Random House only in July. The publisher rushed it into production, and it will land in bookstores on Oct. 16.

The book comprises 10 interviews with Michael Lennon, Mailer's literary archivist and official biographer. Mailer offers his views on such topics as prayer, intelligent design and proofs of God's existence.

Lennon acknowledged in a phone interview that the market for such books is burgeoning but added that he and Mailer began their conversations in 2003. They were inspired by a charity production of George Bernard Shaw's ``Don Juan in Hell'' in which they had both acted. (Mailer had the title role; Gore Vidal was the Devil.)

Lennon, who is currently editing Mailer's letters for publication next year, noted that religion is not a new subject for Mailer -- ``It has just been in the background.'' He added that Mailer ``believes in a literal God, but one whose power is limited.''

Atomic Devil

Mailer, he said, views the horrors of the 20th century as proof of God's limited influence. He sees the Devil embodied, in part, in technology and atomic science. Unsurprisingly, the book includes a number of rants, in particular against fundamentalism. It also reveals that Mailer believes in a form of reincarnation.

Mailer communicated some of these views in his novel ``The Castle in the Forest,'' which is narrated by an emissary of the Devil who literally whispers into Hitler's ear. Published earlier this year, the book received mixed reviews and sold a modest 40,000 copies, according to BookScan.

Morris Dickstein, a professor at the City University of New York who has written extensively on Mailer, said he's surprised by the literalness of the author's theology. ``I never took his talk about God and the Devil seriously,'' Dickstein said. ``I thought it was a metaphor.''

Still, Dickstein acknowledges, writers do mature and change. ``I always thought Norman was acting out against the idea of being a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn. But as people get older, they want to reintegrate with parts of their lives they may have rejected or ignored. That may be what Norman is doing now.''