Monday, November 10, 2008

Can J.K. Rowling Save Christmas?

From Publishers Weekly, 11/10/2008:

With publishers and booksellers nervous about Christmas sales, a little $12.95 book might be the season's savior. The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Harry Potter offshoot by J.K. Rowling, is being published by Scholastic on Dec. 4. This will be the first Rowling book to be published at the height of the holiday season; all her previous Harry Potters were published in the summer—and the timing, although ideal in the gift-giving sense, may present some logistical distribution challenges.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a slim collection of five stories, including “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” which appeared in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will have to ship from wholesalers during the Thanksgiving rush. Ingram Book Group's director of merchandising Mary McCarthy says the logistics will be “challenging.” The company meets weekly to review orders and transportation to ensure that everything will go smoothly. Although she doesn't expect Beedle to sell at the same levels as Deathly Hallows—Ingram's initial order was roughly one-third of its initial buy for Deathly Hallows—it is still a major title.

McCarthy notes that the low price, the Potter connection and the “charity appeal”—net proceeds to Scholastic, Bloomsbury and Amazon are being donated to Children's High Level Group, the charity Rowling co-founded to improve the lives of marginalized children—will make the book “one of the highlights of the season.”

Bookseller Carol Chittenden, owner of Eight Cousins in Falmouth, Mass., and buyer for BookStream, agrees. She views Beedle as a smaller Harry Potter—“but that's still a lot larger than 99.8% of the other fall frontlist titles,” she notes. Like McCarthy, Chittenden is taking considerably fewer copies than she did for Deathly Hallows; about 8% of her original order for the store, and about 20% for BookStream.

That dovetails with Scholastic's own first printing of 3.5 million copies, which is hefty but a lot less than the 12 million it laid down for Hallows. In that case, though, the bulk of the sales occurred the first week out of the gate. The trick for booksellers will be to keep the Beedle magic going throughout the holidays and beyond.

Read the rest of the story here.

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