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Book Convention '96: Let the Hawking Begin


More than 42,000 bookstore owners, literary agents, sales reps, publishers, vendors, authors and other industry players are expected in Chicago this weekend at the annual convention of the American Booksellers Assn. It's a time to sample, promote and write orders for books scheduled for publication in the months ahead, the fall season in particular. In real terms, it's a time for publishing companies to romance booksellers from around the country and to spend marketing dollars on souvenirs, parties and intimate dinners in order to build buzzes for new titles.

As of Monday morning, Hyperion was expecting more than 900 conventioneers to join Oprah Winfrey for breakfast (fresh fruit, light and fluffy frittatas, muffins and other good stuff) on Soldier Field and a mile-long "power walk" afterward to the McCormick Place Convention Center. The purpose: to start beating the drums for a book that the Chicago-based queen of talk is writing with her trainer, Bob Greene. "Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body--and a Better Life" goes on sale Sept. 11.

Bantam Books publisher Irwyn Applebaum will use the ABA convention to stand behind an author who is as obscure as Winfrey is well-known. In a full-page ad that will appear in the ABA Show Daily, which is distributed on the convention floor, Applebaum holds a copy of John Ramsey Miller's "The Last Family" and says: "If you read a better debut thriller this summer, I'll send you $25." It's an offer available only to booksellers, a gimmick designed to increase their familiarity with the book before it goes on sale next week.

Authors scheduled to meet and greet, sign autographs and help advance their upcoming books include Betty J. Eadie ("The Awakening Heart"), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ("Black Profiles in Courage"), Cindy Crawford ("Cindy Crawford's Basic Face"), Mia Farrow (her overdue autobiography), Neil Simon ("Rewrites") and the Duchess of York, who will be touting her two books for children.

For all the festivities, this weekend's convention may be quieter than previous gatherings. One reason: a boycott of the convention by Random House and its many sister companies to protest an antitrust suit filed against the publishing conglomerate by the booksellers' association. The Random House organization has always been good for a round of parties.

Eternal Fan: What could there be left to say--or write--about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her marriage to John F. Kennedy? Enough to prompt William Morrow & Co. to advance publication of Christopher Andersen's "Jack and Jackie: Portrait of an American Marriage" from November to Monday, when the book goes on sale. Andersen was the byline behind secret-baring bios of Madonna, Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson.

* Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday. His column is published Thursdays.

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