But, Will It Make Money?

Is Jonathan Littell’s book, The Kindly Ones a literary masterpiece (as Michael Korda says the Book Beast), or  “willfully sensationalistic and deliberately repellent” (Michiko Kakutani the NYT)?

That’s a matter of opinion. A seemingly easier question is whether people will buy it (or check it out of libraries). In the NY Times today, publishing reporter Motoko Rich tries to find an answer, but, as with the question of artistic merit, discovers that opinions vary.

HarperCollins placed its bet two years ago when it spent $1 million to acquire the rights to the book. Rich guesses they need to sell 75,000 copies just to make back the advance. Last week, in the Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Trachtenberg estimated they need to sell twice that number, 150,000 copies, to cover all costs and turn a profit. If France is any indicator, where 700,000 copies were sold, it could easily reach the needed number here, but the French book-buying public is quite different from the American.

On Amazon, the book has risen from #447 on Monday to #93 today.

The total ordering for four large library systems is 69 copies, with 98 reserves. The reserve lists for the libraries individually ranges from 0 to 49.

The Kindly Ones
Littell, Jonathan
Price: $29.99
Hardcover: 992 pages
Publisher: Harper – (2009-03-01)
ISBN-10: 0061353450
ISBN-13: 9780061353451

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