Monday, March 2, 2009

The Starbucks Effect

Publishers Weekly reports that Starbucks has selected Actress Isabel Gillies's Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story as the next book featured in 7,000 Starbucks locations across the U.S. beginning March 24. Gillies's memoir is about "the collapse of her marriage."

To date, Starbucks has pushed seven titles. For some, the "Starbucks effect" is huge, catapulting a book to bestseller status. For example, Starbucks claims it sold about 120,000 copies of Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone last year. Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain has also enjoyed considerable success. Other titles have fared less well. Daren Simkin's The Traveler, an illustrated fable co-published by Starbucks and FSG, had very modest trade sales. According to Publisher's Lunch, the least successful Starbucks title so far is Helene Cooper's The House at Sugar Beach.

Just about all the Starbucks picks have been memoirs. Why is that? I'm guessing that, by choosing memoirs, the corporate types at Starbucks are hoping to appeal to the broadest audience possible. Women typically read more fiction than men, and men typically read more non-fiction than women. The "inspirational memoir" genre, while non-fiction (excepting all the fake memoirs to surface recently), has many of the narrative elements that appeal to fiction readers. Personally, I have memoir fatigue.

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