With the long-awaited publication of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix just around the corner, we polled booksellers across the country to hear what they have in store for Publication Day (or, more precisely, Evening), and how they anticipate the demand for copies.
Jill Bailey, BookPeople, Austin, Tex.
We're going to do a midnight release party, starting at 10 p.m. [June 20] in our parking lot. We're going to have a stage with a magician, and costumed characters. We'll have contests going on at different stations, and we'll be giving away lots of prizes. We had a midnight party for Goblet of Fire and that was a smashing success.
We've presold 200 copies. It's not as much as I'd like—I anticipated more, and I've never ordered so many books before. But I hope the hype is true and that we get a big turnout. I think this book is going to top all the charts and break all the records. We aren't going to be discounting the books, but we have loyal customers and they will buy from us because they know we're having the best party in town. If the book wasn't going to be everywhere, our sales would be better.
From what I've seen and heard, there is no concern about the book being too long. The wait [until June 21] is the problem, not the length. After Goblet, they're ready for it!
Kaylee Davis, Books of Wonder, New York, N.Y.
We will be hosting a Magical Midnight Madness Event and Sweepstakes which will kick off at 11:30 p.m., with the books actually being offered for sale at the stroke of midnight. The store will be hosting a number of special attractions for kids and families throughout the event. We'll have face painters, giveaways, first editions, deluxe editions, the biggest sweepstakes we've ever had, six specially created collectible bookmarks, and we'll even be hosting two live owls. We expect the turnout to be huge.
Demand for the book is running neck-in-neck with the previous Harry Potter books so far, but I think it will be bigger by the time the event rolls around. We're offering a special on the book: buy one, get the second at 33% off. We've had a couple hundred pre-orders already.
Katherine Thomerson, Frugal Frigate, Redlands, Calif.
I made the decision with my staff a few months ago, when we heard the book was coming, that we weren't going to do anything for the release. It was going against my philosophy. I just want to promote reading and not the hype. I love the Harry Potter books and I know the kids love them, but I just want kids to be excited about the new book and then go curl up someplace and read it. I don't want to ruin the love of reading time by saying "here's a balloon, here's a toy."
I'm not discounting the book at all. I ordered 200 copies and have another 50 on back order; 125 of those are spoken for by people on a waiting list. That's a huge number for me. I think the demand is even bigger for this book than for the last one. It's clearly a literary phenomenon and I'm so proud to be an independent bookseller and see it happen in children's literature.
Kim Henry, University Bookstore, Seattle
We are going to have two parties for the release of the new Harry Potter book. The first is on the night of June 20, which is a midnight pajama party. We will have musicians and Harry Potter things, and, of course, the book. The next day, we will have a Harry Potter breakfast, where there will be more refreshments and people can buy the book all day. We had a party for the last book, and that one went really well.
We have been reserving books for people, and so far we've got around 450—500 on reserve. We're staying optimistic and saying that we're planning on having enough copies for everyone.
People seem more enthusiastic about this new book than the last one, and I haven't heard anyone complain about the book's length.
Lisa Dugan, Koen Book Distributors, Moorestown, N.J.
We've heard about all kinds of events from our accounts, including a New England store that is partnering with a local brewery to "put the mug back in Muggle." We're just hoping to have books to give to people. We've heard anecdotally from Scholastic that they've already sold more than twice the 8.5 million copies that they're printing now. We've also been told that the independent stores, which order fewer units, will likely receive their full allotment. We don't know how we'll be affected if there is a shortage. I was really careful about checking my past sales history and placing a realistic order, but we're so worried about having enough books. With something of this scale, no matter what happens, everyone is going to be upset. It's a big experiment and we're counting down the days waiting to see how it's going to go.
Jill Brooks, Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, Ill.
We'll have a midnight owls party and we won't close the doors until everybody's got their book. We're planning various outdoor activities, weather permitting, and we hope to coordinate on a special menu with the pizza place across the lot from us. We'll have Professor Trelawney in the window telling fortunes and we'll have puzzles, games and handouts, as well as a game to guess the flavors of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. We're hoping to set up a long roll of butcher paper for kids to write on—their thoughts on the new book or whatever they like—so they can pass the time in line.
For the last book we were afraid we wouldn't have enough copies for those who ordered them. This year we've just started preselling the book, and when people purchase it, they receive a numbered ticket to help establish the line at 11:30 p.m. The line wrapped all the way around the block last time and we know that lines are just not fun, especially for kids. When kids come into the store and show their ticket as proof of purchase, they will automatically be assigned to a [Hogwarts] house and they will win points throughout the night for that house.
