Mystery buffs have turned Scandinavian crime novels into big business. The “Nordic crime” genre includes bestselling authors such as Jo Nesbø and the late Stieg Larsson.
Now the scholarly University of Minnesota Press has published its first-ever Nordic crime novel and is finding it to be a hit with readers.
In October, the press published The Land of Dreams, an English translation of the book by Norwegian author Vidar Sundstøl. The thriller is set on the North Shore of Minnesota, where Sundstøl lived for two years.
“We certainly have books that have sold more over time, but it’s off to a phenomenal start,” said Erik Anderson, regional trade editor with the University of Minnesota Press. “The first printing sold out before it even left the warehouse, because the pre-orders were so high. It’s been a great success on a number of levels. The great thing is we have two more coming.”
The book is the first in Sundstøl’s “Minnesota Trilogy.” The second book, