Shelf Awareness

From My Shelf

Indie Success Story

Elena Ferrante is a phenomenon. The Italian novelist has used a pen name since the publication of her first novel, The Days of Abandonment; she avers that “books, once they are written, have no need of their authors.” Speculation about her identity is widespread, driven by the fervor of her fans and adulatory reviews. Her four Neapolitan novels are wildly successful: Book 4, The Story of the Lost Child, debuted at #3 on the New York Times bestseller list late last month; book 1, My Brilliant Friend, hit the list in 2012. All four books (Book 2, The Story of a New Name; Book 3,Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay) are national Indie Bestsellers.

According to Michael Reynolds, editor-in-chief of Europa Editions, her publisher in both the U.S and U.K., this is thanks to the unwavering support Europa and Ferrante have received from independent booksellers from the beginning, when Europa published Ferrante’s first book in 2005. Reynolds says it found a small but devoted readership largely through indie handselling. Since then, her readership and sales have grown because of the booksellers’ commitment: “We are closing in on half a million copies sold of the Neapolitan series. The proportion of our sales through indie channels is much higher than the industry average. This has always been true for all books on our list. The fact that this proportion remains constant is testament to the vitality of independently owned bookstores and their effectiveness in ‘moving units,’ as they say. The degree to which independent stores can be effective is too often downplayed.” He believes that the success of both Ferrante and Europa Editions has only been possible “because we enjoy close and fruitful partnerships with independent retailers. Ferrante’s current success is nothing if not an all-indie success story that has been 10 years in the making.” —Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers