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Swarmed by Her Novel's Early Buzz

June 24, 2002|RENEE TAWA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Little, Brown had ordered an initial run of 50,000, which is big for a first-time novel; the total now is up to 225,000 copies (Sebold's first book sold fewer than 11,000 copies). In West Hollywood, an advance copy that arrived at Book Soup months ago still is being passed on from employee to employee, said Jennifer Ramos, the store's publicity director. "The story itself, when you're trying to describe it, you open it up by saying a girl is murdered, and it would turn people off. It's really one of those things where, by reading it, it captures you."

The buzz is just that, said Sebold, a kind of ephemeral bubble. "I mean, any early reviews are great," she said, "and they're very confirming for me, but the [general] readers are the ones who will either like the book or not like the book."

On July 9, she'll get her first take on reader reaction during a 12-city national book tour, the concept of which is just sinking in. For her first book, "Lucky" (Scribner, 1999), a memoir chronicling her rape at age 18, her publisher flew her to San Francisco for book signings; Sebold paid the hotel costs. Sebold also picked up her own tab for a flight to New York City, where she stayed with a friend, and another friend hosted a reading for her.

Never mind that she'll be taking 16 flights in three weeks this time. Take out the hoopla, she said, and her life is the same.

"It's not going to change where I live or who I love or what I read and all that stuff, so in those basic ways, which are the essential ways, things aren't going to change."

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