Sunday, January 31, 2010

Robert Goolrick Shares Some Recommendations, a Little Inspiration

When we got the boxes for our order of A Reliable Wife, I knew something was up. Workman (Algonquin's parent company and distributor) doesn't have many laydowns, that requirement that we not put out a book before a certain date.

In this case, we received the books over a week before the January 5th on sale date. A strict on-sale date. There must have been a big promotion going on.

In fact, there were five. To my knowledge, the Algonquin gang not only had a book club promotion (mostly targeted to independents, I'd say) and book tour, they had promotions with Borders, B&N, Amazon and Target. That's a lot of muscle, which is part of the reason that the book is #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for this Sunday. It wasn't like The Help, that took close to a year to hit #1. It did it in two weeks of paperback release.

We had a wonderful event with Robert Goolrick, one of three that hosted in the Milwaukee area. I didn't figure on a football playoff game, let alone the first sold-out movie at the Downer Avenue since 2008. (It's true--"Crazy Heart" had some lines down the block the first weekend." Don't cry for us--it helped sales a bit.)

So back to the event. We learned that A Reliable Wife was actually turned down by 29 publishers before being sold to Chuck Hogan at Algonquin. Didn't he pick up Water for Horses (editor's note: No, that would be Water for Elephants. Funny usually I, like my customers, usually say Like Water for Elephants in error. Where the heck did that "horses" come from?) after a similar run of rejections? Yow! But Hogan actually didn't buy A Reliable Wife initially; he bought Goolrick's memoir, The End of the World as We Know it, which published before, but written after the novel.

Goolrick noted that although he doesn't read much when he's writing, he is a fan of contemporary fiction. So much more interesting than when you ask a writer for recommendations, and they offer you Dostoevsky. Yes, I've also heard he's good. Goolrick was so enthusiastic about these books that we actually sold copies of all of them. Here's a list.

The Song is You, by Arthur Phillips
I'm also a big fan. Here's my blog post. The paperback comes out March 23rd.

American Rust, by Philipp Meyer
Just out in paperback. Set in a Pennsylvania steel town during the Depression, Meyer's novel appeared on many best-of-2009 lists.

The New Valley, by Josh Weil
Linked novellas set in America's backcountry. Goolrick calls Weil "The real deal."

And of course, some of the inspiration for the story came from Michael Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip. It isn't always safer in the country, after all.

And regarding inspiration, I had once heard that Goolrick hadn't been to Wisconsin before writing this novel. In fact, he used to visit Wisconsin accounts back when he was in advertising.

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