Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Everything is its own reward

Every small bookstore has its pet titles that an employee handsells like crazy or uses for a book club or other promotion and puts together some pretty solid sales numbers. And we all depend on those kinds of sales along with Tina Fey and David Brooks. But recently I've been reminded of another fascinating thing--a book that really and simply sells itself.

Paul Madonna's 'All Over Coffee' runs every Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle and he had a book(with the same title) in 2007 that we had and sold a grand total of 1, I believe. Yet in the past two months we've sold a lot of copies of his newest work, "Everything is its own reward". The pen and ink drawings are good enough to allow me to use any superlative I liked but the response from customers is more telling. At least five people have said, "I have to have this book." City Lights Publishing is still mostly known for their poetry work and rightly so. But this is something different and they did it right.

Lots of people say, "What is this?" And it's a fair question as it doesn't direct the reader in one linear direction. It's kind of graphic novel, but not really. It's David Macaulay-esque but that is also not a spot-on comparison. It's an artistic collection and on his website he calls it a loose narrative. Something I didn't even realize, after looking at the book several times, is that there are no people in it. The only character is the setting. The book is $27.95 and comes with a pull-out poster that is 31x20.

We always guess at what we can sell lots of. Or we hope to find titles we can push. But there are still gems out there that we might ignore or only get a couple copies of that can move themselves if given the chance. It's something sales reps gently remind us of often and here it is in practice.

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