It's just under a thousand pages. It's a work in translation. It got a not-so-glowing review from the New York Times. Following standard publishing wisdom, even when you account for the sometimes cultish following Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has, his newest work, 1Q84, should not be the out-of-the-gate hit it is. But Knopf, which published the title late last month, has not only turned the book into a bestseller, it's also managed to reverse another trend: it has made the book more popular in print than in digital.
According to numbers released by the publisher, the novel, which was at #2 on the Times bestseller list on November 13, has sold 75,000 copies in hardcover, and 25,000 in digital. Those impressive print sales are thanks, in large part, to an extravagant package that Knopf put together that has made the book the kind of object--beautiful and collectible--that readers want. And, more than likely, non-readers also want.
Andy Hughes, v-p of production and design at Knopf, said that one of the trickiest aspects of the production process was nailing the book's jacket. Working with R.R. Donnelley, which printed and bound the book, and Coral Graphics, which printed the jacket, Knopf struggled to find an economical and quick way to produce the image and effect designer Chip Kidd envisioned. The book, which features the four-character title on both the front and back covers imprinted in white over two photographed faces--that of a woman and that of a man--has a translucent slip cover that wraps the entire thing. That slip cover, which is made from a material called vellum, that is like onion paper, needed to be matched up with the cover images.
Although matching the vellum slip cover with the imagery on the covers themselves could have been costly and too time-consuming, Hughes said Knopf did test runs with the bindry and ultimately found the printing process could work, if a small allowance was made for what looks to be a shadow effect when the numbers and letters on the vellum don't line up perfectly.
The goal, Hughes said, was to make the book look beautiful and, sticking with what Knopf has done with Murakami's other titles, match the tone of the novel itself. The exterior of the final product, Hughes added, ultimately has an avant garde quality that complements the strangeness of what awaits readers inside the book.