Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Buyer’s Musings – Tinkers revisited.

by Sheryl Cotleur

I couldn’t be more thrilled upon learning that Tinkers by Paul Harding won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I’ve loved this book so long and hard that I sat and watched the Pulitzer Web site on Monday April 12th, 2010 just in the vague hope that it would be somehow recognized. After shouting in surprise when the announcement came, I called Paul and left a congratulatory voice message.

We’d become friends some 14 months earlier when Tinkers was first published. My Consortium rep, Lise Solomon pressed a pre-publication copy into my hands begging me to read it because she loved it so much. I was enthralled also and suddenly came up with an unusual idea. After talking it over with Mary Benham who runs our Signed First Editions Club, and who also then read the galley, I asked Lise to provide me with a publisher contact at Bellevue Literary Press. I proposed to Erika Goldman that if she’d print some hardcovers of this original paperback, I’d buy 250 copies and Mary would make it our January 2009 Signed First Editions Club selection. Elaine Petrocelli, the bookstore owner, also loved this idea. Erika decided to print 500 copies and Lise helped sell some to other Bay Area accounts.  I bought more copies than just what was needed for our club and we then set about announcing to our customers, both online and in the store, that we had this special book. After they arrived and were signed, we sold out in three days.

Part of the negotiations included that we needed the book signed so arrangements were made for Paul Harding to come to the Bay Area and do readings at Book Passage and a few other stores. We had a great time getting to know Paul and have kept in touch ever since.

Over the months of 2009 I continued to hand sell and talk about Tinkers, and it has been on display as a staff favorite of mine every day since it’s publication. I wrote about it in our newsletter about that time also which goes out to over 40,000 people. Mary got her employee book club to read it that spring and that created another eight or so enthusiastic hand-sellers. The day the Pulitzer was announced we had sold 242 copies of Tinkers in paperback and 40 at our San Francisco store. We had sold 250 copies in hardcover.

Also in the spring of 2009 I mentioned it to other sales reps I see, several of whom share with me an avid interest in exchanging the news of whatever we love, no matter the imprint. I gave a copy to Ron Shoop, one of my Random House sales reps. He loved it as well. Later he found himself in conversation with a senior editor at RH where he raved about this small press book. I understand that over time she heard others mentioning Tinkers with great appreciation. She eventually contacted Paul and offered him a contract for his next two books. I have never met this editor, but I’m grateful that even a small part of my enthusiasm for Tinkers entered the energy field of it being noticed by her.

In June of 2009, having recently met John Freeman, Granta editor and former NBCC president, I sent him a signed hardcover, one of my personal copies; because I knew he loved good books and was a collector of fine First Editions. It was with complete surprise and delight that I saw he named this novel one of the top five fiction books of 2009 on NPR in December 2009.

In the spring of 2010 I was on the ABA/Indiebound eight-member jury for selecting the top six finalists of 2009 in three categories: Fiction, Nonfiction and Debut Fiction. I was pleased to find a receptive group for choosing Tinkers as one of the six finalists in the Debut Fiction category. One jurist even pointed out that he got special pleasure out of recognizing a great novel that was also from a quality small literary press.

I have mailed Tinkers to literary friends in Europe and still find myself in animated conversations about it regularly. We at Book Passage all celebrate Tinkers and Paul Harding winning the Pulitzer Prize, feeling that we knew all along it was worthy. We are delighted that now a lot more people will discover this gem!

--Sheryl Cotleur, Buying Director, Book Passage

Order a copy of Tinkers by Paul Harding:

While the limited first edition, original  signed hardcover of Tinkers is SOLD OUT, this Pulitzer Prize-winning title will be re-printed in hardcover in the coming weeks. If you would like to pre-order a copy of the new hardcover edition, please click this link to place your order.

You may also order, or request a copy to be held for pick-up, by calling the store at (415) 927-0960, ext. 1.

Read more about Tinkers:

From the Boston Globe

From NPR

From the Huffington Post

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