It was the kind of book B. Dalton Booksellers didn't want to sell and Phil Donahue didn't want to talk about. Fifty publishers turned it down.
But thanks to a mention last week by syndicated columnist Ann Landers, a self-help book about urinary incontinence has become an overnight best seller for the Johns Hopkins University Press.
The Hopkins Press said Monday's mail brought 18,000 orders for the book, "Staying Dry, A Practical Guide to Bladder Control." Only last week, 3,000 copies of the book sat idly in storage. The orders are the most ever sold in a day for the Hopkins Press, the oldest academic press in the country, which in addition to academic books publishes about 20 general interest titles a year.
"The thing that kills me about this is that it is literally the book that nobody wanted to hear about," said Bob Oeste, promotions manager for the press, who had tried in vain to place the authors on the national talk show circuit. Already, he said, the book has "sold more copies in one day than most of our books sell in a lifetime."
An estimated 10 million people have some form of treatable urinary incontinence, the inability to control the bladder muscles, according to the book's authors, who also say that most people are too embarrassed about it to seek help.
The book details treatment procedures that are effective for 90 percent of those who have the problem, its principal author said yesterday. Common remedies include exercise of pelvic muscles, medication and surgery.
"We wrote it because in our work with incontinent people, we were impressed with how many people had urinary incontinence, how much they suffered, how much they missed out in life and how little information was available to them," said Kathryn L. Burgio, research assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
One-third of people aged 60 and over have some degree of incontinence, including 37 percent of older women and 18 percent of older men, as do one-third of healthy, middle-aged woman, she said.
In addition to Dr. Burgio, the book's authors are K. Lynette Pearce of Towson, a nurse practitioner in private urology practice who special izes in the treatment of urinary incontinence, and Angelo J. Lucco, director of the Specialty Hospital at the Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore.
It was based in part on research gleaned from treating patients at a National Institute on Aging-National Institutes of Health clinic in Baltimore.
Overall, about 22,000 readers of a Sept. 19 Ann Landers column have written for copies of the book, including 4,000 requests received yesterday. The Hopkins Press asked a Virginia printer Monday to rush another 30,000 copies of the book into print. "Staying Dry" was first published in November 1989 with a run of 15,000 copies. Until last week, 12,000 copies had been sold.
"Now we are deluged with these letters," Mr. Oeste said. "It is not just a check. They are sending letters saying [things like], 'I hope you can help me with my problem,' signed Margaret from Oklahoma."
Titles published by the Hopkins Press are of interest mainly to scholars and usually sell only several thousand copies. Its biggest seller, with 500,000 copies, is "The 36-hour Day," a book about Alzheimer's disease. Next are the "Johns Hopkins Atlas of Human Functional Anatomy" and "American Defense Policy."
Among the more popular general interest titles in recent years, all selling 10,000 copies or less, are a paperback edition of Latin Sexual Vocabulary, a book about the Amish culture, and "Bay Country," a book about the Chesapeake Bay by former Sun reporter Tom Horton.
"Staying Dry" ($12.95, including postage and handling, plus 5 percent sales tax for Maryland residents) can be ordered from the Johns Hopkins University Press, 701 W. 40th St., Suite 275, Baltimore 21211.