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Books Made Into Movies Get Second Wind On Charts

Fri., Nov. 28, 1997

The pinballing-around-the-country effect of a big new movie often makes for a glorious paperback best seller.

Even a Hollywood clunker will do.

Sometimes movies create a second life for a book that had quickly expired.

Of course, the symbiosis between the two arts works both ways, for ever since the first image flickered on a screen, books have been the fodder of movies.

Now even the promise of a movie can boost sales considerably.

“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” became the No.1 hardcover nonfiction best seller for the first time in its 176 weeks on the New York Times list, in anticipation of the movie, which opened last weekend to at best a moderate success.

Usually, by the time a movie is made, the book has long disappeared from hardcover, so in this case it’s cut-your-wrist time at Vintage, which has the book’s paperback rights but can’t publish and get in on the goodies until the book is finally exhausted in hardcover.

The real “can you believe it?” in book publishing is, as always, John Grisham.

The movie “John Grisham’s ‘The Rainmaker”’ also opened last weekend.

In its first paperback life last year, the book sold more than 5 million copies; for the movie, Dell has printed an additional 1 million copies with movie-poster art on the cover.

Besides the exposure a movie gives a book title, there’s all that Hollywood money that goes into publicity and marketing.

Gina Centrello, president and publisher of Pocket Books, said, “Studios have zillion-dollar promotion campaigns and spend a whole lot of money that certainly we couldn’t in book publishing.”

She added that with a movie tie-in, “you get a new readership for a book, people who didn’t know anything about the book before.” For instance, “Forrest Gump” sold perhaps 15,000 copies in hardcover before the movie and several million in paperback after.

So powerful are the movies, in fact, that for every good movie like “The English Patient” that sells a good book, there’s a flop movie that sells a good book.

“Bonfire of the Vanities” was such an example.

Most publishers agree that in the book-movie universe, flops seldom beget flops.

Thus, the disappointing “Starship Troopers” movie could still propel the old Robert A. Heinlein novel onto the paperback best-seller list, which will in turn introduce it to a whole new generation of readers and will make Heinlein’s backlist even stronger and more valuable.

Irwyn Applebaum, president and publisher of Bantam Books, said, “A bad movie can’t kill a good book.

” So he admitted to loving the movies, even though he is in “an industry where editors don’t watch television unless it’s CNN or ‘The McLaughlin Group,’ and authors say that the movie did terrible things to the novel and take the money and don’t get involved.”

Bantam is reissuing the David Brin novel “The Postman,” a futuristic fantasy, that was first published in 1985 in hardback and a year later in paperback, with a movie tie-in paperback printing of 250,000 copies.

The movie, directed by and starring Kevin Costner, doesn’t open until next month, but Costner’s photograph is on the book cover and on the posters that are popping up all over, and, of course, he is in the trailers now being shown in theaters and on television.

“I can see Costner’s face from my window on a poster,” said a happy Applebaum.


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