Elmore Leonard: Dying Improves Book Sales

Douglas A. McIntyre

Supposedly the works of many great painters do not reach their peak value until the artists are dead. In the case of Elmore Leonard, who sold millions of books when he was alive, a related phenomenon is true. Promotions for his books are everywhere. Sales of the more than 40 books he wrote almost certainly will skyrocket.

The first evidence that retailers and publisher will cash in on Leonard's death is the front page at Amazon.com Inc.'s (AMZN) book section. Under "More to explore" is the first promotion:

Award-winning author Elmore Leonard has died. His books--more than 40 in all--include Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and the Raylan Givens stories that inspired the television series Justified. He was 87.

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The "40 books" phrase is linked to another page that allows people to buy all of Leonard's books online. Members of the Amazon Prime program get a big discount on most titles. People who want to read the novels on their Kindles get a break on price as well.

Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS) does not want to be topped in the Elmore Leonard sweepstakes. It lists 428 "products" when the author's works are searched. The troubled retailer also has special prices. In Barnes & Noble's case, it is for e-books to read on its nearly dead Nook e-reader.

Even a Google Inc. (GOOG) search of "Elmore Leonard books" brings back results that allow searchers to buy his work. At the top of the Google search results page are pictures of the covers of Leonard's novels. From each of these pictures is a link to buy that book at Amazon.com.

Finally, at ElmoreLeonard.com is an entire section devoted to the writer's works. This section reads:

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By buying your Elmore Leonard books and any other Amazon product through this store, you are supporting elmoreleonard.com and insuring it's continued success and development. Click on the Amazon link to go to Amazon.Com. As long as you start at the Bookstore, We get a percentage of every item sold.

A "percentage of every item sold" makes him like most authors. Art for art's sake, but some amount of money to live (or die) on as well.

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