What books are racking up deals, and hitting bestseller lists, outside the U.S.? This week we look at the Dutch hit The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, which has been a mainstay on Dutch bestseller lists since it was released last summer, and continues to draw headlines as the press tries to figure out who is behind the pseudonymous work, written as the diary of an elderly man.
Book title: Attempts to Make Something of Life. The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old.
Publisher: Meulenhoff (The Netherlands)
Publication date: June 2014
Author: Hendrik Groen is an alias, and Meulenhoff released the book as fiction. As Hendrik cryptically explained: "Nothing is a lie, but not everything is true." In the media there has been a lot of speculation about who Hendrik Groen could be. Is he an actual octogenarian? Is he a famous Dutch writer? A well-known Dutch stand-up comedian? He remains anonymous, and the only thing that his publisher has revealed is that he is currently writing another diary.
Acquiring Editor: Meulenhoff publisher Paloma Sánchez van Dijck
How It’s Performed: Rights have sold in 21 countries--with a number of deals made in pre-empts or at auction. At Frankfurt, Meulenhoff will host a Hendrik Groen Drinks Party, so all of the book's international publishers can meet. The book has been on the Dutch bestseller list for 30 weeks and, as of press time, was at #27 (its highest spot to date). So far, 40,000 copies have sold in The Netherlands, and a deal for TV rights has been made with a Dutch production company. (The planned TV show is a comedy in the vein of The Office.)
Why the Book Seems to Be Working: Sánchez van Dijck believes that much of the title's success is owed to word-of-mouth. "Readers are passing it on to other readers, booksellers are falling in love with it and making sure their clients know about it, and famous Dutch writers are recommending it," she said. She also believes the book's subject matter is striking a chord with a diverse population. "We think that the topic [Groen] is writing about is a very important one nowadays," she added. "The way we treat the elderly in our society says a lot about the values a country holds high."