Even with computerized ordering systems and improved inventory control, it’s still possible for publishers to be caught out-of-stock on surprise hits. That was the case for three of the holiday season’s biggest sellers: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (St. Martin’s/Dunne); Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson (Hyperion); and Gallop! by Rufus Seder (Workman).
The main reason for the dearth of books was that their publishers just didn’t anticipate how popular these titles would be. “We knew [Gallop!] would be a big book, but we didn’t realize how big,” said Workman senior publicist Brianna Yamashita. The children’s book caught on first with independents, and Yamashita said independents had more copies than the chains did because they ordered more copies to begin with. Yamashita said the books—which feature a patented technology called Scanimation—are made by hand, a process that takes three months, so Workman wasn’t able to fill the demand “as fast as we would like.” This week, however, the house printed another 60,000 copies. It has now gone back to press nine times and has 680,000 copies in print.
Meanwhile, Artisan Bread and Roast Chicken, both hardcover culinary titles, suffered the negative effects of good publicity. The New York Times Book Review and the NYT Magazine both ran positive reviews of Roast Chicken on December 2, and the Times did a story on Artisan Bread in late November. As a result, a number of independents reported both books were out of stock. Tom Bielenberg, co-owner of Micawber’s in St. Paul, Minn., said he “missed the boat” with Artisan Bread, and Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vt., ran out of that book as well as Roast Chicken. St. Martin’s v-p/director of publicity John Murphy said the house has done three reprints of Artisan Bread since early December and is “still trying to keep up with demand.” There are 20,000 copies in print now. And Hyperion publicist Allison McGeehon reports 55,000 copies in print of Roast Chicken after four printings. Susan Capaldi, manager of McLean & Eakin, Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich., told PW her biggest disappointment about the holidays was that the store didn’t order enough copies of Roast Chicken. “As soon as people saw it, they wanted it,” she said.