Due in part to a little known but incredibly successful book-marketing campaign aimed at non-human readers, deer have been spotted.
The alert-looking deer stand about waist-high and are made entirely of plastic. Of course, these deer have nothing to do with non-human readers but everything to do with marketing a book of short stories by George Saunders called Pastoralia (Riverhead). The cover of Pastoralia, which reached various hardcover bestseller lists at San Francisco independents last year, boasts an intriguing photograph of a lawn (or bookstore) deer, chained to a post. And though there are no deer stories in the Saunders collection, the tension of natural versus future worlds is an underlying theme.
Riverhead initially offered the quadruped to stores where Saunders was reading but finally decided to release a deer to any bookseller willing to display the book. According to Tom Walton, marketing assistant at Book People, Austin, Tex., the display has helped to sell more than 25 copies of Saunders's books in June alone. "We have the deer chained on a bale of hay, with a squirrel and some birds to keep it company, and people are extremely curious to find out what's going on. It has been one of our most successful displays for a single author." Walton noted that the store had sold out all its copies of Pastoralia and the display has boosted sales of Saunders's other titles, including CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Stories and a Novella (Riverhead).
"Somehow we feel the deer complements the generally absurd atmosphere of the store," Ellen Gould at Diesel Books in Oakland, Calif., told PW concerning her display. "And while it was a great attention-getter when Saunders was here reading, we have since stood the deer atop our natural history section, where most customers agree it's pretty ugly."