With the Stephen Colbert bump, first week sales of Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California (Little, Brown), were strong enough to propel the previously unknown author onto the New York Times bestseller list at #3. While the book performed strongly for a debut of its nature, you could argue that, after the plug from Colbert, it did not do as well as some might have expected.
Nielsen BookScan reported sales for the novel of 3,793 copies. An accounting glitch led to the paltry figure, though; more than 10,000 copies that Lepucki pre-signed last month in Portland, Ore., for Powell’s Books, were not reported to BookScan. If these copies had been included, Lepucki's sales would have been more than double those of well known authors like Rainbow Rowell, and the title would have hit #7 on BookScan's list.
Even without the signed preorder copies, sales for the novel were strong enough for it to grab the #20 spot on PW’s hardcover fiction bestseller list—and to hit seven out of eight regional bookseller association lists. New England was the only exception. California went as high as #2 in both Northern and Southern California, where Lepucki kicked off her tour; it hit #3 in both the Pacific Northwest and the New Atlantic regions. It was #4 on the Indie Bestseller list.
Although California became the "poster book" for the fight between Colbert, who challenged viewers to make the postapocalyptic novel a bestseller, and Amazon, which didn’t accept pre-orders for it, additional publicity for the novel is just getting started. Little, Brown received enough advance orders to reprint before publication, and launch with 60,000 copies.
In June, Little, Brown doubled the size of Lepucki’s tour, which keeps growing. She is visiting 18 independent bookstores. “We’re continuing to add more tour dates and events. We’ve probably added, or are in the process of adding, seven events since the beginning of July, and will likely continue to add more. We’re now even booking events for her in 2015,” said senior publicist Carrie Neill.
More than 100 fans turned out at Lepucki's events at both Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena and Skylight Books in Los Angeles, where she was a bookseller. Another 60 attended the event at Diesel, A Bookstore in Oakland. The New York launch at WORD Brooklyn will take place early next week.
In the fall, California will be especially well positioned to sell at Barnes & Noble stores, where it is a Discover Great New Writers selection.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that 60,000 was the highest number of copies Little, Brown had printed for a first novel, to date. Additionally, the story initially stated that Lepucki was visiting 18 cities on her book tour; she is currently visiting 18 independent bookstores on her tour.