Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hades in the house

Most of you reading this remember what Harry Potter releases were like. As the series got more popular and the story stakes got higher, midnight on the appointed date became a bigger and bigger event. (Come to think of it, it's surprising that the release dates were generally in the summer. Is that a British publishing thing, or was Harry just big enough to make his own scheduling rules?) Thousands of people lined up to read the same thing at the same time, there was talk of people in one time zone spoiling people in another, and I was reminded of the American Dickens fans who stopped Brits at the docks to ask, "Is Little Nell dead?"

I was as eager as anyone. (Well, maybe not as anyone, but pretty eager.) But I was also self-aware enough to join in the joy over the fact that we were all this excited over a book.

I don't think we've seen that phenomenon's equal. We have seen quite a few other book phenomena that Harry made possible by expanding the scale of the children's and YA book world and making it okay for adults to read both. These are all fairly cliche observations by now. But I bring them up because House of Hades has brought them to mind.

Like many or most books, the penultimate volume in Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus trilogy was released on a Tuesday. We sold dozens the first day and lots more throughout the week. Mr. Riordan himself signed 140 of them so they'd be ready for release day; more than half of those were gone by the end of the weekend. The weekend sales didn't surprise me; plenty of people, often families with kids, wander into bookstores on the weekend, especially bookstores surrounded by restaurants and coffee shops. And while they're there, they often do pick up the latest from a favorite author. But very few people just wander into a bookstore on a Tuesday. I suspect that the vast majority of those early sales were to people who made a trip out to the bookstore because this book was coming out. Either the kids or their parents (this series has some crossover appeal, but not at the same level as a Harry Potter or a Hunger Games or a Divergent) took note of the release date and arranged a weekday accordingly. (The store did put the word out that we had signed copies, and that may have played some role; I'd be curious to hear how the book has done at other stores like ours. Honestly, it's not a big time of year for gifts, and I suspect the major factor was simply kids wanting to know what happened next.)

A hardcover middle-grade novel flew off the shelves of a midsize indie bookstore on a Tuesday in October. (And a Wednesday, a Thursday, and a Friday.) Holy Hades, that's awesome.

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