Mark Twain, again

As readers of this blog know, we adore Mark Twain! And apparently, we are not the only ones. The new Univ of Cal Press “Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1” ($35, 4lbs, and 736 page) is flying off the shelves.

You can read more about it in Julie Bosman’s NY Times review but the upshot is, people love books.  Real books.  The first print run was 7,500.  To date they’ve had to print 275,000 and they still haven’t kept pace with demand.  Do note, we used the word PRINT.  These are not ebooks.  These are printed hardbacks, and of a scholarly variety.

It’s shooting up the Bestseller List, and no doubt in part because Twain was such a beloved figure and such a genuinely American one.  Everyone loves Twain.  And Twain in unexpurgated form?  Could be speaking directly to American situations we face today.

Given all that, we’d totally disagree with Rebecca Fitting, who commented to the Times “It’s totally the Dad book . . . . a certain kind of guy gift book.” People who love autobiography, great writers, history, and quintessentially American Lit, come in both genders and all ages, parental status aside.

No doubt the marketing strategy also played a big part. Publications such as Granta, Newsweek, Playboy and Harper’s Magazine ran excerpt.  A burst of early media coverage this summer, well in advance of the official Nov. 15 publication date, also helped. The publisher also created an eye-catching Web site,, complete with audio, black-and-white photos and a timeline of Twain’s life.



Editors of The Mark Twain Papers (Peg Skorpinski photo)

Whatever the outcome for this year’s sales, we wish University of California Press all the best with its best selling book in 60 years.  Congrats to everyone who worked on the editorial committee of the Mark Twain Papers.  We’re already looking forward to the release of Volumes 2 and 3.

Keep those presses rolling!

Published in: on November 22, 2010 at 6:39 AM  Leave a Comment  
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