Laurie Hertzel is senior editor for books at the Star Tribune, where she has worked since 1996. She is the author of "News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist," winner of a Minnesota Book Award.

Augsburg College author gets the 'Colbert bump'

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Book news, Local authors Updated: July 22, 2014 - 4:39 PM
Stephan Eirik Clark

Stephan Eirik Clark. Augsburg College photo by Stephen Geffre

A second debut novelist got the "Colbert bump" last night on the "The Colbert Report"--this time it was St. Paul author Stephan Eirik Clark, who teaches at Augsburg College. His novel, "Sweetness No. 9"--which will be published Aug. 19--was recommended on the show by novelist Edan Lepucki.

Overnight, his book shot up from being unlisted on Powell's Books best-seller list, to number three.

Lepucki was paying it forward; her own debut novel, "California," became a New York Times best-seller after Colbert recommended it a few weeks ago as part of his attack on Amazon.

Colbert's love for first-time Hachette authors and disdain for Amazon stems from an ongoing dispute between the publishing group and the internet retailer over e-book pricing. Authors and customers are caught in the middle, as Amazon has severely restricted sales of Hachette books. (This includes books published by Grand Central, Little Brown, Hyperion, and others, and it includes authors J.K. Rowling, Kate Atkinson and David Baldacci. It also includes Lepucki and Clark--and Colbert.)

Not-yet-published Hachette books, such as Clark's, are listed on Amazon as "currently unvailable," with no option for pre-ordering. Other Hachette books face five- and six-week delays in shipping. Colbert has asked his viewers to buy books--specifically, Hachette books--from independent booksellers, and his first recommendation was for Lepucki's "California." He challenged viewers to make it a best-seller, and they did.

"Is there another Hachette author that you'd like to recommend?" Colbert asked Lepucki night. "I'm reading Stephan Eirik Clark's 'Sweetness No 9,' which is sooo good," Lepucki said. (She later said on Twitter that the book is "funny, moving, like DeLillo crossed with AM Homes.")

Clark said this morning that when his publisher and agent told him yesterday that his book would be bumped on the Colbert Report, he was left uncharacteristically speechless.

"You'd think I would burst out with an excited speech, but I just didn’t have anything to say," he said. "It was too good for words."

Clark's first book, a collection of short stories called "Vladimir's Mustache," was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. "Going with a small press for my collection, I didn’t expect to find readers," he said. "I’ve experienced the absence of readers, and so it’s encouraging to think that this one might find a readership, and I'm extremely grateful."

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