Mark Twain Autobiography: It's a Hit; Sold Out At Most Stores
Local bookstores sold out, more books on order
November 24, 2010
No one should confuse Mark Twain with Tickle Me Elmo, but the new autobiography by Hartford's literary lion has become this year's hard-to-get Christmas gift.
Bookstores across the country, including the Hartford area, say they are all out of the best-selling 736-page "Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. I" ( University of California Press, $34.95).
But Hartford has a unique cache of the books: The Mark Twain House & Museum Center's store, at 351 Farmington Ave., in Hartford. As of Tuesday it had 140 copies.
"We could tell from what was happening in June, July and August," says Steve Courtney, publicist for the Twain House, when stories began appearing and stoking interest in the autobiography, which Twain had forbidden to be published in its entirety until 100 years after his death in 1910.
Its publishers printed a first run of 50,000 copies, but unexpected demand for the richly detailed, personally revealing and heavily annotated book has so far required more press runs, for a total of 275,000.
Their printers, says Alexandra Dahne, publicity director for the University of California Press, are now producing 30,000 to 40,000 additional copies a week and they hope to have stores re-stocked by mid-December.
"We are parceling them out to all markets —- wholesale retailers, independent bookstores and online retailers," like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, Dahne said.
"It's been unbelievable," she said. "We're in that delicate balance between printing enough to satisfy the demand but not overprinting."
Spokesmen at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Barnes & Noble in West Hartford, Borders in Farmington and Broad Street Books in Middletown said they had no copies available, but were ordering more.
Mary Davis, public relations manager for Borders Group Inc., says its Fairfield store has "some copies, and its Milford store has just a few."
The UConn Co-op had two copies left as of Tuesday. "It's on the best-seller list, which was a surprise to us, as that generally doesn't happen with autobiographies," a spokesman said.
R. J. Julia's 48 copies sold out in a month, said store manager Lori Fazio. "A whole bunch is coming in, we're hoping by mid-December. We thought it would be popular, but the initial printing wasn't that many."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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