First-time author finds audience in New York pop-up bookstore

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First-time author finds audience in New York pop-up bookstore

Visitors to one New York City bookstore can browse its “New and Noteworthy” or “Science” sections or even “Staff Favorites” but all they will find is thousands of copies of a single book.

“Please let us know if we can help you find something,” Andrew Kessler told customers on Friday amid shelves and tables piled with copy after copy of a hardcover called “Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen, and My 90 Days with the Phoenix Mars Mission.”

It’s author, Kessler, 32, said that in the last few weeks he has sold nearly 500 copies of the only book he stocks.

“We have a highly curated aesthetic,” he said in an interview at the store, called Ed’s Martian Book. (There is no Ed, but Kessler thought that was the most likely name for the sort of guy who would open such a business.)

“It’s so hard to get people to notice if you’re a first-time author,” said Kessler, who is otherwise the creative director at an advertising agency.

The $27.95 book is a behind-the-scenes account of the three months Kessler spent in 2009 observing the scientists who worked on NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander mission, which is celebrated for confirming the presence of water on the planet.

Kessler said he did not intend the month-long pop-up bookstore to be a profitable business so much as a cross between a marketing stunt and conversation piece at a time when many conventional bookstores and publishers are struggling.

“The crazy thing is we’re actually pretty close to breaking even,” he added, sounding surprised.

Pegasus Books, Kessler’s New York-based publisher, sold him the 3,000 books at a discount. He says his landlord gave him a good deal on the rent for a space that would have otherwise sat empty before a coffee shop moves in later in May.

“I don’t think anybody thinks he’s going to sell out,” said Jessica Case, Kessler’s editor at Pegasus Books. “But that kind of wasn’t the idea. It’s to get people excited about the book, to make a comment on the future of books.”

Reaction from customers was varied. Curious passers-by stared through the window on a quiet Friday afternoon, audibly trying to figure out what they were seeing. “This is so interesting they only sell one book,” said a man excitedly as he dashed back outside to his friend waiting by the store’s window.

Inside, Roslyn Hart, a theater writer and performer from Manhattan, picked up a copy and strode up to the counter. “I’m buying it just because I respect your idea, but it better be good,” she announced.

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