On Booksellers and Bestsellers …

Lise Schonewille, bookbuyer at Mac’s Fireweed Books, pegs Northern books as her biggest sellers, followed by general fiction, sci-fi/fantasy, mystery and crime.

Her counterpart, in Anchorage, Angela Lebeau of Title Wave Books, agrees.

They sell primarly used books, Alaskana discovered in attics and sheds throughout the state. For mass market titles, however, a bestseller is “a book that’s moving multiple copies per day with several weeks’ staying power.”

In the NWT, bookbuying reflects a particularly Canadian literacy gap. Judith Drinnan, owner of the Book Cellar, in Yellowknife, buys for a market where literacy might be as high as 95 per cent in the capital or in Norman Wells, and as low as 35 per cent in the communities.

“A ‘bestseller’ is one that reorders and sells every month.” Drinnan advises writers that “circumpolar is the way to go.”

Neil Hartling, author of Nahanni: River of Gold, agrees. “Alaska to Nunavut is the market to get into.”

Hartling, the owner of Nahanni River Adventures, partnered with the Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association to sell 7,000 copies of his book and now his wilderness webstore carries over 40 Northern books.


According to YTG Tourism statistics, about 250,000 tourists come north every year with either 1,300 Euros or $550 US to spend per trip. One in five is a “soft” wilderness adventurer, 18 to 44 years old with the education and income to support “reading for fun”.

Granted, not every tourist dollar goes to literature but, in 2005, the majority of visitors told the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) that they enjoy “shopping at the North’s unique local bookstores and boutiques”. That means plenty of book sales are rung in at cafés, museums, gift shops and gas stations.


StatsCan predicts that when we retire, reading seniors (especially men) will double the time devoted to reading all those books they wanted to read for the last 20 years. Local writers can add their titles to the stack now.

And when our visitors are 45 to 70 years of age, what will they do? the CTC asked.

Today’s tourists predicted that in 25 years they’d still be travelling, but participate in low-stress activities. Readings, writings, workshops and literary festivals that appeal to four to seven per cent of North Americans, right now, will enjoy a 45 per cent rise in popularity.

US travellers, primarily Californians and New Yorkers, find our Aboriginal cultural experiences unique in North America. This reflects a synergy, detected by the CTC, “between the outdoor segments and their interest in heritage and cultural offerings”.

Europeans crave locally produced art and books, especially in their first language, cultural activities and evening events.

It’s a clear invitation for us to write, keep writing and create venues to bring our writing to our readers.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top