For everything there may be a season, but for Mainers there are two—books, that is—about seasons: a Knopf title published last month called Maine: The Seasons by Terrell S. Lester, with essays by Ann Beattie, Richard Ford and Richard Russo; and, new from Maine's Down East Books, Seasons of Maine by William Hubbell, with captions by Jean Hubbell. Both offer photographic portraits of the blueberry bogs, lobster-pot buoys and craggy wilderness of the Pine Tree State.
For Lester, Maine represents 15 years of work, dating back to 1985, when he first came to the state. Although many of the pictures are of the area near his home in Deer Isle, he said, "This book isn't just about the landscape. It's about what nature offers all of us." It wasn't until R. Sid Albert, Random's national wholesale accounts manager, spotted Lester's photos in a Deer Isle gallery and handed him his card that the photographer began collecting his work for a book. "Two years later," Albert recalled, "he sent me all these absolutely magnificent photographs."
Albert took the proposal to Paul Bogaards, executive director of publicity at Knopf, and a part-time "Mainiac"—he's summered there every year since he was 11. As much as Bogaards liked Lester's work, which he had also seen in a gallery in Portland, it took him another two years to find a way to publish it. "It's one thing to admire the work of an artist," Bogaards explains. "It's another to see it as a viable book." Once he divided the images into seasons and added essays by Maine writers, the book, which is Bogaards's first editorial project from start to finish, took shape.
Knopf printed 20,000 books and plans to sell them straight through the holiday season with an assist from Yankee Magazine, which bought second serial for its December issue. Pamela Williams, book buyer at Bangor-based Magazines Inc. Distributors, received her first copies of Maine in mid-May and sold them in a week. Said Williams, "The initial order was relatively large for a $35 book, and the tourist season hadn't even begun. Since then, books have been going out in double-digits every week."
The marketing director at Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Mass., Sheri Sable, gives perhaps the ultimate compliment about a regional title: "I've never been to Maine, and I actually wanted to take a trip because of this book." In August, she's planning to promote Maine as one of the store's Select 70 titles, featuring it in the store's newsletter, in a window display and online at www.harvard.com.
For Hubbell, whose previous books include Connecticut and New England Coast, Seasons of Maine represents the culmination of "14 months, 32,000 miles and 640 rolls of film." More driving is yet to come, as he and his wife continue to criss-cross the state to give slide presentations about the book. One of their first events was a four-hour signing at L.L. Bean last week. Down East marketing director Terry Brégy anticipates strong sales right through Christmas for Hubbell's book, which shipped in mid-June. The initial printing of 7,500 copies is relatively large for a small press. "We're going to try to get into the New England Booksellers Association holiday catalogue," Brégy said, and, of course, there will be heavy advertising in Down East Magazine.