This year the play’s the thing, or at least one of the things, that could pump up summer sales. Harry Potter is back. Most booksellers are counting on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2, the first new installment in the series in nine years, about a grown-up Harry Potter, with Hogwarts-age kids of his own, to make their summer numbers. The book, which is the eighth story in the overall series and is actually a script for a set of plays, is due out July 31 and will launch with a roughly 4.5 million-copy initial laydown in North America.
Jeff Wood, owner of Whistlestop Bookshop in Carlisle, Pa., is one of a number of booksellers contacted by PW who reported higher sales so far this year heading into the summer. In addition to sharing in Pottermania with a midnight party, Wood anticipates doing well with what he terms “deep frontlist,” new books by store favorites, including Richard Russo (Everybody’s Fool), Alan Furst (A Hero of France), and Louise Erdrich (LaRose). “A lot of names with real heft have brought out books,” Wood said.
Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minn., is also up following a record year, and manager Martin Schmutterer said that there’s no reason not to expect a great summer. He may not be convinced that the new Harry Potter will be the big book of the season—his store has only had one preorder—but Schmutterer, like Wood, thinks that a group of books with heft will help mitigate the absence of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, one of last July’s biggest sellers and one of the best-performing print books in years. Among his list of standouts are Peter Geye’s Wintering and Nathan Hill’s The Nix.
Many stores have benefitted from a mild winter and spring. At five-year-old Arcadia Books in Spring Green, Wis., sales have been up in the double digits each month from the month before so far this year. “I expect to see sales continue to grow,” manager John Christensen said. He is looking to Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers, which he regards as her best book yet, to be among the titles that boost sales. “We did really well with her earlier novels. She’s a good hand-sell for us,” he said.
Despite the flooding that has plagued Houston, sales at Brazos Bookstore have been on the rise. “We have a lot of flooding, and still the traffic is up,” buyer Keaton Patterson said. Although a lot of Houstonians flee the heat during the summer, the bookstore plans to keep itself topmost in customers’ minds by partnering on a film series, the Summer of Kubrick. Brazos has 10 events planned around the movies, which are all based on books. In addition, Patterson expects the store to do well with the new Julian Barnes (The Noise of Time) and Don DeLillo (Zero K). Svetlana Alexievich’s Secondhand Time has also been drawing a lot of customer attention as well.
At 30-year-old Sundog Books in Seaside, Fla., on the panhandle between Destin and Panama City, summer is the busiest season. Leading up to it this year, the store has already enjoyed a 5% increase in sales. Even before the film based on Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You came out, bookstore owner Bob White was having trouble keeping it in stock. And the sequel, After You, is also doing well. But his surprise seller has been Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest. It “really hopped off the page for us out of the blue,” he said.
Across the country in Durango, Colo., Andrea Avantaggio, co-owner of Maria’s Bookshop, is equally optimistic about strong summer sales and projects that sales will finish the second quarter up 5% over last year’s second period. “We hear from our tourism board that area hotels and attractions are booked solid,” she said. Avantaggio’s expecting big things from the movie tie-in for Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train as well as the new Annie Proulx (Barkskins); the paperback of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, which received a 2016 Pulitzer Prize; and Emma Cline’s debut, The Girls. In addition, the store launched a preorder campaign for Dark Matter (due from Crown July 26) by local author Blake Crouch, author of the Wayward Pines trilogy, which was adapted into a TV series. He was previously published by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint.
One novel that Jan Weissmiller, owner of Prairie Lights Books & Cafe in Iowa City, Iowa, has particularly high hopes for is Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. Gyasi has local connections—she attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop—and Weissmiller expects to sell a lot of copies because the book is really powerful and could get a lot of attention. Gyasi, she predicted, “could be the new Toni Morrison.”
At Trident Booksellers & Cafe in Boston, bookstore manager Courtney Flynn predicted that she will sell a ton of Cursed Child. “People clamor for anything Harry Potter,” she said. Plus, she pointed out, her store has been doing well this spring with nontraditional books such as Hamilton: The Revolution, which includes the libretto of the Broadway musical, and Rupi Kaur’s collection of poetry, Milk and Honey. One trend that’s starting to fade at her store is adult coloring books.
That’s not the case in other parts of the country, where coloring is still the new meditation. At Seattle’s Secret Garden Bookshop, manager/buyer Susan Scott said, “More and more kinds of customers are discovering adult coloring books.” In addition to coloring books, one of her store’s big hits in hardcover is Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl. But older titles such as The Girl on the Train, When Breath Becomes Air, Being Mortal, Between the World and Me, and All the Light We Cannot See, she said, are still eclipsing most of the newer contenders.
Nonfiction could be a particularly strong segment at Weller Book Works in Salt Lake City this summer. Co-owner Catherine Weller predicted that Utah author Terry Tempest Williams’s The Hour of Land, a collection of essays about the national parks, and Mary Roach’s Grunt will likely be the store’s biggest summer sellers. Among her other nonfiction handsells are Andrew Solomon’s Far and Away and Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene.
On the children’s side, Harry Potter isn’t the only brand that could give booksellers a boost this summer. A number of stores are looking forward to participating with neighboring downtown businesses in the fifth annual Candlewick Press and American Booksellers Association Find Waldo Local program next month. This year’s program celebrates Where’s Waldo? The Coloring Book.
At Books & Books in Coral Gables, Fla., children’s book buyer Ketsia Julmeus said that the store’s surprise seller has been Raold Dahl’s The BFG; a movie based on the book opens in theaters on July 1. Rick Riordan’s The Hidden Oracle, the first book in his new Trials of Apollo series is strong, as are Miami author Dave Barry’s Worst books.
Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga., which is located in an old bank building, is taking over a neighboring space and growing its retail space by 50%, to 4,500 sq. ft. this summer, according to co-owner Dave Shallenberger. “We’re a children’s bookstore, and we’ll always be a children’s bookstore,” he said, before noting that much of the increase in space will be for adult titles. That said, the store has been doing really well with Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale, Lisa Brown’s The Airport Book, and Sarah Pennypacker’s Pax. And like many children’s booksellers, manager Justin Colussy-Estes singled out Monica Hesse’s Girl in the Blue Coat, a mystery set in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, as a favorite.
Though some stores have reservations about the summer, most agreed with Secret Garden’s Scott: “If Independent Bookstore Day [in April] was any indication,” she said, “we can look forward to a wonderful summer.”