Some days you get lucky. It just so happens that 2 articles appeared in my inbox that provide a peek into what differentiates a strong selling book from a phenomenon. Summer is the perfect time to make this assessment. Since June some of the biggest names in books have released their latest. There are those who won’t head out on vacation without the latest John Grisham or Daniel Silva in hand.
Publishers Weekly is the arbiter for what is selling and how many are sold. Each week the list has the ranking, number of weeks on the list, copies sold that week and calendar sales year-to-date. Grisham’s Camino Island has been on the list for 7 weeks, always at #1 or #2. Over 400,000 copies have been sold already and almost 25,000 last week alone. Now that’s a blockbuster!
Farther down on the list at #8 is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It was published 10 months ago, in September 2016. Towles has a strong following and the book debuted on the list, but not even in the top ten. Since January, over 160,000 copies have been sold but it only takes a bit over 6 thousand to be in the eighth position for the week. Publication of the paperback has been delayed since hardcover sales remain so strong.
So why did I choose A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles for the comparison? It has been on my radar for a year and I will be reading it for a fall book group. As it happens, there is a wonderful email Shelf Awareness (www.shelf-awareness.com) that provides news and reviews for both the professional and reader communities. This past Tuesday (July 25) in the trade version there was an article about the continued strength in sales for the book, due primarily to the efforts of independent booksellers. It was #3 on the Indie Bestseller list for the week ending July 16. Total sales since publication are over a half a million, and still going strong. In addition to strong exposure through independent stores, Towles has already done more than 70 events and has more scheduled through winter. This contrasts with Grisham who is on tour for the first time in 25 years!
There are numerous ways for publishers and publicists to “goose” sales. Strong reviews in well respected and/or popular newspapers and magazines still hold great sway. Websites including www.goodreads.com (owned by Amazon), www.bookriot.com, www.bookreporter.com, www.readinggroupguides.com and many others recommend titles to their readership on a constant basis. Those who prefer to read e-books can subscribe to daily emails that offer daily deals on selected new titles and other titles the publishers are interested in pushing. Scott Turow’s latest, Testimony, was released shortly before Grisham’s and received a big push with brief e-book special pricing on release. If you are interested in subscribing to some of these e-book email notifications, let me know. I’ll try to put a list on the site soon.
Finally, to some of the fine reads that sell very well but appear briefly, if at all, on the top tier of the bestseller lists. Both of Helen Simonson’s novels, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Summer Before the War, did make it to the NY Times bestseller list. To mark the occasion, her publisher framed the cover illustration along with the listing. It was within view on a wall when she spoke via Skype with a book group recently. There are many more listed on the Books page. For two new releases that fit the bill, check out Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders or Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais.