Popularity causes welcome problem for Historical Society Press

wilderAround 1930, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote an autobiography about her and her family’s pioneer experience. No one would publish it. Wilder ended up using it as a source for her wildly successful Little House series. Turn the clock ahead 80 some years and things have changed dramatically. The autobiography was finally published late last year by the South Dakota State Historical Society Press in an annotated edition — and SDSHSP can’t keep up with the demand.

Both Slate and Mental Floss reported this week that widespread pre-publication publicity for Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, essentially an academic book, generated mass interest in it. The initial print run of 15,000 copies, which SDSHSP received at the beginning of November, was exhausted before Thanksgiving. Reportedly, there are 15,000 other orders being filled with a second print run and there’s some 30,000 orders at Amazon. The SDSHSP says individual orders placed after January 9 won’t be shipped until March, once it’s received a third printing.

SDSHSP actually felt the first print run was “a huge risk,” its director, Nancy Tystad Koupal, told Slate. After all, its best seller so far was a children’s book that sold about 15,000 copies. Perhaps because of the demand, it appears the suggested retail price of the book has gone from $39.95 to $44.95. But if you want a copy of the book now rather than waiting until March, it will be more than a tad expensive. As of this posting, prices for new copies on Amazon ranged from $342 to $350 while used copies were $120 to $399. EBay today had a listing for one copy of the book, with “Buy Now” price of $149.99.

Now Pioneer Girl certainly won’t come close to the success of the Little House series, which sold more than 60 million copies by 2006. But SDSHSP must be thrilled about how many people want a book that was initially unsaleable.

As you read my stories of long ago I hope you will remember that things truly worthwhile and that will give you happiness are the same now as they were then.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

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