Bernardine Evaristo doubles lifetime sales in five days after joint Booker win

Almost 6,000 copies of Girl, Woman, Other sold in the week after Evaristo’s win alongside Margaret Atwood

Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other more than doubled its lifetime sales in the week following its Booker prize win, with joint winner The Testaments by Margaret Atwood also flying off bookshop shelves.

New sales figures from Nielsen BookScan show that, in the five days following its win last Monday, Girl, Woman, Other sold 5,980 copies, a stratospheric 1,340% boost in sales week on week. In its previous five months on sale, the polyphonic novel, mostly narrated by black women, had sold 4,391 copies.

This puts Evaristo in seventh place in this week’s hardback fiction chart, behind Atwood’s already-bestselling follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale. The Testaments sits in third place after selling 13,400 copies following the prize win, adding to its lifetime sales of 191,108.

Waterstones fiction buyer Bea Carvalho said that there had been “sales uplift for both titles” following the controversial joint Booker win, but it was Girl, Woman, Other that has seen the greatest spike. “We have also enjoyed an uplift for some of Evaristo’s backlist, and look forward to building on this further,” she said.

Chair of judges Peter Florence announced last week that the panel of five judges had been unable to settle on a winner for the £50,000 prize, and instead – against the rules of the institution and the advice of its literary director – had decided to split it. “The more we talked about them, the more we treasured both of them and wanted them both as winners … We couldn’t separate them,” he said.

A chorus of mounting criticism followed, over the fact that the first black woman to win the Booker has to share it, and over fears that Atwood’s celebrity could overshadow Evaristo’s win.

Readers expressed frustration with the lack of copies of Girl, Woman, Other on display in some bookshops, with some sharing images of tables stacked high with The Testaments and only a few copies of Girl, Woman, Other alongside. On Twitter, former children’s laureate Malorie Blackman wrote: “This makes me sad. This makes me tired. I’ve seen other bookshops display only Margaret Atwood’s book as winner of the Booker Prize. Do better.”

One Twitter user, Liz Whitehouse, showed Waterstones Liverpool with a big table of The Testaments under the banner “winner”, with no sign of Evaristo’s book. “No mention on the sign, or on ANY surrounding table on the upstairs displays, and a tiny display downstairs overshone and tiny in front of a HUGE Testaments display. Pretty disgraceful,” she wrote.

Carvalho said copies of Girl, Woman, Other had sold out in most Waterstones branches “very quickly” after the announcement, while most shops still had many copies of The Testaments following the significant publicity around its launch in late September.

Evaristo’s publisher, Hamish Hamilton, rushed through a reprint of 90,000 copies of the novel following its win, and praised “the outpouring of love and support from booksellers all over the country” that it has received. Stock reached most Waterstones branches by the weekend, Carvalho said, adding that sales of Evaristo’s book exceeded those of The Testaments on Saturday across the chain.


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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