Last time it was hard to guess what the demand and sales would be. The volume of people took us by surprise. I think the demand for this book will be stronger, but the number of outlets has increased, too. We're just praying for nice weather. No one wants to stand around in the rain.
When I've talked to kids in the store and at schools about the figures for this book—the number of pages, etc.—their eyes get really big. But it doesn't intimidate them, it just seems to fuel their interest. They know that you have to wait so long between books, that the more book, the merrier. Content-wise it's getting more and more out of younger kids' reach. It will appeal to upper elementary, high school and adult readers.
In my opinion, online is our biggest competition right now. Of course, Scholastic has been more of a competitor this time, too. The book being offered through schools will affect us. At book fairs we understand there has been signage saying to take a Harry Potter coupon to a participating bookstore to pick up the book, but we don't really know yet how this is going to work. I haven't heard of real concern about getting books, but that's probably because there are so many locations and copies.
I'm happy that we'll be doing lots of things to celebrate the release, but for most people who come to the event the focus is really the book and being with other Harry Potter fans. Last time, the kids were upbeat throughout, even with the lines, and we're hoping it will be the same way this year.
Susie Zlotnik and Coral Jordan, Yellow Book Road, La Mesa, Calif.
We're opening at 11 p.m. and expecting at least 200 people for our party. We're encouraging kids to dress in Hogwarts colors and we'll be sorting partygoers into the four houses as they come in. We'll have a Jeopardy-style trivia game and a Wizard's Duel in which kids draw numbers for quiz questions and face off against each other. Afterwards everyone gets golden snitch cakes (glazed donut holes) and Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans to take home. We're looking forward to it just as much as the kids!
We've presold 117 copies so far and expect to presell 150-180, mostly to partygoers, before the party. We're discounting (20%) because we have to, to stay competitive. But the price of the book has not really made people blink.
It's definitely a reader's book. Kids who really read Harry Potter will not be intimidated. They'll be thrilled to have that many pages. But some kids carry Harry Potter around so they look like they're reading it. Those kids won't be ready for this.
I assume Scholastic anticipated the demand for this and I don't think they'll let it go out of stock. They've been very aggressive about checking with us to make sure we've ordered enough. I ordered 250 and was encouraged to order more just in case. I did pretty well with gauging my order for the last one, though.
It's been a long pause between books and I think this would have been a bigger deal if it came out a year earlier. But it has really died down. So we'll see what happens.
Allita Katzenbach, Tattered Cover, Denver
We are going to be having a party the night of the 20th. We'll be open until 2 a.m. The coffee shop will also be open and will have lots of Harry Potter—related foods and drinks. We'll have games and contests going. We had a party last time, and there were so many people who came. This year we have event space in our basement, so that should help with breathing room.
For preorders, we are up in the 750-copy range. I don't think people have lost interest in the books, as both kids and adults are excited, but it has been a long time since the last book came out. We've ordered a lot of books, but you never can tell how many people want them.
So far, no one has said anything negative about the page count. From what I've heard, kids think that because it's the biggest Harry Potter book so far, it's going to be the best.
Elly Gore, Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, Milwaukee, Wisc.
All four of our stores will open at 11 p.m. for parties. Each store is doing something different: a mix of prizes, food, contests, costumes, all sorts of things. We'll close a couple of hours later and reopen at six a.m. and continue the festivities. We figure we have two different audiences for the book, one with kids and one not. And not everyone will want to bring the kids out late at night. One special thing we're doing is crossing out the "W. Schwartz" part of our name so that it will read "Harry Potter Bookshops." Not everyone can do that!
We'll be using the countdown display from Scholastic, and employees at our Shorewood store will wear pajamas that day to remind people that they'll be open at night.
At first we thought that interest for this book might drop off. But then the reserves started coming in; we have an enormous number. The demand is huge—much bigger than the last book for us. I think there is still a huge audience, including a very large adult audience.
I wasn't worried about meeting demand until I recently tried to increase my order with Scholastic. The rep took my order, but said that they [Scholastic] may be cutting. I don't have a back-up order with a wholesaler and that may be a mistake. I kept my daily sales from the last book, though, and I think I did the right thing with my quantity. I can tell you that it's more than I've ever ordered on a book.
We're discounting 40%. Online retailers are definitely big competition for us. But I think the Saturday laydown will work in our favor; more people can be there to get the book in person. We know that the chains will have huge orders and huge crowds. But we'll just do what we always try to do—work harder and do it better.