Sunday, March 18, 2001

Longaberger bio a best-seller before release

People who peddle baskets also touting book

By Mark Williams
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS - The late David Longaberger's success at building the basket-making empire that bears his name has carried over into publishing.

        Longaberger: An American Success Story will make its debut at No. 13 on this Sunday's New York Times' best-seller list for nonfiction hardcover books.

        It got there the same way that The Longaberger Co. reached $1 billion in sales last year — by relying on the same 70,000 independent sales associates who sell the company's baskets, pottery and other products to also push the book.

        It's not unusual for books to make the best-seller list before they hit bookstores, but Longaberger is a relatively rare case.

        “What better way to sell the book but to harness the enthusiasm of our 70,000 sales associates?” company spokeswoman Julie Moorehead said Tuesday.

        There is a footnote on the list that indicates the majority of sales for Longaberger came through bulk purchases at bookstores, said Kathy Park, manager of public relations for The New York Times Co.

        The notation is not a predictor of the future success of the book, but helps put the sales in context for readers, she added.

        The autobiography was written with Robert Shook of Columbus, who interviewed Mr. Longaberger over several months before Mr. Longaberger died from cancer March 17, 1999, at his farm near Newark, about 30 miles east of Columbus.

        The book documents Mr. Longaberger's life and his unlikely success in building the largest basket maker in the United States, which employs 8,700 people. That story has captivated people across the country, who talk passionately about the company and its hand-woven wooden baskets.

        The Times list is based on sales recorded through March 3. The publication hit the bookstores March 6.

        The book is published by HarperBusiness, which already has produced 100,000 copies — five times more than what it had expected.

        “It is a happy surprise,” said Adrian Zackheim, editor-in-chief of HarperInformation. “We were familiar with them, but we had no idea.”

        The company began promoting the book, which retails for $25, in January. It could be preordered in bookstores and online from Jan. 22 to March 6, Ms. Moorehead said.


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