From buzz to bestseller

Sometimes a team of little guys actually wins the gold. (I'm referring to books, and not that sporting event happening right now in Beijing.) Consider the story of a local bookstore and a self-published author in Salem, Mass.

Self-published books are one way an author can have the satisfaction of a finished, marketable product without the angst of trying to get a big-name publisher interested. Such books often carry the stigma of being a story that, you know, only a family member could love. But armed with a good website, a strategy, accounting savvy, and a lot of heave-ho, self-published authors can actually make the big time. "Lace Reader," reviewed today by Yvonne Zipp, is one of those books that started out as a buzz and ended up a bestseller.

Brunonia Barry's strategy was to start locally. After all, she lives in Salem, Mass., and wrote a complicated mystery taking place in Salem. Why wouldn't her neighbors be interested? They were. After she and her husband dropped off a copy of "Lace Reader" at Salem's Cornerstone Books, the store's events coordinator decided to have an author reading. Forty people showed up (a large crowd for an unknown author) and the books on hand (80 to 100 copies) promptly sold out.

Beth Simpson, who organized the event, told the Boston Globe "We don't sell 80 to 100 books of Stephen King or Dennis Lehane."

The local buzz turned into such a roar that the English-language publishing rights to "Lace Reader" ended up in a bidding war – with Morrow eventually paying over $2 million. That's right, a two with six zeros.

As you can imagine, Barry is now on a bit of a celebrity tour. You can tag along by reading her blog. It's a good lesson in how to stage a launch with a wide-reaching impact: Get to know your local independent bookstore, and grow those grass-roots.

Marjorie Kehe is on vacation this week.

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