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Clancy’s book sales expected to spike following author’s death  

Author Tom Clancy's books are expected to see a surge in popularity following his death Oct. 1, 2013.
Author Tom Clancy's books are expected to see a surge in popularity following his death Oct. 1, 2013.David Burnett / Reuters

Tom Clancy’s death this week is expected to boost popularity for the author of complex military thrillers such as "The Hunt for Red October" and "Clear and Present Danger." And it could prompt an early release of his next novel.

Fans were paying tribute to the author, who died Tuesday at the age of 66, at bookstores and websites, including Clancy’s Facebook page.

“I expect there to be a pretty significant spike in sales for sure,” said Jonathan Stolper, vice president and general manager of Nielsen BookScan, a weekly measure of retail book sales.

BookScan data reflecting the period immediately following Clancy’s death won’t be available for another week, but the hardcover and Kindle version of the author’s forthcoming "Command Authority," scheduled for release Dec. 3, were trending up on Amazon’s list of best-selling novels.

Clancy’s death will “absolutely lead to a short-term burst in sales. We saw the same thing with Julia Child, Pope John Paul and others,” said Michael Norris, senior analyst at Simba Information.

“Part of it is the author’s name is in the news, and when an author dies, it does give people a chance to read about that person’s life and their history with writing,” Norris said.

The phenomenon reaches across the arts. Rock group Queen’s 1975 hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” topped the U.K. charts a second time after singer Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991, and Michael Jackson albums held nine of the top 10 spots on the Billboard Top Pop Catalog Albums chart the first full week in 2009 after the King of Pop’s death (the remaining album in the top 10 was by the Jackson 5).

To what extent Clancy’s death will affect sales depends, in part, on how many copies of his books already exist to meet the demand. Although e-books are increasing in popularity, paperback is still the most popular format overall, Norris said.

“Every publisher in this situation is thinking … ‘Do we have enough inventory?’” Stolper said.

Norris suggested that strong pre-sale demand for "Command Authority" could prompt the publisher to accelerate its release date, a common practice when an event triggers a surge of interest in an upcoming book.

“When there’s an opportunity to get a book out quicker, often they can just buckle down and get it done,” Norris said. “They could probably get something out by the end of this month.”

Erica Glass, spokeswoman for publisher G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group, said, “Nothing has been announced.”