The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about how two similar books by two unknown novelists have shared very different fates. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks are examined. To date, The Historian has 915,000 copies after six printings. By comparison, The Traveler has 200,000 copies after three printings.
Now, by any measure, both books are successful. 200,000 is A LOT of books. But at the same time, this is a book that Doubleday announced had the second biggest marketing budget in the company, behind only John Grisham.
The Wall Street Journal speculates that a large part of the difference in sales is due to personality. Kostova is described as well-spoken and engaging and dedicated to personal appearances and book tours. Twelve Hawks is famously reclusive, lives off the grid, and uses a satellite phone and voice scrambler to talk to his editor.
I don’t suppose it’s his fault. He is who he is and the editors knew that when they wrote him the checks. Check out the article here.