Faber has experienced an “astonishing” demand for Anna Burns’ Milkman since it won the Man Booker Prize, selling 63,288 copies through Nielsen BookScan and 250,000 B-format copies out of its warehouse.
The majority of the Nielsen sales - 57,682 - occurred after the prize was announced and 8,000 of those were in the last week, according to Nielsen BookScan. Faber said it has sold 330,000 copies across all editions, "a figure that is rising by the thousands every day".
Meanwhile literary agent David Grossman has sold the book to 23 international territories since the Man Booker win.
“The demand has been astonishing and it's received an overwhelmingly positive response from retailers,” Faber publisher Alex Bowler told The Bookseller. “They have taken Anna and Milkman to their hearts, and they seem thrilled to have the opportunity to sell a Man Booker winner in the most flexible format for promotions, in an outstanding package, at the busiest time of year.”
Bowler believes that the novel, about the sexual harassment of a young woman in a divided society, has resonated strongly with the public partly because of the recent debate over sexual harassment. “Milkman does seem to be riding the crest of a very rare wave,” he said. “Whether it's coming in the wake of the #MeToo movement, or bringing home the realities of a hard border between Ireland and the UK, the novel feels powerfully relevant and is clearly striking a deep chord.”
Bowler said the novel's success is also down to the “pure quality of the book; the journey of its protagonist 'Middle Sister'; the invention and music of its voice, and the timely power of its themes”, as well as the media interest in and “genuine public affection” for Burns herself.
“And of course, the price and format have meant there's been no obstacle - indeed, there's been an absolute enticement - to readers acting on that affection and interest," he added.
Booksellers have also applauded Burns' novel. Hereward Corbett, owner of the Yellow Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury, said: “I cannot remember another [Man] Booker winner that has had people stopping in the street and discussing it when they see it in the window."
Meanwhile Dave Torrens, owner of No Alibis Bookshop in Belfast, described the response to the book as “very heartening”. “It is as relevant to those who lived through troubled periods as it is to their children,” he said.
Faber’s UK sales director Dave Woodhouse said the 250,000 B-format books he had sold out of the publisher’s warehouse “includes internationally and also UK retailers who don't feed into Nielsen [as well as Eire]”. The company reprinted 130,000 copies in the last month to keep up with demand.
Regarding the flurry of international rights, Grossman of the David Grossman Literary Agency has sold the title across 23 territories with Graywolf due to publish in the US on 4th December.
The acquisition for simplified Chinese rights is believed to be the biggest single deal ever done for an author not previously published in China, Faber said.
Grossman told The Bookseller: “I find it very significant that the deals made in both China and Korea far exceed all those made elsewhere, including the major European languages.”
The news follows various media reports which described Burns' book as "difficult" and predicted that the Man Booker win would disappoint booksellers and fail to appeal to the public.
Burns’ editor, Louisa Joyner, also an editorial director at Faber, said: “The continued massive, rule-breaking commercial and critical success of Milkman is not only wonderful for Anna Burns and tremendous for Faber & Faber, it also sends a fantastically healthy message to all of us involved in the publishing and selling of books about the wider world’s interest in fresh perspectives and original voices. Burns' now enormous reach (increasing by the thousands every day) and Milkman’s cultural force are incredibly exciting.”
Burns became the first Northern Ireland Man Booker winner on 16th October, and is the seventh of Faber’s authors to have won the £50,000 prize. Faber initially ordered reprints of 100,000 the day after the announcement due to "phenomenal demand". She has had two books published previously.