Stoner was originally published in the US in April 1965 to little fanfare.
When Vintage Classics reissued it in the UK in July 2012 it snowballed into a phenomenon, garnering praise from writers such as Ruth Rendell, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes. It was named the Waterstones Book of the Year in December 2013 and went on to become the Christmas fiction paperback number one, selling 30,120 copies in the fortnight before Christmas pushing it into 2013’s Top 50 Fiction list. It has sold 228,224 copies to date, worth £1.7m to booksellers. (All data according to Neilsen BookScan.)
Vintage has also just bought audio rights to Stoner from Sandy Violette at Abner Stein.
The 50th anniversary will now see Vintage resurrecting its #weareallStonersnow Twitter campaign where it is offering readers two copies of the book: one to read and one to give away. The book will also feature as the “Book on One” on RTE1, the Irish radio programme. There will also be giveaways to bloggers and literary editors as well as an original piece in the Independent.
Frances Macmillan, senior editor at Vintage Classics, said: “The fact is that in the two years since it was discovered Stoner hasn’t really gone away. Our ambition for it hasn’t ended yet, we’re determined that more and more people will discover it. We think there’s another 500,000 people who need to hear about Stoner.”
The anniversary also sees author John Williams’ widow, Nancy, speak for the first time about the runaway success of Stoner. In her first public comments Nancy exclusively told The Bookseller: “John would have been as astonished as I am at Stoner’s enthusiastic and generous reception in England. John was a slow writer who hated to revise; for him, one page was a good day’s work, two pages a triumph.” Vintage also published Williams’ 1960 title Butcher’s Crossing in 2014 which had been out of print in the UK since 1972, as well as a hardback special edition of Stoner in November 2013.
Clara Nelson, backlist publicity manager at Vintage, said: “I don’t think there are any other publishers in the UK who have dedicated backlist publicists. We always have thought about new ways to reinvigorate backlist and my role has given us the chance to give some serious thought and effort to that. We have a monthly backlist meeting where we all work very collaboratively and are forward thinking about the backlist.” Nelson added: “It’s all about talking to the readers honestly and directly. You can’t say that every book is the best, honest recommendation is our whole thing.”