How to create a best seller

Elise T Chisolm

October 02, 1990|By Elise T Chisolm

NOW WE KNOW how to have a best seller. Just write a short self-help book that is on the sort of personal side -- body functions are the best bet -- and hope that Ann Landers will mention its usefulness in her syndicated column.

Like "How to Keep Your 8-Year-Old From Wetting His Bed at Camp," or "How to Cook Beans Without Gas," something like that.

Know what I'm talking about? Thanks to Ann Landers, the Johns Hopkins University Press, which usually publishes for scholars and usually sells only a few thousand copies, has a big seller.

I'm referring to a new book destined to be not on your Christmas list but maybe a little under-the-table gift to a dear friend: "Staying Dry, a Practical Guide to Bladder Control."

At first I thought this little book was for alcoholics, in itself a very popular subject, and one I could put on my holiday giving list.

But au contraire, it is a self-help book about urinary incontinence, and it has become an overnight success for the Hopkins Press.

The Press' promotions manager said that this is a book that no one wants to hear about -- it was turned down by 50 publishers. But Ann Landers mentioned it in her Sept. 19 column, and about 22,000 readers of her column have asked for the book.

The authors are Kathryn L. Burgio, research assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, K. Lynette Pearce of Towson, a nurse practitioner in urology, and Angelo J. Lucco, director of the Specialty Hospital at the Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore. The authors and publishers are now famous.

Here are some stats from the book. About one-third of the people age 60 and over have some degree of incontinence, including some 37 percent of older women and 18 percent of older men, as do one-third of healthy, middle-age women.

An estimated 10 million people have some form of treatable urinary incontinence, and the authors say most people are too embarrassed to seek help. You bet.

The book, by the way, in case you are pregnant and sneeze -- and you know about that, gals -- tells us about pelvic muscle exercise, medications and surgery that make incontinence highly controllable.

I, for one, have not succumbed to that malady yet, but I do get antsy when June Allyson's television commercial comes on for adult diapers and wonder if she is doing it for the money or is she really diapered. How old is she anyway?

So the good news about this is that it gives those of us who have written self-help books, either on paper or in our heads, a real nudge.

Here are a few of my works-in-progress.

* "How to Train Your Children to Fetch Their Own Diapers"

* "Staying Well for 24 Hours"

* "How to Train Your Spouse to Say Yes"

* "How to Repair Your Own Car by Computer"

* "How to Make Your Doctor Make House Calls"

* "How to Meditate While in a Traffic Back-up"

"Dear Ann, I have this book titled "Being Old, but Staying Young" and I was wondering if . . ."

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