Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman (William Heinemann) has given Waterstones its biggest first week of sales since J K Rowling’s final Harry Potter book was published.
Since publication last week (14th July), the retailer has sold “in excess of 50000 copies," which it said was "more than both Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy and Dan Brown’s Inferno”, giving it the second highest first week sales since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. Nearly 30,000 copies were sold through pre-orders and first day sales, Waterstones said. It now plans to continue its high sales of the title through nationwide reading group activity.
Waterstones m.d James Daunt said: “Waterstones played Watchman from the front foot with shops embracing, and contributing much to, the sheer excitement of the book's publication. It was professional and it was fun, and we have been rewarded with wonderful sales. When Waterstones picks up its skirts, it can give a book a fillip like no one else.”
Chris White, Waterstones fiction buyer, added that customers had "voted with their feet" when it came to selecting where to buy Watchman.
“It’s been a landmark publication, not just for literature but for high street bookselling," White said. "Up and down the country bookshops held events and reading groups supported with fantastic displays. Waterstones and all good bookshops have been rewarded with unprecedented sales and share for a publication of such high profile. Readers up and down the country have voted with their feet, deserting the internet for their local bookshop.”
According to Nielsen BookScan, 168,455 physical copies of Go Set a Watchman were sold last week, earning over £1.8m. The title had shifted 105,000 copies across all formats on its first day, including pre-orders.
In an email to staff, Waterstones' commercial manager, Peter Whitehead, said he knows booksellers are "up to the task" of continuing high sales of Go Set a Watchman (William Heinemann) after the company recorded strong market share for the title on its release.
In a bid to continue its high sales, next week 230 Waterstones shops will host Go Set a Watchman reading groups, with the chain partnering with the Guardian to promote them. This is the first time Waterstones has coordinated reading group activity on this nationwide scale – including shops in Europe and Ireland. “No piece of fiction published this year looks likely to be the subject of more anticipation and debate than Harper Lee's new novel”, said head of Events & PR Sandra Taylor, “and so we are welcoming our customers back into our shops to join us in this sure-to-be lively discussion. This collective enthusiasm is real testament to the significance of Go Set a Watchman and we very much look forward to hearing our customers’ reactions to this extraordinary book.”
A full list of reading group events can be found here.