Selling Selena

There's nothing quite so bracing as an unintended irony, like last Sunday's Houston Chronicle promo for its Texas Magazine cover piece on Selena, the latest in a chain of top-selling periodical covers produced after the Tejano singer's murder in Corpus Christi. Directly under the blurb promoting that product of an unlikely collaboration between the paper's pop music critic and religion writer came the following tag for a slightly different story: "The Quintanilla family is trying to shut down profiteers who are cashing in on Selena's death."

The headline for that story on the State section front was "All for stupid money." Readers who continued on learned that "six weeks after her murder, the parents of Selena Quintanilla Perez are still struggling to fend off a horde of profiteers." Guess they can add a few media enterprises to the total.

Outside one HEB, a Chronicle hawker had set up a large Selena banner on a stack of papers and flailed his product for all it was worth. "Get your Selena issue -- right here," he barked. The paper seemed to be selling briskly.

That shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. People magazine published its first color-coded issue (Selena covers were limited to regions with a high brown demographic; elsewhere a subject with presumably more generic appeal ran) and sold 245,000 issues in Texas alone. Texans normally buy about 140,000 issues of a particular People run. That inspired People's publishers to churn out "A Special Tribute to Selena" issue that sold 600,000 copies.

Texas Monthly then followed with a hastily transfigured cover that went from touting an unspectacular package of stories on the gun issue to a perkily posed Selena. It was, according to Texas Monthly publisher Mike Levy, a newsstand smash. "We've had several bestsellers in our history," says Levy. "It's not the best, but it's done real well." As any veteran publisher knows, covers featuring scantily clad lasses, dead or alive, generally fly off the racks before you can say "Tejano."

With the posthumous publishing success of Selena temporarily crested, what's next? Of course, there are the inevitable paperbacks. And how about those one-year anniversary commemorative issues? Mark your calendar. They're only ten-and-a-half months away. -- Tim Fleck


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