Independent booksellers are starting to make their plans around the September 10 release of The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s highly anticipated follow-up to her 1985 dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. While many indies around the country are promoting the embargoed book by offering tote bags to customers who preorder it, and at least one bookstore, Zenith Bookstore in Duluth, Minn., is making a donation for every preorder to a local organization working with victims of sexual assault, other indies are scheduling special events that take into account the book’s strict on-sale date. Doubleday has set a 500,000-copy first printing for the novel.
Several stores are partnering with local theaters that are livestreaming Atwood’s sold-out appearance at the Lytellton Theatre in London on September 10 at 7:30 p.m. GMT, speaking about her life and career and why she returned to Gilead 34 years after the release of The Handmaid’s Tale. For instance, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C., is holding drawings for ticket giveaways for the two-hour screening, and it will also sell copies of The Testaments at the North Hills Theater on the evening of the screening. “We’re really excited,” said marketing manager Jason Jeffries. “I recommend that bookstores look into all their options with their local theater; a lot of theaters are screening this event.”
Others are organizing in-store events. Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., is providing breakfast for customers on September 10, with an 8:30 a.m. opening and bagels and coffee for, its website declares, “anyone who wants to linger in the company of other Atwood fans.” That evening, Revolution Books in Berkeley, Calif., is sponsoring a public group reading of The Testaments. Farther south, Flintridge Books & Coffeehouse in Flintridge, Calif., is hosting an event on September 12 featuring authors Catherine Linka and Julie Berry, who will discuss The Testaments and its relevance to contemporary social issues.
Several indies, including the Next Chapter Booksellers in St. Paul, Minn., are promoting the novel by throwing midnight release parties that are somewhat reminiscent of the parties that accompanied the release of the Harry Potter books. Doors to Next Chapter’s September 9 event will open at 10:30 p.m., and wrapped copies of The Testaments will be sold to customers—who are encouraged to come to the party in costume if they wish. After light refreshments and wine are served, a representative from the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which is cosponsoring the party, will make remarks before reading aloud from the last several pages of The Handmaid’s Tale. At midnight, customers will unwrap their copies and follow along as the MNCASA representative then reads aloud the first chapter of The Testaments.
“We figured this was a good opportunity not just to bring attention to our current circumstances as depicted in this novel but also to highlight a local organization that does important work around rape and sexual assault,” said Next Chapter event manager Riley Davis. “We’re making it less fictional and unfortunately more real—but in such a way that we can do something about it.”
Atwood, whose official launch party will be held September 9 at Waterstones Picadilly in London, is embarking on an international book tour this fall, with stops in 22 cities in the U.K., U.S., and Canada. U.S. stops include the Dallas Museum of Art; Town Hall in New York City; Literary Arts in Portland, Ore.; Book Passage in San Francisco; and Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.
“Two of the U.S. events are already sold-out, and the rest have few tickets remaining,” said Doubleday publicity director Todd Doughty. “We expect it to be a sold-out tour.”