Publishers still hoping to cash in on Linsanity may need to change their game plan. Jeremy Lin books are competing in a saturated market.
More than 80 titles have already hit bookstores and digital shelves. Yet Lin's star has quickly faded, now that he has been sidelined with knee problems as the Knicks begin the NBA playoffs on Saturday.
An estimated dozen more titles are scheduled for release before the end of the year, and none of the print entries so far has sold more than a few thousand copies, according to Jim Milliot, the editorial director of Publishers Weekly.
"I'm sure the injury hurts publishers as much as him," Milliot said.
The full-court press of Linsanity quickie books illustrates the gamble that publishers take in pouncing on trends. Trends peter out. Since the pixie dust appears to have stopped falling on Lin's fairy tale, it's hard to generate any kind of book buzz, Milliot explained.
Rapidly produced ebooks -- uncommon just a few years ago -- ease the risk for publishers because they cost a fraction of printed works, and authors often get paid strictly by sales, explained James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research. But digital books often blend in with other online offerings. "Just being able to publish quickly won't solve the problem of marketing a book that doesn't appear unique at first glance," he said.
Many of the Lin entries were written off news clippings. Some were sprinkled with fresh quotes from Lin associates. And one was more instantaneous than instant. "Linsanity: The Improbable Rise of Jeremy Lin" ($1.99 Kindle), reportedly took Alan Goldsher just 72 hours to write.
Accelerated publishing has a profitable tradition. The spate of Sarah Palin books that followed her Republican vice presidential nomination in 2008 turned a healthy profit for the industry, Milliot said. This time around, insta-publishers are about to capitalize on Mitt Romney's presumed nomination as the Republican presidential candidate. Everything you might want to know -- or not -- about the former Massachusetts governor will be covered in a run of fast-turnaround tomes as the Republican convention approaches, Milliot predicted.
Tracking sales of the Lin books, especially digital ones, is difficult. But 5,000 buys for a digital title and 10,000 to 15,000 buys for a print one would be considered acceptable, according to Milliot. Hachette Book Group's Center Street is printing 50,000 copies of its "Jeremy Lin: The Reason for the Linsanity," Publishers Weekly wrote.
But new challenges have emerged since Lin's breakthrough in February. Sure, the stark outlines of his rise from obscurity remain, dwarfing anything that a Hollywood screenwriter could conjure: An Asian-American Harvard grad sleeps on his brother's couch and sits on the end of the Knicks' bench as an NBA scrub. He finally gets his chance and becomes an overnight sensation.
The problem is, Lin lost luster before his injury, and now he is a lot more active on the bookshelf than on the basketball court. On Friday Amazon displayed 35 paperbacks, nine hardcover books and 29 Kindle ebooks about Lin.
More books have been scheduled to arrive this month and next, including "Jeremy Lin: The Reason for the Linsanity," ($10.19, paperback; $9.99, Kindle) by Timothy Dalrymple; and Zondervan's "Linspired: The Remarkable Rise of Jeremy Lin" ($12.99, paperback; $9.99, Kindle) by Mike Yorkey.
Releases pegged to the beginning of the next season might have a better shot because interest could be renewed, Milliot said. Even so, "Once he got hurt, if you were planning your print run for November, you've probably cut the order," he said. Sales could slow further if the Knicks, based in the media capital of the world, do not retain Lin for next year, he added.
Rich Wolfe, a prolific writer of biographies on subjects ranging from Tim Russert to Mike Ditka, said he wasn't worried about the glut of competition and Lin's diminished glow. In May Wolfe plans to distribute his self-published hardcover "There's No Expiration Date on Dreams" ($24.95).
As an added attraction, the dust jacket can be turned into a 2-foot-by-3-foot poster of Lin. "From Day 1 I said if he misses his next 300 shots, it's not going to make any difference, particularly among the Taiwanese-American or Chinese-American community because he's held in such reverence," Wolfe said. "He's not going to miss his next 300 shots."