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High Demand for Reagan Books Is Seen

Publishers are speeding up the release and production of many offerings by and about the 40th president.

June 12, 2004|From Reuters

The death of Ronald Reagan has triggered a whirlwind of action among publishers, who are speeding up books in the pipeline and dusting off a wide choice of works already available on the 40th U.S. president.

A boxed set of paperbacks by prolific Reagan biographer Lou Cannon and a long-anticipated memoir by Reagan's daughter Patti Davis are among works being hurried to the bookshops.

"It's still early, but we're seeing demand from retailers and it looks like a lot of books are selling," said Josh Marwell, president of sales for HarperCollins Publishers Inc. "In some cases, we've had to go back to press."

News of the former president's death June 5 broke during the annual convention of publishers and book retailers in Chicago, where a moment of silence quickly gave way to practical concerns.

"We all said Ronald Reagan has passed away -- what should we do?" said Gene Taft, director of publicity at publisher PublicAffairs. "Maybe we should take some orders."

Random House Inc. imprint Alfred A. Knopf, which is expecting a bonanza with the publication of former President Clinton's memoir this month, said it had Davis under contract for a tell-all book about Reagan with the stipulation it would be published after his death.

A Knopf spokesman has said the book would be ready for publication soon.

Seven existing Reagan books shot into Amazon.com Inc.'s top 100 seller list in recent days, according to Amazon spokeswoman Kristin Mariani. They include "Reagan: A Life In Letters," "I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan."

"I think everyone in the publishing industry hopes this will be an opportunity to remind readers what's so captivating about Ronald Reagan," said Adam Rothberg, vice president of Simon & Schuster Inc.

PublicAffairs, publisher of former White House reporter Cannon, one of Reagan's most prominent biographers, fast-tracked a planned boxed-set of paperbacks including Cannon's latest, "Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power," and "President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime."

"These were on the back burner," Taft said. "They're on the front burner now."

Rothberg says five-figure orders started rolling in Monday for two compilations of the president's own writing -- Simon & Schuster's "Reagan, in His Own Hand" and "Reagan, A Life in Letters," both former New York Times bestsellers.

Regan Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, published "God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life" by Paul Kengor in February and is revising its print run to accommodate what it expects to be a flood of orders.

Although Reagan books are moving up the Amazon top 100 list, they are unlikely to challenge Clinton's memoir, "My Life," a $35 book with a planned first printing of 1.5 million copies, which has been at No. 1 since Amazon started taking pre-orders.

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