Friday, January 14, 1983
New York Times Book Review column "About Books and Authors" features Richard Grayson and LINCOLN'S DOCTOR'S DOG
The January 16 1983 "About Books and Authors" column of the New York Times Book Review features an item about Richard Grayson and Lincoln's Doctor's Dog:
New York Times
January 16, 1983
ABOUT BOOKS AND AUTHORS
By EDWIN MCDOWELL
An Anemic Send-Off
APRIL may be the cruelest month for poets and taxpayers, but for booksellers nothing approaches the cruelty of the first and second weeks after Christmas, when sales typically plummet by about 65 percent. Unit sales of hard-cover fiction during the last week of 1982 fell 71 percent compared with Christmas week, while sales of books on the hard-cover general list dropped 66 percent.
Given that anemic send-off into the new year, it is hardly surprising that most of the book industry can't wait for warmer weather. Look at January 1978:
According to New York Times computer-ranked sales of best sellers, sales of hard-cover fiction best sellers totaled only one-third of those of the previous month. The comparison was slightly better the following year. Last January, after an especially poor December, sales rose to 55 percent of the previous month's total. Sales of hard-cover general best sellers have followed a similar pattern over the past five years.
In some parts of the country the lag continues well into February. ''We usually don't pick up again until almost March,'' a bookseller in Philadelphia said, adding that January is a great month for browsers, ''because they have the store practically to themselves.'' Yet because sales depend on the weather as well as on the availability of big books, January has occasionally lost out to February, April or even May as the worst month for hard-cover book sales.
During slow seasons, however, there is still considerable movement in the relative position of individual titles. A good example is ''In Search of Excellence: Lessons From America's Best-Run Companies'' by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. The book sold few copies in the major chain stores during Christmas week and ranked only No. 29 on the Times list. But now it is eighth on the list, with the chains accounting for 31 percent of total sales.
FEW books remain on the Times best-seller list for more than a couple of months, but this week ''Jane Fonda's Workout Book'' marks its 52d week, even moving up a notch to second place. Meanwhile, although Shel Silverstein's ''A Light in the Attic'' slipped from 5th to 13th place, the book of cartoons and verse is currently celebrating its 61st week as a best seller.
WE reported here some months back that Richard Grayson, searching for a formula that would guarantee best sellerdom, had titled his forthcoming collection "Lincoln's Doctor's Dog & Other Stories." A number of readers noted that George Stevens published a book titled "Lincoln's Doctor's Dog & Other Famous Best Sellers" in 1939. Mr. Grayson said he had not known of the Stevens book, but he was so taken by his version of the title that he decided to stick with it.
The idea sounded good in theory: Since individual titles about Lincoln, doctors and dogs have tended to do well, one that combined all three subjects might do three times as well. Alas, that has not been the case. Sales figures for the Stevens book are not available, although it does not seem to have been a best seller. But the Grayson book, published last spring, has sold fewer than 200 copies. ''The only thing I can come up with,'' the author said after making it clear that he does not regard the sales figures as a literary judgment, ''is that Lincoln isn't as popular as he used to be.''
Mr. Grayson, who teaches creative writing at Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has written four books that have sold a total of about 1,350 copies. Whether or not they are memorable as literature, their titles tend to be unforgettable: An earlier Grayson book was "With Hitler in New York," and Mr. Grayson's latest effort, a paperback for which he received $3,000 from the Florida Arts Council, is titled "Eating at Arby's." Scheduled for publication next month is a new opus: "I Brake for Delmore Schwartz."