May 10, 2016

How indie booksellers literally put The Mirror Thief on the map


Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 5.58.38 PMMartin Seay’s The Mirror Thief is a 600-page debut novel about Venice. Three Venices, to be specific. It can’t be pigeonholed into one single genre; here it’s a hardboiled detective thriller, here it’s an impressionistic dreamscape, here it’s a lush and ornate renaissance period piece. It’s also, in a word, a masterpiece.

But plenty of masterpieces, probably too many, go unread. Which is why from the moment we acquired the book we began sending it to the readers whom we knew were capable of making a debut novel break out in a big way. I’m talking, of course, about indie booksellers.

First, Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson wrote personal notes to dozens of the owners, buyers, and managers of indie bookstores around the country asking them to take a look at the manuscript that had made him decide to publish the book — that is, the actual, unedited, typescript manuscript, just as it had come to him. It was a big ask, he admitted, to get such busy people to look at a book that in manuscript was close to 700 pages, but on the other hand, he reminded them that he almost never asked them for a favor and was considerate of their time.

Associate publisher Eric Price, meanwhile, came right behind him, reaching out to his own contact list, which, after decades at Grove Atlantic, is ginormous. Concurrently, we were binding the typescript to send out to as many booksellers as responded agreeably, which was considerable. Then I followed Dennis’ and Eric’s efforts by reaching out to my own list in an attempt to get to at booksellers working the floor  … as did my colleague (and former bookseller ) Chad Felix … while the editorial department hustled through editing and copyediting the manuscript for a proper galley.

And sure enough, by the time were ready to make those galleys, we’d received so many rave reviews back from our queries that we printed those blurbs on the galley cover—and the spine, after we ran out of room. We didn’t even put the title on the cover, using that space for still more blurbs. Still, we couldn’t fit them all.

It’s been an amazing journey over the last year as Martin’s book moves closer and closer to publication, all the while picking up more adulation every step of the way. It was especially touching introducing Martin to a lot of those early readers at this year’s ABA Winter Institute. So now, we’re paying tribute to those dedicated booksellers.

We talk a lot about the importance of indie booksellers to the current state of literature. But sometimes, it’s better to show, not tell. So right now, if you visit, you’ll see the many testimonials about The Mirror Thief from indie booksellers; plus, if you click a bookseller’s blurb on the page, it links to that bookstore’s page. That way, anyone who visits the site can order their copy from the people who championed it first.

Read an excerpt of The Mirror Thief here, and buy your copy from some of America’s finest indie bookstores at



Liam O’Brien is the Senior Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.