'The Help’s' Strong Box Office Bumps Up Book Sales

Hardcover, paper, and ebook versions are simultaneous bestsellers as total sales top 7 million copies.

The book version of The Help continues to be the adult publishing sensation of 2011. Stronger than expected box office returns for the movie version of The Help (total grosses stands at more than $79 million through August 24)have spurred an unusually large bump in sales of the book across the country. It is number one on The New York Times combined print/e-book list and number one on both the individual trade paper and e-book lists. The Help is also the bestselling book in both paper and ebook versions at Amazon and BN.com, the online component of Barnes & Noble.  One key indicator of the book’s emotional appeal to readers and its strong word-of-mouth business is the reappearance of the hardcover on The New York Times bestseller list for the first time since the publication of the paperback on April 5.  While the hardcover is also the thirty-fifth bestselling book on Amazon, it is the eleventh most gifted book according to the company’s statistics. 

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Booksellers across the country report a similar rise in sales. At Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, which early on championed the novel by native daughter Kathryn Stockett, overall sales have tripled. In Memphis, one of the top ten markets for the movie, Mark, a manager at the popular Booksellers at Laurelwood, says “the movie definitely helped sales.”  Both booksellers have also seen a rise in hardcover sales as gifts and mementos. 

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Although not reflected in sales, library holds, a patron request for a checked out book, are another key indicator of a book’s popularity. Nora Rowlinson, the editor of earlyword.com, a site for librarians, reports that spot checks around the country indicate that holds are at their highest level since the book first came out.  One major library reports 930 hold requests now versus 915 at the peak of the book’s popularity last year, though the library now has three times as many copies in stock.

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Publisher Amy Einhorn Books an imprint at G. P. Putnam & Son’s, which is owned by Penguin, reports total hardcover sales of over three million copies. The Help is the only novel to sell more than one million hardcover copies in both 2009 and 2010.  Penguin has printed more than four million paperbacks copies of The Help, including a regular trade paperback that has gone through nineteen printings and a movie tie-in edition that has gone through ten printings. Publishers usually space out paperback editions but Penguin delayed the publication of the original paperback edition several times because of continued strong hardcover sales, putting the two editions on the market simultaneously.