Bookstore Sells Half of All Copies of WWII Book

March 15, 2010
What a difference one bookstore can make. In less than two years, a small bookstore housed inside the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles airport has sold 13,200 copies of a midlist title published by Minneapolis-based Zenith Press, Hell Hawks! The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler's Wehrmacht by Robert F. Dorr and Thomas Jones.

The Udvar-Hazy Center is affiliated with the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in downtown Washington, D.C.; aviation and space artifacts that cannot be displayed at the Air & Space Museum are displayed at this facility in northern Virginia . The main bookstore at the Air & Space Museum's Mall location, which Dorr has visited about a half-dozen times to sign, has sold 250 copies of Hell Hawks!, but it is the bookstore at the center where Dorr is a star.

During Dorr's initial booksigning at the Udvar-Hazy Center bookstore in the summer of 2008, he sold only a dozen copies of Hell Hawks He has returned to the Udvar-Hazy bookstore 330 times since that initial visit, with signings typically ranging between three and eight hours. The bookstore reports that they regularly order 1,000 copies of Hell Hawks! each month, with Dorr selling as many as 120 books during one signing. The Udvar-Hazy Center bookstore has also sold 1,167 copies of Dorr's previous publication, Air Force One since June 2008.

Dorr attributes his success to his strategy of "engaging people, getting them interested." He greets store customers, introducing himself by name, before discussing the book, and scrupulously avoids small talk that may distract him or the customer from the book. "The instant I decide the person is not interested, I move on," he added.

There are approximately 30,000 copies of Hell Hawks! in print, with the ninth print run, 4,000 copies, due to arrive at Zenith's warehouses later this month. To date, a total of 24,268 copies have been sold. Zenith Press is an imprint of Quayside Publishing Group. —Claire Kirch, Publishers Weekly, 3/15/2010