The much-anticipated (and media spotlighted) sophomore novel by Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman (HarperCollins Canada), was released internationally on July 14, and Canadian independent booksellers have prepared themselves for what they think will be one of the year’s best-selling books.
Joy McLean, owner of Café Books in Canmore, Alberta, said she ordered substantially more copies than she would for an average new release, with 45 additional books coming in over the next few days to pad the 24 the store stocked upon publication.
“I would say this is likely to be the biggest book release this year. There have been much faster sales than, for instance, E.L. James’s Grey – we’ve sold more of Go Set a Watchman in this one morning than we have of Grey since it was released,” McLean says. “We have a window display and its disappearing fast, so I’m glad we have more coming in. I think this will be a big seller as it’s had so much discussion around its publication, and fans of To Kill a Mockingbird will want to read it whether there’s been huge media or not.”
Susan Hare, co-owner of nearby Owl’s Nest Books in Calgary, said that interest in the book has been muted in her area, so the store didn’t have much planned for its launch.
“Most of my customers are waiting to hear the reviews,” Hare said, though she was already selling copies within 15 minutes of the store’s opening this morning.
Donna Kamiel-Forster, co-owner of Bolton, Ontario’s Forster’s Book Garden, said the morning’s pre-orders and walk-in sales left the store with a limited number of copies. Anticipating great sales, she plans to re-order.
Sarah Ramsey, manager of the Book City location in Toronto’s Bloor West Village said she thinks Watchman’s mixed reviews and media attention have garnered significant reader interest, which the store fortified with some social media hype. She too is expecting high sales. “It’s the book of the summer, if not the book of the year,” she says.
On the West Coast, co-operator Jessica Walker at Munro’s Books in Victoria, B.C., says the store’s pre-orders spurred them to place additional orders before the book’s release.
“The media coverage has been phenomenal in the last week or so,” Walker says. “We’re expecting strong sales through the summer. Titles like Grey have been selling well for us, but there is much, much more interest in Watchman for our customers.”
Meaghan Acosta, co-owner at Argo’s Bookshop in Montreal, refuses to give in to the fervor due to the controversy surrounding the publication of the manuscript, and says she will only be selling it as a special order until the hype settles down, “at which point it will occupy its rightful place next to To Kill a Mockingbird in its inexpensive paperback edition.”
“While I would love to participate in the release of a new work by Lee, I’m not convinced she even wanted to publish the book in the first place, as many sources suggest her senility had much to do with this,” Acosta says. “I might have jumped at the event if I felt it was her sincere desire.”