The NYT features the author of A Man Called Ove (S&S/Atria, July 2014) and other bestsellers this weekend, highlighting his improbable rise to celebrity status.
Like his character Ove, Fredrik Backman is something of an unlikely star. He was largely ignored by publishers who either rejected his debut novel or simple ignored his query letters. He worked night and weekend shifts as a forklift driver to afford time to write during the day and for a while, it seemed like it would all be for nothing. One publisher told him his work had no “commercial potential.”
Now his debut novel is a feature film and a breakout hit. It has sold over “2.8 million copies worldwide, making the book one of Sweden’s most popular literary exports since Stieg Larsson’s thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” writes the NYT.
The novel’s appeal is global, selling in 38 languages, but its start in the US was, similar to its reception by Swedish publishers, rocky.
Reports the NYT, “it sold steadily but in modest numbers. Then sales surged. It landed on the best-seller list 18 months after it was first published and has remained there for 42 weeks. Demand has been so unrelenting that Atria Books has reprinted the novel 40 times and now has more than a million copies in print.”
The US publisher credits the surge to independent booksellers, “who placed big orders and pressed it on customers. The Book Bin in Northbrook, Ill., has sold around 1,000 copies, largely based on word-of-mouth recommendations.”
The Daily Beast has also examined the novel’s word-of-mouth success.
Librarians have adopted Backman as their own as well, making Britt-Marie Was Here (S&S/Atria Books) a #1 LibraryReads pick and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (S&S/Atria) a LibraryReads selection. Galleychatters have also followed Backman with great interest.
The success of Ove fueled the sales of others of Backman’s quirky novels and has led, as we noted earlier, to more book deals. The first of which hits shelves on on Nov. 1, the novella, And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer (S&S/Atria). Deadline Hollywood reports, that like Ove, it “centers on an elderly man, who struggles to hold on to his memories, face his regrets and help his son and grandson prepare for his death.” It will be issued in a “small-format hardcover,” with illustrations. His next novel will be Beartown (S&S/Atria, May 2, 2017).
In a very Ove take on life, Backman finds fame a problem. “Everyone keeps telling you how great you are and what a great writer you are” he tells the NYT. “They want selfies, and that’s not healthy, because you start liking that … You still have to write like you’re writing for 20 people, or you’re going to freak out.”