Looking for Alaska came out 385 weeks ago, in March of 2005. I’d written the book over the previous five years with much help from lots of people: my best friend, Shannon James; my mentor, Ilene Cooper; the woman who was at the time my girlfriend and is now my wife; and my passionate, relentless editor Julie Strauss-Gabel.
I was excited to publish a book, but I was also realistic about it. I’d worked at Booklist Magazine for almost five years by then, and so I knew that almost all books—even great ones—never find a broad readership.
I was proud of Alaska, but I didn’t really know whether anyone would like it. It was very personal to me—on some level, it was just a love letter to my high school friends and the extraordinary place we shared.
But Alaska was met with very kind reviews, and it sold okay in those first few months. A lot of great things happened for Alaska in 2005: It was published in several languages, something I could never have imagined. The movie rights sold unexpectedly thanks to the commitment and ceaseless energy of a brilliant young agent, Adrian, who tragically died a few days after closing the deal. Julie worked tirelessly with the help of the marketing team at Penguin to make sure that everyone in the world of young adult books read it.
And then Alaska won the Michael L. Printz Award, the highest honor in YA literature. The Printz gave the book a huge boost, and suddenly I had emails—a couple every week—from readers who’d connected to Alaska.
A few months after the Printz, sales began to slow, and although the paperback was published with a big marketing push, it didn’t do particularly well. I published another novel, then started making videos with my brother.
Weeks passed. Hundreds of them.
Around 2010, something weird started to happen to Looking for Alaska: Sales, which had been consistently good but unspectacular, began to climb. Was it the videos? The peopleraindrizzlehurricane quotes on tumblr? Or just word-of-mouth finally kicking in? I don’t know. But the book found more and more readers, who were generous enough to share the book with their friends and families, and Alaska—which by now was so dated (a payphone?) that it read like the historical fiction it kind of is—just kept growing.
It came out 385 weeks ago. But it wasn’t until THIS week that Looking for Alaska sold enough copies to crack the New York Times bestseller list for the first time. Alaska still means a lot to me, and it’s hugely gratifying that so many years later people continue to find it and share it.
So I just want to say thanks to all of you who’ve read the book—whether in 2005 or earlier this week. It is a great comfort to know that Alaska and Pudge and the Colonel and the rest of them continue to live with and through you.
4601 Notes/ Hide
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- dn-mdn said: I just finished it this week. Now belongs to my favorite books pile. :)
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