Delphinium Books has sold more trade copies of Joseph Caldwell’s Pig Trilogy than any other of its books. And like many success stories of books that come out of relative obscurity, The Pig Trilogy is a perfect example of the mystery of bestsellerdom, an example of why publishing, as hard as it tries, can never be a hard-fact business of past performance and future prediction of what will sell. It comes down to what the public is looking for at any specific time. And this means that some books that would sell 100,000 copies today might only sell 10,000 copies a decade from now. It means that a tried-and-true author with a track record and a following of readers could easily bomb with a book that isn’t necessarily worse than the author’s other books but rather is just a book that people at a certain moment are not interested in reading.
The first of the pig books was published in 2008, and while the author was somewhat known in the literary world as a well-reviewed novelist, his books never sold more than a few thousand copies.
The book’s premise is delightful: a pig escapes from its pen and roots up the garden of Kitty McCloud, a bestselling novelist who corrects the classics. There was a respectful review of the book in The Washington Post and then the book made a list of recommended books and then sales began to jump. Nearly a decade and many thousands of books later, the book is still selling briskly. The author, capitalizing on the interest in his first pig novel, wrote two other pig novels, all of which have sold well.
What is the baseline of continuing sales? Word of mouth. For example, a book can be glowingly reviewed on the evening edition of NPR and generate a few hundred instant sales by readers driving home from work who believe the book sounds interesting. But unless these people actually read the book and recommend it to friends, the sales of the reviewed book will quickly trickle. Yes, another publication might hear the NPR review and then another review will appear and perhaps 50 more people will buy the book based on what they hear. But that still doesn’t account for the thousands of sales that NY Times best sellers rake in every week. There is just something about a pig wrecking havoc in the lives of humans that draws in many readers who are content to keep recommending it to their friends and neighbors.
The e-book of The Pig Comes to Dinner, the second of the three Pig books will be on sale July 1st for $2.99.