RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Like hotels and their housekeepers, publishers are hurting, but this week brought some real excitement to the publishing industry. It began with the release on Monday of the new Ted Kennedy memoir, "True Compass." It ends today with Oprah's announcing her new Book Club pick. In between, Dan Brown's new book, "The Lost Symbol," hit the bookstores.
NPR's Lynn Neary has more.
LYNN NEARY: A trifecta was the way people in the business described it, and on Tuesday Barnes and Noble announced that "The Lost Symbol" broke all records for one-day sales of adult fiction. Barnes and Noble vice president for marketing, Patricia Bostelman, says it was a marked contrast to the same time last year.
Ms. PATRICIA BOSTELMAN (Barnes and Noble): Well, I think this September compared to last September is euphoric. I think we have seen the worst of it. We are seeing a buoyancy come back in our business and in a general optimism in people who are shopping.
NEARY: But for Jonathan Karp, publisher and editor in chief of Twelve, the early success of Ted Kennedy's "True Compass" was bittersweet, coming as it did just weeks after the death of Senator Kennedy.
Mr. JONATHAN KARP (Publisher, Twelve Books): It's been an incredibly emotional experience to publish this book.
NEARY: Early on, Karp made a decision to delay the e-book publication of "True Compass." He's holding fast to that decision, even though Amazon has reported that its Kindle version of the book is outselling the hardback.
Mr. KARP: This book has over 100 photos in it, many of them in color. It has its original artwork, and when we signed up the book, the Kindle didn't even exist and our business plan was based on selling a certain number of hardcovers and then a certain number of paperbacks. And we would eventually like to sell a lot of e-books, but we're going to stick to our business plan.
NEARY: And pretty much everyone agrees bringing more customers into bookstores is crucial. That's how a book like "The Lost Symbol" helps boost the sales of all books. Dan Halpern is president and publisher of Ecco, an imprint of Harper Collins.
Mr. DAN HALPERN (President, Ecco): When people are in the store buying that book, the assumption is that they will buy other books. If they're not in the bookstores, they are not going to buy any books. So anything that gets people in large numbers into the bookstores is a good thing.
NEARY: At this time last year, Halpern got the call all publishers dream of these days. Oprah Winfrey picked one of his authors' books, "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle," for her book club.
Mr. HALPERN: We probably had sold about 300,000 at that point, so the book was doing incredibly well. I mean it's on the bestseller list, and she said my goal is sell a million copies, and she did.
NEARY: Today Oprah announced her new book club pick. It's "Say You're One of Them," a collection of stories by Nigerian-born writer Uwem Akpan. Barnes and Noble's Patricia Bostelman says the bookstore chain had boxes of that book waiting to go on the shelves as soon as the title was made public.
Ms. BOSTELMAN: Our booksellers know exactly what to do. They have the cartons in the back room of the stores and we have a very, very tight procedure for not opening them until the moment it is allowed to do so, not unlike how we had to handle "The Lost Symbol." And then they, you know, place books on display and wait for the customers to race in.
NEARY: And yes, Bostelman says, they do race in, almost immediately, and as long as some of them stay to browse and buy some more, the publishing industry will be happy.
Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.
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