When Pearson PLC's Viking imprint published Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir "Eat, Pray, Love" early last year, it printed 30,000 copies -- only 5,000 more than the total U.S. hardcover sales of her previous release. "We had high hopes, but we didn't put it out in best-seller numbers," says Viking Publisher Paul Slovak.
The title -- a chatty recounting of the author's divorce, spiritual search and self-redemption as she traveled the world -- was the fourth for Ms. Gilbert, a former writer at GQ magazine. Although her work was well-reviewed, Ms. Gilbert was considered a mid-list author, talented but not a proven seller.
Then a strange thing happened: The paperback edition of "Eat, Pray, Love," published in January, quickly gained must-read status. Women everywhere, it seemed -- on trains, planes and exotic beaches -- were suddenly entranced, making it this summer's break-out publishing hit. The book has had a 32-week run on the New York Times paperback nonfiction best-seller list, where it currently occupies the No. 1 position. Paramount Pictures acquired the movie rights for actress Julia Roberts. The author says a sequel is already in the works.