First-day sales of The Casual Vacancy are "exceeding expectations," according to the book's editor David Shelley, although booksellers anticipating high footfall on publication day have given mixed reports.
Little, Brown publisher Shelley said sales for the e-book and print editions of the title, which went on sale at 8am today (27th September), were so far greater than expected. "We are keeping a close eye on stock levels to ensure we meet the demand and we are very grateful to all of our retail partners for working with us to deliver a well-managed and memorable publication,” Shelley said. "The displays of the book in the shops today are fantastic and have helped to get this book off to a great start.”
Many booksellers across the country opened early to allow customers who wanted to buy copies as soon as the embargo lifted at 8am. Waterstones spokesperson Fiona Allen said “groups of people” had been gathering to buy the book in stores but the title had not attracted the queues that the Harry Potter series had. “Like with the Harry Potter books, there seems to be a wide spectrum of people who are interested in it,” Allen said. “We expect a steady stream of people all day.” Waterstones is selling the book with a 50% discount for £10 and have the title displayed front of store and in windows in most Waterstones stores.
Foyles in Charing Cross Road, London, also opened early to welcome visitors and had shifted around 30 copies by midday today. Bookseller Joana Espirito Santo said she thought the book was attracting a different audience to the Harry Potter titles. “I think a lot of people are waiting for the reviews yet to make their mind up whether to buy it. I want to read it, I have never read any of Rowling’s other books, because I don’t read fantasy novels, but this one sounds more serious and political, so I want to read it.” Foyles is selling the title for £5 off. Espirito Santo added: “It was really exciting to open the boxes this morning, they were covered in black plastic saying 'Do not open until 8am'."
Blackwell’s, also in Charing Cross Road and offering the book with a £3 discount, said it had sold two copies of The Casual Vacancy by midday. Bookseller Sarah Davison said: “It has been a little disappointing. With Sainsbury’s and Tesco selling it at such a reduced price (£8.99 and £9 respectively), we will just get customers who pop in here. But I think people are fans of Harry Potter, not JK Rowling, so it will be interesting to see how it goes down.”
Earlier today, Little, Brown's c.o.o. Ben Groves-Raines said the publisher would pursue "vigorously" those who pirated the book, as bit torrent sites claimed to offer free copies within hours of publication.
However the cost of the Kindle e-book in the UK has prompted criticism from Amazon customers. The majority of the 20-plus listed reviews on Amazon.co.uk criticise the £11.99 price point. The hardback edition is being sold at £9 by the online retailer. One reviewer stated: “I mean no disrespect to JK Rowling. I am truly looking forward to reading it but I can understand peoples’ anger and [that they] have chosen to vent their frustrations here. A message needs to be sent to the publisher/Amazon that we JK Rowling fans will not tolerate their greed. I too will not be buying this book until the Kindle price has been adjusted.”
In the US the hardback is more expensive than the e-book, selling for $20.90 on Amazon where the Kindle book is $19.85.
Audible, Amazon’s audiobook company, has released a sample clip of The Casual Vacancy being read by Tom Hollander on its website, where it is selling the audiobook to members for £3.99.
Rowling is speaking at the Southbank Centre tonight in London at an event set to be streamed live on YouTube.