Four years after relaunching as an independent press in 2013—following the bankruptcy of D&M Publishers, its parent company—Greystone Books is working hard to replicate the success of 2016’s huge hit, The Hidden Life of Trees, by German environmentalist Peter Wohlleben, with its sequel, The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion—Surprising Observations of a Hidden World.
The Vancouver publisher, known for its list of titles on the relationships between humans, nature, and the planet, is publishing the English-language edition in North America with a November 7 laydown date. (The German-language original will be released this month.) Due to strong preorders, the book is pubbing with a 70,000-copy initial print run, the largest in the history of the press. Following the model of his previous book, Wohlleben, a park ranger who manages a municipally owned woodland area in Hümmel, Germany, explains how animals think and feel and why they behave the way they do, based on his own observations and the latest scientific discoveries.
The press has been promoting The Inner Life of Animals with a multipronged marketing push, beginning with placing 600 advance reader’s copies in the hands of key U.S. and Canadian booksellers. “We hope booksellers will read it in advance and handsell it,” said Jennifer Gauthier, Greystone’s director of sales and marketing. “As an indie press, we depend on indie booksellers.”
The press’s marketing and publicity strategies include targeting both traditional media outlets and social media. As Gauthier explained, “We’re trying to follow a similar model to what we did with The Hidden Life of Trees.” Preorders took off for Trees after the New York Times published a profile of Wohlleben nine months before its release date, and the book has sold about 250,000 copies in the U.S. Gauthier noted that social media also played a major role in the success of Trees, so with The Inner Life of Animals the press will share online “tidbits from the book, little sound bites,” including such facts as “rabbits have a strict social hierarchy” and “ravens call each other by name.”
The company is also collaborating on digital publicity efforts with Bodley Head, the Penguin U.K. imprint that is publishing the English-language edition in the U.K. in October. “There are no borders on the internet when it comes to social media,” Gauthier noted. “We’re working closely with them.”
While Greystone focuses on the social media aspect of its marketing plan, it has hired Elizabeth Shreve of the Washington, D.C., firm Shreve Williams Public Relations to work with major print and television, radio, and digital media. She said that, although Greystone’s publicity team focused its efforts on outlets and reporters covering science and the environment when promoting Trees, for this book she is reaching out to more mainstream outlets and reporters covering a variety of beats.
“Trees strike a chord with people in a different way than animals do,” Shreve said. “This book has the potential to reach an even larger readership than Trees did. So many people feel so strongly about animals.” She added that she has booked an interview with the author on NPR and has interest from a national television program. In addition, Wohlleben will tour North America for a week in March, when he will visit the San Francisco Bay area, New York City, and Boston.