The Handmaid's Tale and the Emmys

Many of us had tears in our eyes when we saw Margaret Atwood climb the stage at the Emmys (yes, clutching her purse) and shook our fist at the sky when she didn’t receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Regardless, having both The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace on the small screen makes it a huge and exciting year for Atwood.

Gif of Margaret Atwood on stage at the Emmys.

A number of us at BookNet Canada started wondering whether the win of the biggest US primetime television award might impact sales of The Handmaid’s Tale in Canada. Given that the book was originally published in 1986, and with sales already being elevated for months, would this win be able to further increase sales?

The answer is a resounding yes.

A couple of things to remember: We can't report on the sales of individual titles but we can look at percent change to give you an idea of how much those sales are fluctuating. Also, as mentioned above, sales of The Handmaid's Tale started increasing in late 2016 and have continued to rise in the lead-up to the television show (which you can see in the graph below). 

Click on the graph to make it larger.

In this graph, we have plotted the two ISBNs that are currently actively available in the Canadian market: 9780771008795 has a 2011 publication date and 9780735253308, the TV tie-in edition, has a 2017 publication date. Both books are trade paperbacks with the same list price, and the 2017 edition has higher on-hand numbers. We've added the total sales for the two editions to get these percent changes, which illustrate fluctuations in sales across the market as a whole. 

When The Handmaid's Tale premiered on April 26, 2017, there was a sales increase of 82% between the week before and the week after the first episode. Sales continued increasing over the next three weeks until they reached a peak increase of 148% as compared to the week before the premiere. 

Sales then remained strong but started to decline slightly leading up to the Emmys, though they remained higher than before the TV show aired. You can see in the graph above the distinct spike in sales after the Emmys broadcast on Sept. 17, 2017. Sales increased by an additional 78% between the week before and the week after the Emmy win.

So to sum up, having your book made into a TV show is great for sales. Having that TV show win a major industry award is even better. And we'll continue to hope that next year will be the Nobel year.