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Forecasting the Ricky Martin Craze

May 26, 1999|PAUL D. COLFORD | NEWSDAY

The Grammys this year were dominated by Lauryn Hill, who walked off with five of the awards.

But the knockout impression made that same February evening when the lesser-known Ricky Martin sang lingered among those who are paid to stay on top of pop trends. They liked the bouncy rhythm of the song, and they especially liked how women in the audience responded to the good-looking guy in the gray ribbed sweater and black leather pants.

Lawrence David, an editor at Dell Books for Young Readers, remembered this week that a lot of women were talking about Martin the morning after. When David and his colleagues saw Martin's video of "Livin' la Vida Loca" on MTV starting March 25, they were confident that Martin would catch on, so they responded swiftly.

"Ricky Martin: A Scrapbook in Words and Pictures," a 32-page keepsake written by Anne M. Raso and published by Dell, will go on sale Tuesday. Early bookstore demand has sent the publisher back to press several times, raising the number of copies available to 300,000. Dell also has printed 80,000 copies in Spanish.

Matthew Shear, the head of St. Martin's Press' paperback division, was watching the Grammys too. Soon afterward, he signed Elina Furman to write an unauthorized bio of Martin and planned to bring out the book in August. But after hearing through the industry's ever-active grapevine that competing publishers were producing their own Ricky Martin goods, Shear accelerated the process at St. Martin's. As a result, Furman's "Ricky Martin" will go on sale next week. First printing: 100,000 copies.

In a frenzy that recalls media reaction to Leonardo DiCaprio's appeal in the hit film "Titanic," these two books will be followed over the next two months by still more Martin paperbacks. They will include Letisha Marraeo's "Ricky Martin: An Unauthorized Biography" (HarperCollins), Kathleen Tracy's "Ricky Martin: Red-Hot and on the Rise" (Zebra), veteran pop biographer Nancy E. Krulik's "Ricky Martin: Rockin' the House" (Pocket), Kristin Sparks' "Ricky Martin: Livin' la Vida Loca" (Berkley) and Rene Cruz's "The Story of Ricky Martin" (Omnibus).

"Obviously, it was a gamble at first," David said of publishing the scrapbook. "But now, I don't think it's a gamble at all."

Last week, Time featured Martin on its cover.

And Newsweek has followed Time this week with a story on how Martin and Jennifer Lopez "are pop's triple threats: They can sing, they can dance and they don't look bad, either."

"Ricky Martin," his new album and his first in English, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's album chart after sales of 661,000 copies.

*

Paul D. Colford's e-mail address is paul.colford@newsday.com.

For more reviews, read Book Review

* This Sunday: The lives and the music of Maria Callas, Aaron Copland, Ludwig van Beethoven and Ray Charles. Plus the rock criticism of Robert Christgau.

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