Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book + Movie = Reader Gold

I have to say, it's been fun watching our Hunger Games display at work. Like pretty much every other bookseller, my store has been doing what it can to cash in on the movie coming up in a few weeks. The books were a big enough deal in their own right, but a blockbuster movie based on those same bestselling books with an incredible marketing campaign? That's gold.

At the very front of our store is a huge display. There's an eye-catching sign of the movie's logo (based on Katniss's mockingjay pin), floor stacks of the first book in several different versions (original paperback, original hardcover, movie version paperback), table stacks of the other two books, racks with additional tie-in books (books about the stars of the movie, books about the tributes, the "official movie guide", even a Hunger Games-inspired cookbook!), t-shirts, wristbands, pins, etc. I don't know the numbers on how well the merchandise is selling, but I do know we receive new items in our shipment every week. Of course, as a fan, I also try to keep an eye out for anything that might tempt me to part with a few of my precious dollars (those t-shirts have come awfully close).

But really, the best part has been seeing whom the books have attracted. Granted, the majority have been teen girls. They're readers who happened upon the books, Twilight or Harry Potter fans looking for their next fix, or just stereotypical teens following the advice of friends. I have fun talking to those fans because they're so ebullient and intense. They have fun discussing every detail as I ring up their purchases and then squeal with anxiety when I mention anything that even remotely sounds like it could lead to a spoiler (unless, of course, they've already read through Mockingjay, in which case they're in one of the stages of grief).

Everyone after Mockingjay
In among the teen girls, however, are the other readers. The older, college-age women (usually also trying to fill a Twilight- or Harry Potter-sized hole) who admit to sneaking in "just one more chapter" between final exams. The mom who comes in to buy the last two books for her ten-year-old son because he read through the first one in only a day and couldn't wait for the rest. The macho, ripped twenty-something men nearly vibrating with anticipation. The older guy who comes in to buy the book for his daughter and ends up reading it himself.

Hunger Games is awesome, y'all. Nine times out of ten, I see only girls in the YA section, but this book brings in just about everybody. Sure, they're coming in because of the movie, but they're staying for the books. And why not? It has action, tension, blood and guts, romance that's tender but not over-the-top, suspense, emotion, high stakes, everything! The main character is a strong female who avoids being obnoxious or overbearing, and guys play roles just as important (Peeta is the bomb-diggity). The violence might worry some parents, but gore seems to bother people a lot less than profanity or sex, so the book remains open to a wider swath of people.

All it takes is one book. Once we find out someone likes Hunger Games, then we can say, "Hey, have you tried Divergent? What about Under the Never Sky? Graceling is pretty awesome, why don't you give it a go?" We give them books close to what they just read to keep them comfortable, but they won't stay there. Because maybe they came for the romance or for the dystopian setting or for the gore or even for the hunting. They'll start to find other books that aren't quite so close but still have just enough of that particular theme to catch their attention. And then they'll explore some more. They'll branch out. Maybe some of them will never branch out as far as Jane Eyre or Dune or The Marriage Plot, but that's okay. In the long run, I don't care if our customers are diverse readers.

I just care that they're readers.

So what are you all thinking about this Hunger Games craze? Is it a good thing? Just another example of oversaturated marketing? Who are some of the most unlikely Hunger Games fans that you've met? And what book would you recommend for a Games fan?