In the Arts & Entertainment section of the Post-Gazette online, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg wrote an article about the efforts of a U.S. publisher to make a debut novel a best-seller. It’s a cautionary tale.
Publisher John Sterling with Henry Holt & Co. did its best. He acquired the book, The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfield, for $800,000, one of the highest advances ever paid by Henry Holt. “He committed his publishing house to a $500,000 marketing campaign, in which it printed 10,000 advanced reader copies at a cost of $17,000.” He prepared a huge marketing blitz, including author-meets with media and senior staff at Barnes & Noble and a $10,000 website.
Rubenfield’s agent, Suzanne Gluck with William Morris, “sold foreign rights to 31 publishers for more than $1 million.”
Rubenfield went on a 12 city book tour. Early reviews were good. Then they turned lukewarm. Then along came Barnes & Noble.
Barnes & Noble began a new program called Barnes & Noble Recommends. With that program, they focus “all the retailer's employees on a single title. It includes in-store displays, promotions online and direct emails to customers.” And the book they chose? Not The Interpretation of Murder. They chose The Thirteenth Tale, which debuted No. 1 on the New York Times list. The following week, Rubenfield’s book dropped to No. 30 on the New York Times list. “Nielsen BookScan, which says it tracks about 70 percent of retail book sales, says "Murder" sold 12,400 copies in its first 19 days. Barnes & Noble alone sold nearly 15,000 copies of "The Thirteenth Tale" in only five days.”
And that tells it all. The power of Barnes & Noble. It can really boggle the mind.
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