Jenna Blum’s 2004 novel, Those Who Save Us, set during the Holocaust, has been dubbed “the little book that could” by its publisher, Harcourt. After a disappointing hardcover run—solid reviews did little for sales—the book has jumped from selling 5,000 copies its first year out to more than 125,000 copies three years later. While it did pick up the Harold U. Ribalow Award (which honors works devoted to Jewish themes) in 2005, it was a promotion at Borders that has given the book its most significant push.
After Borders selected the book for a January 2007 2-for-1 promotion featuring 25 books from the house’s Harvest imprint, the uptick was hard to ignore. According to Harcourt senior v-p of marketing and sales Laurie Brown, the book was the “surprise star of the show.” The chain followed an initial 7,000-copy order (after selling only 1,000 copies previously) in 2006 with a 39,500-copy order in 2007.
Now, according to Harcourt executive editor Ann Patty, the book is currently Borders’s bestselling Harcourt trade paperback of 2007. And with the Borders exposure, independent booksellers and other chains have become more interested. Barnes & Noble, which had initially excluded Blum’s book from its similar Harvest promotion, has placed a 6,000-copy order for the fall. Indie booksellers have been doing in-store promotions, and Costco has opted to stock the title as well.
Those Who Save Us, which Borders publicity rep Kolleen O’Meara said took off in the single week it was featured in the 2-for-1 promotion, is now being added to a 3-for-1 deal at the chain. The initial promotion gave the book attention with in-store banners and front-table displays, but O’Meara couldn’t claim to know precisely why sales jumped. To Patty, the Borders push helped an already aggressive author get the attention she deserved: “My sales department would say the promo made the book take off. Jenna would say it was her efforts. I think it was a combination. The Borders promo put a strong outboard engine on Jenna’s boat.”