This year several bookstores have tried putting their weight behind a single title in an effort to see if they can move the sales needle through strong, but quick, pushes.
The first such effort was in January when Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction in Greenville, S.C., asked her customers, via e-mail blast, to do the equivalent of a “trust fall” and order a debut hardcover novel, sight unseen. The book, Andy Weir’s The Martian (Crown), has gone on to sell 87 copies in her store. Hendrix offered a money-back guarantee, and only three customers made use of it.
Late last month Doug Robinson, general manager of Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, Ga., tried something similar to promote Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Algonquin), which he got permission to begin selling a few days before pub date. Six customers came in the day they received his e-mail blast.
And, for April Fool’s Day, Becky Anderson, owner of Anderson’s Bookshops Naperville, Ill., also highlighted Zevin’s novel. Anderson did so by renaming her store after the novel’s fictional Island Books.
Next month, Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., is offering its own twist on what has become a "one-store, one-book" promotional effort. The store will be getting behind local author Bret Anthony Johnston’s debut novel, Remember Me Like This (Random House). Johnston, who is director of creative writing at Harvard, was recently highlighted through the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program.
“We have a special relationship with Bret,” said Ellen Jarrett, who handles events and publicity at Porter Square. Jarrett was referring to the fact that Johnston's wife is the store's gift and merchandise buyer. But, Jarrett explained, this is not merely a case of nepotism. “[His novel] just so happens to be brilliant. We love it.” In order to do make the launch of Jarrett's new novel special, the staff decided to make it the only store pick, on the adult side, for the month of May.
Now Porter Square’s booksellers are in the midst of writing shelftalkers, descriptive cards promoting a book, but in this case only for about Remember Me Like This, which is set in Texas four years after Justin Campbell has gone missing. Jarrett’s shelftalker refers to the novel as “a timeless masterpiece.” “Prepare yourself to be transported to Corpus Christie to join the Campbell family as each member relives their perceived participation in and reaction to one of their own being taken. Stay with them as they live through the impossible. You will not disappointed,” writes Carol Stoltz, children’s books manager and buyer. “This is an up-at-night-reading book of the most original kind,” notes bookseller Robin Sung.
Random House has provided extra galleys to give the store’s booksellers plenty of time to read and post their shelftalkers before Johnston’s launch party at Porter Square on May 13.