In 1993 Milkweed Editions had its first real bestseller with Larry Watson's novel, Montana 1948. The book, for the nonprofit indie, sold 40,000 copies in hardcover before the press licensed the paperback rights to Washington Square Press. Watson, who then went on to release his next five works with bigger houses, has returned to Milkweed for his latest, American Boy. For Milkweed, which is going out with a significant first printing of 20,000 on Boy, Watson's return is not only an editorial coup, it's a major homecoming.
American Boy is a work "in the same vein" as Montana 1948 according to Milkweed marketing and publicity manager Ethan Rutherford. That Watson decided to return to the small press which put him on the map is, in part, owed to the author's relationship with Milkweed publisher and CEO Daniel Slager. Slager, who took over at Milkweed in 2007 after being an editor at Harcourt, contacted Watson about coming back to the press. The conversation, Rutherford said, led to something of a meeting of the minds. "I think that a large part of [Watson's] decision to publish this new novel with us had to do with the creative connection that he and Daniel made."
American Boy is scheduled for October and is the first of two novels by Watson that Milkweed signed. The press will be releasing a second, currently untitled work, in fall 2013. (Milkweed will also be reissuing Watson's short story collection, Justice, in October, to coincide with the release of American Boy.)
While Milkweed is happy to see an old face on its new list, the press is, of course, hoping to see Boy do the kind of business Montana 1948 did. After Milkweed reissued its own edition paperback of Montana 1948 in 2007, that edition has gone on to sell nearly 100,000 copies and is, in Rutherford's estimation, "a sustaining cornerstone of the press's sales revenue today." Another such cornerstone would certainly be appreciated.