The Bestsellers: Creepy Vintage Photos Propel ‘Peculiar Children’

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, published by independent publisher Quirk Books last week, hardly seems like an obvious bestseller: It’s the first novel by an unknown author, is aimed at teenagers, and was published by a 15-person Philadelphia publisher. But thanks to a mixture of vintage photographs, a fantastic book trailer and an early marketing campaign that included giving chapters of the book away for free–oh, and a pre-publication auction for the film rights, which was won by 20th Century Fox–Miss Peregrine’s Home has shot up the digital bestseller lists. It’s currently #3 on the Nook list.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a coming-of-age ghost story about a 16-year-old boy, Jacob, who was always fascinated by his grandfather’s bizarre collection of mysterious photographs of levitating girls and invisible boys, taken at the strange orphanage where he grew up. After his grandfather’s mysterious murder, Jacob journeys to the remote Welsh island to visit the orphanage, and although it seems impossible, finds the children from the photographs alive and dangerous.

The book is illustrated with nearly 50 actual vintage black-and-white photographs–of things like a boy covered with bees and a hunched old woman smoking a pipe–that Riggs writes into the story. Riggs, who went to film school at USC, started collecting the photos from flea markets years ago, and made a short film about his experience. He also created the book trailer for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children–a process that included traveling to Belgium to shoot footage in abandoned houses.

While Quirk is a small publisher, it has experience with horror and fantasy books: It published international bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies . It’s also the creator of the Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook series. Quirk released the book’s first three chapters as PDFs in the runup to its publication, and they are still available to read for free on the website.

The book’s editor, Quirk Creative Director Jason Rekulak, said it has “been climbing up the rankings online for the past two weeks and this weekend it really went nuts.” He attributes that in part to a feature that ran in the most recent issue of Entertainment Weekly on Friday. Because of all the photos, “this book lends itself especially well to print publicity,” he said.

And because the photos are black and white, they render easily on e-readers. “The photos don’t disrupt the layout of the book, they appear mid-chapter as full pages,” Rekulak said. “Compared to some of the other books we’ve tried to digitize, this one was pretty easy.”

Strange, spooky, Edward Gorey-esque books have done well in recent years. Many reviewers on Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) compared Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to Lemony Snicket’s “Series of Unfortunate Events” 13-book series, which has sold over 60 million copies worldwide. Riggs is currently at work on the next book in the Miss Peregrine series.

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