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Rave Reviews: Bestselling Fiction in America
University of Virginia Library
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Introduction to the Exhibit
The Taylor Collection of Popular American Fiction
Making the Bestseller List
Making the List: Early Popoular Fiction
Making the List
Making the Bestseller List: Publishers and Publishing
Making the Bestseller List: Selected Bestsellers
Types of Bestsellers
Beyond the Book
Current Bestsellers
Readers Tell Their Stories
More on the Bestseller Phenomenon

Making the Bestseller List

Publishers and Publishing: A Case Study

Modern publishing history is a history of acquisitions and mergers. The publisher Doubleday exemplifies this, but its record also demonstrates that publishing good books is a viable long-term business strategy.

Frank Nelson Doubleday started his career in publishing in 1876 as a fourteen-year-old apprentice at Scribner's. He eventually worked his way up to business manager for Scribner's Magazine and then to manager of the subscription department. Here, he began to offer customers sets of books in return for a year's subscription to the magazine, initiating this marketing strategy with the offer of a uniform set of Rudyard Kipling's novels (to date). In 1897, Doubleday left Scribner's and threw his lot in with McClure's Magazine, forming the publishing company of Doubleday and McClure. During its three-year existence, this partnership published Alfred Olivant's Bob, Son of Battle (1898), Rudyard Kipling's The Day's Work (1898), and Frank Norris' McTeague (1899).

On January 1, 1900, Doubleday, Page and Company opened for business, marking the beginning of a new partnership between Frank Doubleday and Walter Hines Page, the former editor of the Atlantic and a social reformer. This firm proved an immediate and lasting success. Over the years, it published the work of Joseph Conrad, Booth Tarkington, Arthur Conan Doyle, Kate Douglas Wiggins, O. Henry, Joel Chandler Harris, Sinclair Lewis, Gene Stratton-Porter, Edna Ferber, T. E. Lawrence, and, of course, Rudyard Kipling and Frank Norris. Doubleday then merged with the George H. Doran Company in 1927, making Doubleday, Doran and Company the largest publishing concern in the English-speaking world. The business became known in 1946 as Doubleday and Company.

In 1986, the company changed ownership when Bertelsmann, AG, a global communications company based in Germany, bought the publishing house of Doubleday. The firm then became a part of the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group in 1988, and this conglomerate went on to acquire and become Random House Incorporated in 1998. Already one year later, Random House Inc. with its various imprints could boast of publishing forty percent of the hardcover bestsellers and one-third of all paperback bestsellers. The age of the media giants has arrived.



Conrad, Joseph. Lord Jim: A Romance. New York: Doubleday and McClure, 1900.

Gift of Mrs. John V. Cockcroft.




Kipling, Rudyard. Kim. New York: Editions for the Armed Services, [c1901].

Purchased with funds from the National Defense Education Act.




Norris, Frank. The Octopus: A Story of California. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1901.
From the Taylor Collection of American Bestsellers.

Gift of Mrs. R. C. Taylor.




The Octopus: An Absorbing Novel of the Wheat-Growers and Their Fight with the Railroad. Publicity poster. New York: Gillin, [1901].

From the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.




Washington, Booker T. Up from Slavery: An Autobiography. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1902.

From the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.




Henry, O. The Gift of the Magi. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1906.

Gift of Lydia and Warren Chappell.




Stratton-Porter, Gene. A Girl of the Limberlost. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909.

Gift of D. M. Baldwin.




Tarkington, Booth. The Magnificent Ambersons. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page, 1918.

Gift of Edward L. Stone.




Ferber, Edna. Saratoga Trunk. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, 1941.

From the Taylor Collection of American Bestsellers.
Gift of Mrs. R. C. Taylor.




Maugham, W. Somerset. Of Human Bondage. New York: Pocket Books, 1950.

Gift of Willard Agee.




Wouk, Herman. The Caine Mutiny: A Novel of World War II. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1951.

From the Taylor Collection of American Bestsellers.
Gift of Mrs. R. C. Taylor.




Haley, Alex. Roots. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976.

Gift of Fredson Bowers.




Grisham, John. Skipping Christmas. New York: Doubleday, 2001.

Purchased with funds from the C. Venable Minor Endowment.




Morley, Christopher. The Bookseller's Blue Book. October-February 1914-15. Intended to Be of Use to Those Who Sell Books. With the Compliments of Doubleday, Page & Co. Garden City, NY: The Country Life Press, [1914?].

From the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.




Doubleday, Page and Company. A Catalogue of Books Published by Doubleday, Page and Company, 34 Union Square, New York, 1900-1901. [New York: Doubleday, Page 1901]. Printed at the Merrymount Press in Boston.

From the library of James Whitcomb Riley.




Bangs, John Kendrick, ed. Potted Fiction: Being a Series of Extracts from the World's Best Sellers Put up in Thin Slices for Hurried Consumers. The United States Literary Canning Co. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1908.

From the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.




Morley, Christopher. "Effendi" Frank Nelson Doubleday, 1862-1934. [Garden City, N.Y.] Privately printed [by the Country Life Press], 1934.

Gift of C. C. Tutwiler.


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