When Overlook Press publisher Peter Mayer was offered the chance to publish a North American edition of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, he snapped it up. Out in August, Overlook’s edition will contain content selected from the U.K. version as well as 50% new material gathered from booksellers across the United States and Canada. “Overlook’s closeness to bookstores of every kind is well-known,” says Mayer, “so Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops looked like a perfect fit. We knew we were onto a great thing when so many booksellers responded to our call for submissions and sent in their own wacky candidates. And so far the orders are terrific, producing more smiles.”
The book came out of poet and short story writer Jen Campbell’s experiences working as an independent bookseller in North London’s Ripping Yarns and Scotland’s Edinburgh Bookshop. After a customer asked whether Holocaust victim Anne Frank had ever written a sequel, Campbell began taking note of the strange and wonderful questions she received and sharing the stories on her blog. That blog became a book, which was published in April in the U.K. by Constable & Robinson and became an immediate Sunday Times bestseller.
British booksellers have set a high bar, with such queries as:
“Did Charles Dickens ever write anything fun?”
“Do you have this children’s book I’ve heard about? It’s called Lionel Richie and the Wardrobe.”
“Do you have any pop-up books on sex education?”
Never ones to back down from a challenge, North American booksellers have already sent in close to 1,000 “weird” submissions.
Two classics from Sheryl Cotleur at Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif.: “Do you have a book about dinosaurs with the original photographs? Do you sell Bullwinkle’s Mythology?”
The one that always makes Peggy West at Thurston Book Exchange in Springfield, Ore., smile: “Can you tell me where you file books with characters named Scott?”
And Overlook publicity director Jack Lamplough’s favorite from his days as a bookseller; “Do you have The Donner Party Cookbook?”
Booksellers visiting the Overlook booth (4133) can still submit their favorite “weird things” for possible inclusion in the North American edition. All BEA submissions will be posted in the booth as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.