While Stephenie Meyer’s publisher is touting strong sales figures out of the gate for her new novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, not everyone in the bookselling community is happy with how the slim title is faring. A number of independent booksellers are complaining that Meyer’s book, which pubbed on June 5, isn’t selling in their stores. This, despite Little, Brown’s news that the book sold more than 350,000 copies in its first two days.

The book, which LB announced a 1.5 million-copy printing for in March, is, according some independents, suffering from a giveaway scheme hatched by its author. The book is currently available for free online at www.breetanner.com, and will be so through July 5.

Matt Norcross, owner of McLean & Eakin in Petoskey, Mich., has sold only six copies of the book, after worrying his order of 12 copies was too low. “My opinion is that it’s available online for free and that’s clearly cutting into sales,” he said. Bonnie Stuppin of San Francisco’s Alexander Book Company has sold only one of the 32 copies she ordered, blaming, in part, a lackluster press push for the book. “I don’t even think my customers know it’s out,” Stuppin said, adding that she’ll start discounting the book if her copies continue to sit on the shelf.

Mandy King, at Boulder Books in Boulder, Co., also feels the general lack of word-of-mouth on the title is hurting sales. She kept her store open late on the book’s release date only to find that no one came in. Nonetheless, King’s hopeful that sales will start picking up once the latest Twilight film comes out later this summer. Cinda Meister, owner of Booksmart in Morgan Hill, Calf., simply thinks this isn’t the kind of book independents can sell. “There’s so much other competition from Amazon and the other online retailers,” she said, adding that the title is “one of those books you can buy at grocery stores and in gas stations.” The book could indeed be selling well at nontraditional outlets; Nielsen BookScan reports that over the weekend Bree Tanner sold 162,000 copies through the outlets it tracks, which BookScan estimates covers about 75% of all sales.

Other booksellers likened Bree Tanner to J.K. Rowling’s Tales of the Beedle Bard, in other words a book that sells moderately by an author that usually sets sales records. Making the comparison, Barbara Theroux at Fact & Fiction in Missoula, Mont., said she sold a few copies of Beedle Bard “but not in the same way we sold Harry Potter.”

Some booksellers, however, are finding an audience for Bree Tanner. Jeff Wood at Whistlestop Bookshop in Carlisle, Pa., said the title, while not flying off the shelves, is doing well. He noted that female customer between the ages of 25 and 40 "are saying, ‘oh, what’s this’ and picking it up." And, with the book's low price--the 192-page hardcover has a list price of $13.99--Wood thinks it's "so inexpensive that it’s an impulse buy.” Of course, with that low price, it's also harder to discount, he said.

Interestingly, Bree Tanner may have been intended to drum up publicity more than just sales. Meyer admitted that the book was something of an afterthought—its content was originally envisioned as part of The Twilight Saga: The Official Guide—and said she wanted to give it away from the start. "[S]ince this story had always been an extra for me, and was meant to be released with the Guide, I wanted to be able to offer it to my fans for free," she wrote on her web site, adding that she wanted to “give [the fans] this story as a gift."

Little, Brown is also donating a portion of the book's proceeds to charity--one dollar from every copy sold will go to the American Red Cross.
According to Little, Brown, 15,000 people have read the book online for free.