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Copyright © 2008 by Open Horizons and John Kremer
Last modified: 04/20/08

The Self-Publishing
Hall of Fame

Arthur Agatston

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Arthur Agatston, author of The South Beach Diet, began by self-publishing several hundred pamphlets out-lining his diet ideas for patients. When his patients shared the pamphlets with friends, a local TV station got wind of it and asked Dr. Agatston to put all of South Florida on his diet. As part of their program, the station interviewed Agatston and showed a clip each night along with a menu for the following day. Many local supermarkets stocked Agatston’s pamphlet and promoted specific meal plans.

Literary agent Richard Pine heard about the diet from a friend of a client in Florida whose husband was following it. Within weeks, he prepared and submitted a proposal to twelve publishers. An hour after she received it, Tami Booth, editor-in-chief of Rodale’s women’s group, decided to buy it. By the end of the day, she made an offer they couldn’t refuse.

In February 2003, the book was at the printer. The aqua blue cover embossed with white letters and flanked by green palm fronds looked more like a novel than an eat-your-spinach title. “It was beautiful and sexy,” said Bob Wietrak, Barnes & Noble's chief merchandiser.

To promote the book, Rodale sent 1,500 review copies to various publications as well as 500 more advance copies to celebrities, including Larry King, Calvin Klein, and former president Bill Clinton.

Coinciding with the book’s April publication date, Rodale's Prevention magazine ran an 11-page serialization of the book. Simultaneously, Prevention.com sent out a South Beach-related edition of its e-mail newsletter, which reaches 500,000 people.

The South Beach Diet then got an unexpected endorsement. In comments in New York magazine in June 2003, Mr. Clinton said the diet was helping him take off the pounds. Book sales jumped 20,000 copies that week. Since then, the book has sold more than seven million copies. And a related cookbook sold more than two million copies.

More recently, the South Beach trademark was licensed for a line of food products by Kraft Foods, whose earnings had been affected by consumer worry about obesity. In addition, the South Beach web site generates $2 million in income every month.

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