The inside scoop on the book world

HOLIDAY PRESENCE There were pre-Christmas layoffs of a few top editors and gloomy forecasts by certain publishing executives. But for some of the nation’s premier independent booksellers, the giving season didn’t turn out half bad. (At press time, the Barnes & Noble and Borders chains were still assembling their holiday sales reports.) ”One of our stores was up a bit from the year before, and one was down a bit, but with all the things happening in the greater world, we’re pretty happy,” says Derek Holland, manager at The Tattered Cover, in Denver. A number of stores reported big hits, with John Grisham, Jonathan Franzen, and David McCullough’s John Adams all selling well; mass-market editions of The Shipping News and Black Hawk Down — and anything related to The Lord of the Rings — were also strong. ”The Tolkien books were phenomenal,” says Peter Aaron, owner of Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company. ”Every single version, every format, from books on tape to $75 boxed sets.” At Murder Ink & Ivy’s in New York City, store manager Tom Cushman saw mystery sales hurt by Dick Francis’ retirement. ”We’d usually sell 300 [of his new book] every Christmas,” he says.

Overall, sales were still better than they were last holiday season, helped in part by E.B. White’s reissued classic Here is New York. ”Local” writers were in demand elsewhere, too: Signed copies of Grisham’s Skipping Christmas boosted sales at Square Books, in Oxford, Miss. ”That was an unexpected treat, since usually his books come out in the spring,” says Jamie Kornegay, the store’s events coordinator. Best of all, the buying season now extends into January, says Carl Lennertz, publisher coordinator for Book Sense, a marketing campaign that runs a gift certificate program for independent stores. As people redeem the certificates, Lennertz says, they also buy more books: ”There’s a lot of pent-up money starting Dec. 26, so whatever the holiday story is, it’ll continue until February.”