While posting last week about PUBLICIZE YOUR BOOK, I mentioned the word-of-mouth bestseller, THE HELP. All last year, friends and family recommended this book to me. One friend would ask, “Have you read it yet?” every time I ran into her. My mother gave me her copy over Christmas and joined the “have you read it?” chorus. I figured it was time to get busy.
I took my copy on our Mardi Gras road trip (we get the whole week off in Southern Louisiana) and fell in love. THE HELP is amazing, heartbreaking, amazing, lovely, amazing, funny, amazing. I don’t know how else to talk about this title, so I’ll give the New York Times a shot. As you read the excerpt below, notice the strength of this debut novel rests on fabulous writing, yes, but something more: devoted readers all part of the “have you read it?” campaign.
Taken from The New York Times:
“The Help,” a novel about the relationships between African-American maids and their white employers in 1960s Mississippi, has the classic elements of a crowd pleaser: it features several feisty women enmeshed in a page-turning plot, clear villains and a bit of a history lesson.
The book, a debut novel by Kathryn Stockett, also comes with a back story that is a publishing dream come true: at first rejected by nearly 50 agents, the manuscript was scooped up by an imprint of Penguin and pushed aggressively to booksellers, who fell in love with it. Since it came out in February, “The Help” has been embraced by book clubs and bloggers who can’t stop recommending it to their friends.
All of which helps explain why “The Help” — which some enthusiasts have compared to Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” — has maintained a tenacious hold close to the top of several best-seller lists, despite one of the strongest seasons for big-name authors in recent memory. Amid blockbusters from the likes of Dan Brown, Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwell and Nicholas Sparks, Ms. Stockett has stayed within the Top 5 on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction Best-Seller list since August.
“It is running and it’s going to continue to run,” said Vivienne L. Jennings, co-owner of Rainy Day Books, an independent bookstore in Fairway, Kan.
According to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales, “The Help” has sold 445,000 copies in hardcover. At Barnes & Noble, the country’s largest retail bookstore chain, Sessalee Hensley, the chain’s fiction buyer, said the number of copies sold per week had grown steadily since August. “I think it’s completely word of mouth,” she said.
For those of you interested, here’s more:
New York Times review
praise and reviews included on Katherine Stockett’s website
When others get behind a book, magical things can happen. So I have to know: have you read it yet?
I have not, but I have seen a lot of my friends on Goodreads reading it and now I think I’ll jump on the bandwagon.
I love word-of-mouth success stories. It makes me feel that the book is genuinely worth my time and money, not because some publisher pushed it in front of me on the front store of a shelf, but because everyone around me says “You have to read this.”
Piedmont Writer says
Wow, that is amazing. I haven’t read it but I sure will now. As a matter of fact I’m off to two bookstores today and I am still looking for “The Black Whippet.”
That’s awesome! I haven’t read it yet. I think word-of-mouth bestsellers are the best – people can’t help but talk about a book they loved.
Billy Coffey says
I haven’t read it yet either, but this book seems to pop up wherever I go. I’m taking it as a sign I should break down and buy it. Guess that means I’m off to the bookstore today!
Thanks for the recommendation, Caroline.
Jemi Fraser says
I haven’t read it either – but I keep hearing about it too. I’ll have to get on it!
I read it on my trip to Canada at Christmas. We arrived just before I finished, so I kept sneaking away to read! It was great!!
Corey Schwartz says
Yes, this book is fabulous! It was recommended to me back in June by Katie and Sf of Plot This who actually went to high school with Kathryn Stockett. I blogged about it and continued to spread the word!
Caroline Starr Rose says
Corey, how amazing the Plot This ladies went to school with Kathryn Stockett!
I’m loving the enthusiasm here. Please read and come tell me what you think.
PW, thank you so much for looking for THE BLACK WHIPPET. What a treat!
And thank all of you for putting up with the spelling mistakes that always seem to slip in.
Valerie Geary says
It’s on my list… I think I would have read it by now if I wasn’t doing this genre-blog thing… that seems to consume my reading time these days. Not that I’m complaining. 😀
Solvang Sherrie says
A friend of mine recommended it last year and I loved it. Great story!
Hi Caroline! I’m in the middle of reading this now, and yes, the story is riveting! 🙂
Gemma Noon says
She’s also made the longlist for the Orange Prize for Fiction, which is the UK’s major prize for female writers. Worth checking out the list of you have some time!
Heidi Willis says
This is so funny you posted this! Last night I was at dinner with Kim Derting and some other friends and they are in the middle of my book, and kept saying how it reminded them of the voice in The Help. I’d heard vaguely about it but didn’t know much, so now I’ve decided it’s on my must read list!
Word of mouth is the best way a book can grow, I think. Better than just a publishing push, to have someone say, “You HAVE to read this!” is the greatest compliment an author can have!
Caroline Starr Rose says
That is a huge compliment. Pick it up! You’ll love it.
Stephanie Cheryl says
Just wanted to let you know that I left you a little something over at my blog! 🙂
Jeanette Levellie says
Not YET, but I plan to read this one.
And how do you get people to talk about your books? There can’t be a formula, or everyone would do it, right?
Audience of ONE
Elle Strauss says
I love these kind of stories!