Books have been fueling Hollywood sales for decades, but the reverse has been true far less often. While a publisher will often issue a new edition with some key art and a "Now a Major Motion Picture" tag on the cover, a movie's release often leads to only a small uptick in a tie-in book's sales; many who see the film may say they want to read the book but they don't necessarily go out and buy it.
The big exception this year has been "Eat, Pray, Love," Elizabeth Gilbert's post-divorce memoir of spiritual and romantic discovery. Already a phenomenon long before Julia Roberts began scooping gelato on an Italian park bench — the book, with a picture of said star on said bench holding unsaid spoon — leaped back to No. 1 on the New York Times paperback nonfiction list at the end of May, even as Sony was doing little more than rolling out marketing materials.The Viking/Penguin book hasn't budged since, racking up what is now an astounding 182 weeks on the list, or 38 weeks longer than Gilbert's ideological antithesis, "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell," a memoir of "life as a self-absorbed, drunken womanizer." (If only they each made an appearance in the other's book.)
But other recent tie-ins and piggyback attempts haven't been as well conceived. We were surprised the other day, for instance, to find Jon Krakauer's "Where Men Win Glory" the author's exploration of the late NFLer-turned-soldier Pat Tillman, arrive on our desks as the Weinstein Co. prepares to release "The Tillman Story," Amir Bar-Lev's documentary on the same.
"I am sending you this book in anticipation of the release of the movie 'The Tillman Story," went the letter from a VP of publicity at publisher Vintage. It's a nice thought, since both book and film are in-depth explorations of similar subjects. Except for one problem: The Tillman family hasn't exactly embraced the book, which they feel didn't accurately convey Pat Tillman's life or death. At Sundance, Pat Tillman's youngest brother didn't gild the lily. Asked about Krakauer's book, Rich Tillman told the screening audience that "that guy's a piece of ...."
Vintage, which did not issue a new new edition to commemorate the movie, did go for a disclaimer in its letter, saying, "The documentary movie is not based on the book (and has no association with Jon Krakauer), but I thought it might provide you with valuable background on Pat Tillman."
Indeed it might. We wouldn't count on any publicity shout-outs from the Tillman family, though.
— Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Movie tie-in edition of 'Eat, Pray, Love.' Credit: Viking Penguin
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