Thanks to glowing reviews and now a National Book Critics Circle award nomination, Michael Cunningham's The Hours is selling more copies in its fifth month of publication than it did in its first. The book, an homage and update to Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, has gone back to press five times, and now has 37,500 copies in print, a record that tops Cunningham's previous hardcover sales. The Hours has also hit the San Francisco Chronicle, L.A. Times and Newsday bestseller lists.
"Michael has always been beloved by the literati and received some wonderful reviews," said his agent Gail Hochman. "But I've been perplexed that sales have not been commensurate with this passion. That's now changing."
Picador's George Witte has high hopes for the upcoming paperback, thanks to The Hours' breakout hardcover sales. Picador's recent trade paperback re-release of Cunningham's 1990 novel, A Home at the End of the World, has already benefited from the momentum, he noted. "We've already sold double our initial laydown on the re-release," said Witte, who declined to share print numbers.
Witte did share plans for the November release of the trade paperback of The Hours -- it will have a different cover and an accompanying reading group guide. The latter is particularly appropriate for this book, since it's already being adopted by book clubs Cunningham will speak to groups reading The Hours within the New York Public Library system on April 17. Picador plans to bring Cunningham to BookExpo America.
And Witte said he will definitely include in the readers' guide discussion of Mrs. Dalloway itself, a logical connection already being played out in book sales. According to Harcourt Brace publicity exec Beverly Fisher, sales of its edition of Mrs. Dalloway have been up some 10%-12% since publication of The Hours. While the video release of the film adaptation of Mrs. Dalloway (starring Vanessa Redgrave) accounts for some of this surge, Harcourt Brace believes Cunningham's book is also bringing readers back to Woolf.