If book sales were compared to the summer box office, Pat Conroy's "Beach Music" would be the "Apollo 13" of fiction and Newt Gingrich's "To Renew America" would aim as high on the nonfiction side. The strong initial sales of both books are mirrored by the enthusiastic receptions the authors have received on the road.
Conroy's novel will bow Sunday at No. 1 on the New York Times' national bestseller list for fiction. The book debuted last week at No. 1 and led again Thursday on USA Today's list, which lumps together the sales of all books, hardcovers as well as paperbacks. Also last week, "Beach Music" was the biggest seller in the Barnes & Noble chain.
The first printing was 750,000 copies; in recent days, additional print runs have totaled 80,000. And Conroy is scheduled to visit 34 cities by November.
"To Renew America" (HarperCollins), which will emerge on the Times' nonfiction list Sunday at No. 9 (reflecting only the first days of sale early this month), was No. 3 in Thursday's USA Today ranking. It was the top nonfiction seller at Barnes & Noble last week and second to "Beach Music" in total sales.
"Books for conservatives make up a proven market," said Steven F. Sorrentino, HarperCollins' director of publicity. "Considering that Gingrich is in the news every day, all signs point to a major, major bestseller."
Gingrich, booked on a 23-city tour during next month's congressional recess, first faces questions from the House Ethics Committee. The panel is reviewing the circumstances of his book deal, which came together last year during a period in which the House Speaker met with Rupert Murdoch, owner of HarperCollins, when the media mogul had corporate issues pending before Congress.
Afterwords: When an author is not a brand name, but shows critical and sales evidence of becoming one, a bold marketing ploy may help move things along. So Crown Publishers will offer a refund to 1,000 people who buy Andrew Klavan's "True Crime" today and Saturday.
To get back the purchase price, minus sales tax (the book lists for $21), buyers should send their name and address, and copy the book's 10-digit ISBN number (found on the jacket) on a dated receipt showing store name. Mail to Crown, Department TC, M-D 6-2, 201 E. 50th St., New York, N.Y. 10022. The first 1,000 applicants will get their money back. There are 140,000 copies in print.
The suspense thriller concerns a newspaper reporter who has less than 24 hours to help spring a man on Death Row. . . .
Key moves: The Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group's fourth and as-yet-unnamed book division has an executive editor, Janet Goldstein. She has spent 15 years at HarperCollins, most recently as vice president and associate editorial director. She will report to editor in chief John Sterling. . . .
Mitchell Ivers, the executive managing editor at Random House, where his books included Greg Louganis' "Breaking the Surface," will become vice president and senior editor of the HarperCollins imprint ReganBooks, led by publisher Judith Regan. Regan, who edited Howard Stern's "Private Parts" at Simon & Schuster in 1993, reportedly is concluding a deal to bring out a second, now-under-wraps book Stern is writing. . . . Maura Fritz, who has been the copy chief at GQ magazine, is the new managing editor of Men's Journal.
* Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday. His column is published Fridays.