If backlist is the bread and butter of publishing, Gone with the Wind is a very thick slice of Southern corn bread. The book has been a tremendous seller for publishers from Macmillan to Warner since it was first released in 1936. Now, 75 years after its original publication, Margaret Mitchell's novel is continuing its run and getting a push that may help it reach new readers.
On May 3, Scribner is publishing an $18 commemorative trade paperback edition of Wind featuring the book's original jacket art, with a first printing of 40,000 copies. The novel's e-book edition also carries the new (old) jacket art. The publisher has organized events to celebrate the anniversary and the new edition, enlisting Doubleday author Pat Conroy, who will appear on NPR's Talk of the Nation May 4 to discuss what the book has meant in his life. Scribner has partnered with Georgia Public Broadcasting, which is premiering a documentary on Mitchell, Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel, in June. GPB is hosting a Gone with the Wind book page, which will feature book reviews, blurbs, an excerpt, a slideshow of Wind book covers, social media links, and a reading group guide.
Throughout May and June, there will be events in Georgia, at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum, and at the Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro, Ga.
Macmillan sold 176,000 copies of Gone with the Wind when it originally released in 1936. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 and by the end of 1938 had sold more than a million copies. Then came the film in December 1939, which pushed sales over the two million–copy mark. At the time, Wind had been translated into 16 languages.
Macmillan holds the original rights to the novel, and GWTW moved to S&S when it acquired Macmillan. S&S estimates it sells close to 75,000 copies of the book every year in hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, and e-book formats. Prior to 1993, other license holders had published millions of copies of the book. Warner published a mass market edition of Wind from 1993 to 2007, selling 650,000 copies. In 2007, paperback rights returned to Scribner; it now has almost 150,000 copies of its 2007 trade paperback edition in print.
Over the years, GWTW has had its critics, who charge that it paints an unrealistic picture of life on Southern plantations. Allan Gribben, professor of English at Auburn University at Montgomery and editor of New South's Huckleberry Finn, said that while GWTW is a powerful and sweeping novel, it is being viewed more and more as "the final flowering of the romanticized myth of the Old South that evaded the less savory aspects of human slavery, depicted the slaves as part of a loyal plantation ‘family,' and paid homage to the codes of chivalrous conduct associated with a patrician and gracious way of life." Still, Gribben said, there is no denying its appeal. "Northern readers seemed to enjoy these portrayals of a vanished Southern plantation world just as much as the Southerners," he observed. "Having destroyed the reality, the North then joined in recreating a nostalgic and distorted vision of what was forever lost—and they loved that version. Maybe that shared pleasure even aided in the nation's healing over the decades."
Susan Moldow, executive v-p and publisher of Scribner, said, "Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind is an American classic and one of several gems we were thrilled to inherit from Macmillan when our companies were merged by Simon & Schuster. It is a story that speaks directly to the heart, which is one reason why it is as vibrantly readable today as it was in 1936."