Book Stokes Vampire Fever at Stores’ Parties

When the Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., hosted a book signing in 2005 to promote a new local author, Stephenie Meyer, the response for a first-time novelist was typically lukewarm.

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Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times

Sydney Noel, 13, left, of Seattle was among the crowd at a Borders bookstore in Manhattan.

“Maybe 50 people showed up,” recalled Cindy Dach, the store’s general manager. “And I’m pretty sure most of them were her friends and family.”

Three years later, “Breaking Dawn,” Ms. Meyer’s fourth and final book in her Twilight vampire-romance series (which began with the best-selling novel “Twilight”) was unveiled on Friday night with thousands of parties across the country to mark its officially going on sale at 12:01 a.m.

It was released amid confident predictions from bookstores that it would be the industry’s blockbuster of 2008.

Sydney Noel, 13, who had won a nationwide sweepstakes to fly to New York, have a private half-hour meeting with Ms. Meyer and then be handed the first copy to go on sale at midnight, could not believe her luck. “It means a lot to a Twilight fan,” said Sydney, a Seattle eighth grader. “I never thought anybody ever won these things. To get the first book — it’s amazing.”

“This is certainly going to be the biggest book of the year, without a doubt,” said Diane Mangan, the director of the children’s department for Borders Group.

Barnes & Noble planned to hold vampire-theme parties in more than 600 of its stores on Friday night, and invited readers to arrive in costume, socialize and play Twilight trivia. Borders Group was expecting more than 100,000 fans at 900 Twilight-theme parties at its Waldenbooks and Borders stores.

Katie Herzer, 14, showed up at Wordsmiths Books in Decatur, Ga., an Atlanta suburb, a couple of hours before the books were to go on sale. “We got really sad when Harry Potter was over,” she said. “It’s great to find a new series we can read and maybe grow old with.”

Wordsmiths had been decked out to resemble a vampire prom, with red-and-black balloons and a photo area decorated with bleak black crepe. Some 175 people had R.S.V.P.’d to attend the store’s party and were told to dress in red and black. Many wore buttons reading “I Was Bitten by Breaking Dawn.” A goth band was to play vampire tunes.

In New York, several hundred people, most of them teenage girls, were spread around two floors of the Borders book store near Madison Square Garden. Three makeup artists were decorating faces — white makeup with red lipstick, fake tattoos and gruesome red scratch marks (“Everyone deserves to look like a vampire,” said Grace Quinones, 29, one of the volunteer artists) — while a fortune teller sat at a table in the window. There was a fashion show and a trivia contest. Upstairs, a heated debate was under way about which boy the series’ heroine should end up with, Edward the vampire or Jacob the werewolf.

“There’s a lot of conflict between the characters,” said Dan Dupuis, 27, of Fall River, Mass., his face white, his lips red. “It really draws you in.” He paused before adding, “I’m an Edward fan.”

His wife, Jessica Dupuis, 25, also in full vampire makeup, piped up happily, “I’m a Jacob fan.”

Mr. Dupuis noted: “That starts some fights at home.”

Both chain stores and independent booksellers said they were hoping to tap into the intense devotion, unseen since last July, when the final installment in the Harry Potter series sent readers to midnight parties in droves.

In interviews Ms. Meyer, 34, has resisted comparisons to J. K. Rowling, whose Harry Potter series has 140 million copies in print in the United States, according to its publisher.

“It’s a completely different story line and a completely different fan base,” said Kim Brown, the vice president for specialty books at Barnes & Noble. “But what it does have in common is that it’s all based on word of mouth.”

While the Harry Potter series was geared more toward middle-school children, Twilight is aimed at high school girls.

The Twilight series tells the story of Bella, an innocently angst-ridden teenage girl who must choose between her two suitors.

Beyond their fan base of teenage girls, and a handful of boys, the books have also been embraced by conservative-minded women in their 20s and 30s who praise the squeaky-clean morals of the books’ teenage heroine. (She and Edward kiss now and then, but that’s about it, and the vampires drink animal blood rather than human blood.)

“It’s sensual without being erotic or explicit,” said Ms. Mangan of Borders. “Moms and daughters can read it and have conversations about abstinence.”

Ms. Meyer is a graduate of Brigham Young University who lives outside Phoenix with her husband and three young sons. She chafes at constant mentions of her Mormon religion in the press. (“You didn’t hear people saying, ‘Jon Stewart, Jewish writer,’ when his book came out,” she told USA Today.)

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Ms. Meyer’s publisher and a division of Hachette Book Group, has printed 3.2 million copies, the largest first printing in the publisher’s history. The first novel, “Twilight,” has spent 49 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and will be released as a film in December.

Yet despite Ms. Meyer’s enormous following and her perch on the best-seller lists, she is far from a household name.

That includes close to home, said Ms. Dach of the Changing Hands bookstore, which planned its own midnight party, complete with two rock bands and a Red Cross bloodmobile.

“Even in Arizona,” Ms. Dach said, “there are people who are like, ‘Who? What?’ ”

At Wordsmiths, Hannah Thrasher, 14, clutched the precious copy she’d bought just after midnight after driving 90 minutes with her mother from their home in Gilmer County, Ga. “I was planning on reading it all through the night,” she said. “But my mom says I have to go to sleep.”


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