'The Red Tent': Anita Diamant

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When Anita Diamant learned unsold paperback copies of her first novel, "The Red Tent," were headed for the trash can, she knew something had to be done. "I asked if we could send some of them out to rabbis as gifts, and the publisher said yes," says Ms. Diamant, 50, who had previously penned a series of Jewish contemporary life guidebooks.

That move saved the novel, which with limited sales had been otherwise neglected by its publisher. It became the cornerstone of a marketing strategy that carried the book in paperback all the way to The New York Times' best-seller list, where it has resided for more than 20 weeks.

"The Red Tent," first published by St. Martins Press in 1998 and later by its paperback imprint, Picador USA, is based on a biblical story of women who gather in a red tent during menses, labor and illness. Eager to promote the book, Ms. Diamant never turned down an invitation to speak or do readings at book fairs across the country. "I said yes to everything," she says.

Since the book was the author's first novel, the publisher had allotted no ad dollars to promote it. So she did it herself. "The trick for books is keeping them in print long enough for them to find an audience," she says. Now in its 20th paperback printing with more than 1 million in print, "The Red Tent" appears to have done just that.

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