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J.K. Rowling back at No. 1

10:54 PM, Jul 23, 2013   |    comments
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By Bob Minzesheimer and Jocelyn McClurg, USA Today

J. K. Rowling will land at No. 1 on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list on Thursday - but this time as Robert Galbraith.

As most of the world now knows, Galbraith is the pseudonym Rowling used when she released a detective novel, The Cuckoo's Calling, in April. Despite good reviews, it sold fewer than 1,000 copies.

But since July 14, when a British newspaper revealed that the author was not a military intelligence police officer but actually the woman who invented Harry Potter, sales have soared. Most have been e-books; print copies have been hard to find after the publisher was caught off-guard.

Thursday's new best-seller list -- which counts both print and digital formats -- will reflect sales through this past weekend.

On July 15, Rowling's publisher, Little, Brown, said it would print an additional 300,000 copies and begin shipping them to stores within a few days. On Tuesday, the publisher announced it's printing an additional 80,000 copies.

But unlike Rowling's 10 other books to hit No. 1 on USA TODAY's list - including all seven of the Potter series and last fall's The Casual Vacancy, her first novel for grownups - print copies of The Cuckoo's Calling have been scarce.

On Tuesday afternoon, Amazon was promising one-day shipping. And Barnes & Noble's website reports that copies "usually ship within 24 hours."

But many B & N stores reported they were still awaiting new shipments. On Tuesday, stores in Atlanta, Chicago, Coral Gables, Fla., Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Seattle and White Plains, N.Y., reported they were out of stock. But stores in Manhattan and Philadelphia reported plenty of copies. Barnes & Noble Vice President Mary Amicucci says, "We have stock in transit to all of our stores right now and expect to be fully stocked by the end of the week."

Daniel Goldin of Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee says the 25 copies he ordered last Monday didn't arrive until Tuesday, eight days later.

"This is just the sort of thing that moves print readers to e-books," he says, adding, "All in all, I think they did a decent job of getting the books out there."

In Denver, Cathy Langer of The Tattered Cover, was still waiting for her new shipment of The Cuckoo's Calling. She fears the delay will mean that "some of the impulse sales from the excitement of the revelation might be lost with the more casual Rowling fans whose attention has been distracted by something else."

As for whether e-book sales are eating into print sales, she says, "The question is whether The Cuckoo's Calling is ... a book that readers will want to have on their shelves, for the quality of the writing, as a book to cherish and share."

Michael Pietsch, publisher of Little, Brown when The Casual Vacancy was published, says that fewer than 25% of its sales were e-books - well below the share for most popular novels. He thinks many of Rowling's fans wanted an actual copy to place next to the Potter collection on their bookshelves.

At a Barnes & Noble in midtown Manhattan Tuesday afternoon, the store had finally received its first shipment of The Cuckoo's Calling -- about 100 copies -- since the author's identity was revealed.

Within a few hours, the store had sold "quite a few copies," both to walk-ins and to customers who had reserved them, bookseller Errin Toma said. "The whole week there was huge customer demand."

How did it feel to finally have copies?

"Really great," she said with a big smile. "It's nice to not have to disappoint customers. It's a relief to have it."

She said she thought the store had enough copies to meet demand, but as more are printed by the publisher, "we'll get more in."

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