Summer is a key time for booksellers around the country in regions that attract tourists during the season, and for those that see increased foot traffic from teachers and children. “Our Chamber of Commerce anticipates a 5% rise in visitors to Alaska this summer,” said Jenny Stroyeck at the Homer Bookstore in Homer, Alaska. “Our foot traffic does go up in the summer.” She noted that with the long driving distances between towns, parents like to buy their kids books to ensure peace and quiet on the road.
The Homer Bookstore has had a slight dip in sales so far this year—it is down 2% compared to the same period in 2017—but, like many stores around the country, anticipates a boost from some big seasonal events. The Kachemak Writers’ Conference, which will be held in Homer in June and will feature Anthony Doerr as the keynote speaker, should produce some strong numbers for the indie.
Among the titles Stroyeck is anticipating strong sales for this summer are The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s) and Island of the Blue Foxes by Stephen Brown (Da Capo). She will personally be championing Educated by Tara Westover (Random House) and Rocket Men by Robert Kurson (Random House).
“The majority of our business occurs in the summer,” said Sue Boucher, owner of the Cottage Bookshop in the tiny town of Glen Arbor, Mich., on Lake Michigan. “I would expect sales to go up this year; we have received another designation of best places to visit. The last time this happened we had large increases of visitors to the area.”
Boucher noted that the store sells a lot of paperbacks to people headed to the beach and has done well with its Selection of the Month display, the May title for which is The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas (Flatiron). Some of the forthcoming titles she’s excited to promote include My Ex-life by Stephen McCauley (Flatiron), The Dependents by Katherine Dion (Little, Brown), and the middle grade book Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by local author Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow).
Several booksellers noted that they are waiting to see if the debut of The Great American Read on PBS will be a catalyst for sales. “I’m hoping that it will be big,” said Jason Bouck, book buyer at Novel in Memphis. “It will be interesting to see if it has an impact.”
At The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore, co-owner Ann Berlin said that staff are preparing to promote books from the show and expect a pop in sales for titles that cross over to teen readers in particular. Berlin expects to see strong summer sales for Elin Hildenbrand’s A Perfect Couple (Little, Brown), Florida by Lauran Groff (Riverhead), and local writer Laura Lippman’s Sunburn (Morrow). The store has also been handselling Madeline Miller’s Circe (Little, Brown).
Among booksellers surveyed by PW, two titles in particular are expected to be surefire hits: The President Is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton (Little, Brown and Knopf) and Calypso by David Sedaris (Little, Brown). “Any new David Sedaris is cause for readers to get excited, and I’m sure Calypso will be no different,” said Hilary Gustafson, co-owner of Literati Books in Ann Arbor, Mich.
For her part, Gustafson is predicting There, There by Tommy Orange (Knopf) will be “the talk of the literary world this summer,” a prediction echoed by Angela Schwesnedl, co-owner of Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis. The novel concerns the plight of urban Native Americans, and the buzz surrounding the books reflects the urgency many booksellers expressed about promoting diverse titles to readers this summer. Gustafston is also championing Lillian Li’s Number One Chinese Restaurant (Holt), written by one of the store’s booksellers, and A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (SJP for Hogarth), a debut novel about an Indian Muslim family living in 21st-century America. “It’s a gorgeously rendered family tale that will stay with you long after the last page,” Gustafston said.
Moon Palace’s Schwesnedl is also giving a push to 2018 Pulitzer Prize–finalist In the Distance by Hernan Diaz (Coffee House) and Elaine Castillo’s America Is Not the Heart (Viking), a book she said is “a really good read about immigration—it’s got a voice.”
Out West, the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association and Southern Independent Booksellers Association will sponsor a California Summer Reads Lazy Days program, which will see catalogues inserted in local papers. “We hope they will send readers back to bookstores,” said Linda McLoughlin Figel, owner of Pages: A Bookstore in Manhattan Beach, Calif. She is expecting Paula McLain’s novel Love and Ruin (Ballantine) to be a hit and is promoting John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies (Hogarth)—“storytelling at its best and perfect for savoring over the summer,” she said—as well as Tin Man by Sarah Winman (Putnam) and John Larison’s Whiskey When We’re Dry (Viking), which Figel said she “loved,” calling it “a great read for fans of Lonesome Dove or The Son, but with the most memorable female narrator.”
At Page & Palette in Fairhope, Ala., tourist season is important to overall sales for the year. “We’ve been picking up because we’re a tourist town and I think it will be a good summer,” manager Erica Estes said. “We have had no hurricanes for a couple of years, so things are looking good.”
Page & Palette recently hosted an event with Paula McLain, whose Love and Ruin is selling well, and Alabama author Rick Bragg’s new book, The Best Cook in the World (Knopf), is currently a hit with customers. The store is also putting a number of YA novels front and center, including Victoria Aveyard’s War Storm (HarperTeen) and Legendary by Stephanie Garber (Flatiron).
At Main Street Books in St. Charles, Mo., YA authors “are packing them in,” according to owner Emily Hall. Tomi Ayedemi’s YA debut novel Children of Blood and Bone (Holt) has been a huge hit, and a reading with the author drew 110 people. Hall thinks YA is going to continue to be hot this summer. She too is looking forward to selling Garber’s Legendary, as well as Sabaa Tahir’s A Reaper at the Gates (Razorbill) and The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray), a fantasy set in the Mongol empire. “I think she is going to hit it out of the park,” Hall predicted.