Indie bookshops are cashing in on a pre-order boom for Hilary Mantel’s new book and are hosting everything from midnight openings to silent discos this week.
The epic 882-page conclusion to Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, The Mirror & the Light (Fourth Estate), is released on 5th March and publisher HarperCollins says independent stores are “absolutely key” to its success.
The publisher sent out point-of-sale resources for pre-orders as soon as the book was announced for those that wanted them with exclusive tote bags for stores they could include as gift with purchases. There are exclusive editions of the novel for indies which includes extra material by Mantel, describing the books that inspired her, the poetry of Thomas Wyatt and even Tudor jellies. The team have sent out huge posters, bunting, bookmarks and a host of other promotional material to get the book front and centre.
HarperCollins head of local sales Michael Jones explained: “Because they’ve shown so much love for the author and they’re key supporters I think we worked really hard to try and put something together that matches that passion. It’s been quite collaborative really because we were really keen to find out exactly what they wanted and what we’ve ended up with is a really brilliant line up.”
“I’m honestly staggered by the support, it’s been amazing,” she said. “Some people are doing banquets and there’s a few midnight openings too.”
At The Stripey Badger in Grassington, North Yorkshire, James Firth says he and his mother will be dressing up on 6th March for a day in the shop that will feature cocktails named after the wives of Henry VIII and the TV series of Mantel’s previous books playing in the background. The store will stay open for an extra two hours that day. “Pre-orders are going really well,” he said. “Normally for us hardbacks don’t shift but we’re selling it at £20 and we’re really happy with how it’s going.”
Forum Books in Corbridge, Northumberland, holds a silent disco every Saturday with a literary theme and Forum plans to hold an extra one on Mantel’s launch date so customers can bop to the Wolf Hall-inspired sounds as they peruse the shelves.
James Routledge, assistant manager, said: “It certainly seems to be one a lot of customers are picking up. We’ve got a certain demographic that have all read the previous books. They’re big Mantel fans. It’s been fantastic to see so much enthusiasm for a hardback.”
Zool Verjee, head of marketing and publicity at Blackwell’s, said its online shop quickly sold out of pre-orders for the signed edition. “As you’d expect, we are also prominently promoting Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and we are running a Mantel-inspired Tudor promotion – a wider backlist promotion relating to the tumultuous Tudor reign,” he said.
Mel Griffin, who runs Griffin Books in Penarth, South Wales, said the new book was doing exceptionally well, along with the refreshed paperback of its two predecessors. “We’ve been particularly successful on the pre-orders with this one, it’s really taken off for us.” The store has almost run out of its initial 50 copies and has had to order more in to cope with demand.
Mostly Books in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, was the first indie to get the pre-order information up and available to customers when the publication was first announced back in May last year and orders have come in ever since. Like Griffin, the store is having to order in more and owner Sarah Dennis says sales compare very well to other "event" books of recent years. "It's more than Atwood," she said. "It's on par with where we got to with the Philip Pullman ones and, with those, the publicity means the first couple of days of trasing sees yu end up with a lot of walk-in customers."
Jones, whose team are heading out for a Thomas Cromwell-themed tour this week to say thanks to the shops, said the sales so far looked extremely promising.
She said: “The pre-orders on this are beyond anything that I have known about for any book with indies. Everybody’s reaping the benefits, which is brilliant.”
Meryl Halls, m.d. at the Booksellers Association, said: “We are excited to see the promotion of such a massive title as the new Hilary Mantel include a strong pre-order offer for indies. It’s great to see so many indies bringing their customary creativity and energy to the celebration of a great bookshop book, and making sure to delight their customers. We are very keen to reinforce to consumers that they can pre order titles from high street bookshops, and to counter the misconception that online pre-orders is the only option. We’d also love to see more publisher and author activity putting bookshops at the heart of their marketing messages around pre-orders too: reinforcing that high street bookshops are key sources for new titles, vibrant bookselling and book engagement.”
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