Man Booker winner Anna Burns’s ‘Milkman’ sells 330,000 copies, ‘rising by thousands every day’
Demand has been ‘astonishing’, with hugely positive response from retailers, says Faber
Anna Burns celebrates winning the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel, Milkman. Photograph: EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga
Sales of Anna Burns’s Milkman have been rising daily since it won the Man Booker Prize in mid-October. Publisher Faber & Faber says that demand has been astonishing. The novel has sold 63,288 copies through Nielsen BookScan and 250,000 paperback copies out of its warehouse.
“The demand has been astonishing and it’s received an overwhelmingly positive response from retailers,” Faber publisher Alex Bowler told trade journal the Bookseller. “They have taken Anna and Milkman to their hearts, and they seem thrilled to have the opportunity to sell a Man Booker winner in the most flexible format for promotions, in an outstanding package, at the busiest time of year.”
Some 57,682 of the Nielsen sales were after it was announced as the Booker winner, according to Nielsen BookScan, and 8,000 were over the past week. Faber says 330,000 copies have been sold across all editions, and this is “rising by the thousands every day”.
The 250,000 paperbacks sold from Faber’s warehouse includes international, UK and Irish retailers who don’t feed into Nielsen’s figures. Faber is reported to have reprinted 130,000 copies over the past month due to demand.
News of the sales figures seem to disprove some predictions that the first Northern Ireland Man Booker winner might not sell well. The Guardian’s Claire Armistead praised the “boldly experimental” and “smartly provocative” choice as the publishing industry was looking for “the soul of its next generation”, but said “it would depress a good few booksellers as an opener for the festive sales season”. Others said the book was “difficult” and wouldn’t appeal to the public.
Milkman has been sold by literary agent David Grossman to 23 international territories since the Man Booker win. Graywolf will publish Milkman in the US on December 4th. Grossman told The Bookseller: “I find it very significant that the deals made in both China and Korea far exceed all those made elsewhere, including the major European languages.”
Just after Milkman won the Man Booker, Irish Times Books Editor Martin Doyle reported is was the No 1 bestseller on Amazon in Britain and that Faber had printed more than 150,000 copies. “It had sold only just over 6,000 copies prior to its win, but the signs were there if you knew where to look, unlike the bookies who had it as a rank outsider. Nielsen BookScan statistics showed it was the most popular shortlisted title and had benefited most since being shortlisted.”
Faber’s Bowler told the Bookseller that the novel, about the sexual harassment of a young woman in a divided society, resonated strongly with the public. He said “Milkman does seem to be riding the crest of a very rare wave. Whether it’s coming in the wake of the #MeToo movement, or bringing home the realities of a hard border between Ireland and the UK, the novel feels powerfully relevant and is clearly striking a deep chord.”
He also said Milkman’s success is down to the “pure quality of the book; the journey of its protagonist ‘Middle Sister’; the invention and music of its voice, and the timely power of its themes”, as well as the media interest in and “genuine public affection” for Burns herself.
Booksellers have praised the novel. Dave Torrens, owner of No Alibis Bookshop in Belfast, told the Bookseller the response to the book was “very heartening”. “It is as relevant to those who lived through troubled periods as it is to their children,” he said.
In more good news for Irish writers, Sally Rooney has won International Author of the Year for her second novel, Normal People, at the National Book Awards in London.