The Book Cellar Gives ‘Pale King’ the Royal Treatment

By Patty Wetli | Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It was challenge enough for editors to take an unfinished manuscript by the late author David Foster Wallace and turn it into the novel that is The Pale King. Now booksellers are left with the conundrum of how to promote the work without the typical assist from a book tour and author appearances.

The Book Cellar (4736-38 N. Lincoln) has hit upon an interesting solution. The indie shop is throwing a party for The Pale King on April 15 at 7 p.m., featuring local authors who will read from their favorite DFW pieces and share original essays on his work. Set to appear: Patrick Somerville, Marcus Sakey, Adam Levin, Kyle Beachy and Jon Baskin.

“I guess Harry Potter is a big authorless event,” says The Book Cellar owner Suzy Takacs, searching for a precedent.

In fact, Takacs was hoping for Potter-like buzz surrounding The Pale King, with excitement building toward the April 15 release date. The book’s publisher unexpectedly took some of the wind out of her sails when it OK’d sales online in late March.

“This was a big book,” Takacs says, “and we were planning the event around that [April 15] date.”

Between Wallace’s fans and those of the authors scheduled to appear, Takacs is still expecting a sizeable crowd. Because this is likely to be the last work from Wallace, she also suspects more readers will spring for a physical copy than an electronic version.

“There are some books that you just want to consume,” she says. “And then there are books that you want to hold and collect.” Takacs is banking that The Pale King falls into the latter group but is hedging her bets—The Book Cellar recently partnered with Google to begin offering eBooks via the shop’s website.

It’s not exactly a newsflash that brick-and-mortar bookstores are facing stiff competition from their online counterparts. In the wake of Borders all but closing up shop in the city of Chicago, Takacs says, “It’s my hope that people will consider us for their eBook and book purchases. It’s my fear that they’ll all just go to Amazon.”

As she heads into busy season—publishers tend to release their blockbusters in April and May—Takacs is hoping for the best. She’s currently getting a lift from an unlikely source: TV and film.

With Games of Thrones about to debut on HBO and casting underway for The Hunger Games, sales of books in those series are on the upswing.

“People want to read the book before the movie comes out,” Takacs explains.

Hopefully they’ll want to read in hardcover or paperback, purchased from their favorite indie bookstore.

“The word I’m trying to convey,” Takacs says, “is that if you love your neighborhood, you need to shop there.”

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