It's always exciting to have a runaway bestseller on your lists, even more so when it was an unexpected success. Today, Katrin from our Sales & Marketing team tells the story of how the real-life account of the young girl from The Little House on the Prairie captured the imaginations of readers worldwide.

One of the most exciting and unusual books we here at Eurospan had the pleasure to work on this year is Pioneer Girl, the previously unpublished autobiography of American novelist Laura Ingalls Wilder, which, within less than a year of its release, has amassed an impressive array of accolades: six consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, global mainstream media coverage, and winner of the American Midwest Booksellers Choice Award.

While it has been exciting to watch Pioneer Girl take the world by storm, the story of how it came to be is just as fascinating. Originally written in 1930, Laura Ingalls Wilder submitted her account of her family’s pioneering life in the American Midwest to various publishers. When it became clear that no publisher was prepared to pick up her story, Wilder, in collaboration with her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, reworked it into the Little House books – the series of children’s novels for which Wilder would later gain worldwide recognition. While generations of readers would go on to fall in love with the stories of Ma, Pa, Laura and even Nellie Oleson, the original Pioneer Girl text was somewhat forgotten about, until, some 80 years later, author Pamela Smith Hill, who had previously written a biography of Wilder, unearthed the manuscript from the archives. Over the course of three years, Smith Hill, along with members of the Pioneer Girl Project, worked to generate the resources needed to publish Wilder’s text, and compiled a wealth of supplementary material, such as extensive annotations, maps, and photos. A treasure trove for any Wilder enthusiast!

While Wilder’s novels, and the television show they inspired, greatly romanticised the Ingalls family and life on the prairie, Pioneer Girl is a much grittier, more historically accurate account of Wilder’s experiences, painting a vivid picture of the spirit of American frontier culture. Initally intended for an academic audience, Pioneer Girl was expected to be a hit with a select circle of dedicated Wilder enthusiasts, (local) historians, and American literature scholars, so the book’s publisher, the South Dakota Historical Society Press, planned for a relatively conservative print run of a 1,000 copies, which was quickly increased to 15,000 copies and then followed by subsequent print runs when pre-orders came flooding in, their volume exceeding everyone’s wildest expectations. Within a few weeks, Pioneer Girl fever had taken hold across the globe. Wilder fans took to social media to express their excitement and anxiously awaited delivery of their copy, while others patiently joined seemingly endless library waiting lists.

Seeing Pioneer Girl become a success with readers all over the world has been an absolute delight. It’s been fantastic to observe the many different ways readers of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds relate to Wilder’s story of family, endurance, adventure and hardship.

From a publishing perspective, the success of Pioneer Girl reinforces something we here at Eurospan passionately believe in: the vital importance of independent publishing. In an industry increasingly dominated by multi-national corporations, we need small presses unafraid to take a gamble on a project they believe in to keep our industry vibrant, diverse and inclusive.