For the second time in two years Greystone Books, the Canadian small press that began as an imprint of D&M Publishers, is poised to hit the bestsellers list. On September 13, it will publish the English-language edition of German forest ranger Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, which has topped Germany’s Der Spiegel list for the past year, often at #1.
The Hidden Life of Trees will launch with a minimum of 45,000 copies in North America, the biggest first printing in the publisher's 23-year history. Greystone will publish another 5,000 copies of its English-language edition in the U.K.
Because Greystone has an editorial consultant in Germany, it was able to scoop up both books early. In the case of the Wohlleben, Greystone was in the midst of contracting for English-language rights to the book last August, just as The Hidden Life of Trees was being prepped for publication in Germany. Sanders said that he wasn’t interested in the book because he thought it was going to be a bestseller. Instead, he was drawn to the book because it fits squarely into Greystone’s publishing program, which is built on nonfiction titles about humans' relationship to the planet and the natural world.
The book’s strong sales in Germany have helped propel advance orders. There has also been a notable uptick since January, when a profile of Wohlleben ran in the New York Times.
Greystone marketing director Jen Gauthier added that pre-orders got a boost from another plug The Hidden Life of Trees got in the Times. In July, in a Q&A with primatologist Frans De Waal that ran in the paper's Sunday Review section, he said he was currently reading Wohlleben's book. De Waal noted that the work gives "the impression there is sentience all around us.”
Last week, the American Booksellers Association announced that The Hidden Life of Trees is a September Indie Next Pick. The book is also a September pick at Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., the German Book Office’s book of the month in September, and an October book of the month selection at University Bookstore in Seattle. Stephen Sparks of Green Apple Books on the Park in San Francisco said that the book features "the kind of writing that can profoundly affect the way we live on this planet."
Wohlleben will do a brief five-city North American tour in early October, with stops at McNally Jackson in New York City, Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, and the Vancouver Writers Festival. Gauthier said she has received a number of requests from stores in rural communities, but was unable to fill them since Wohlleben has to be back in Germany for the German Book Fair.
Greystone will publish Wohlleben's latest book, The Emotional Life of Animals, in fall 2017, which is also on Germany's bestsellers list.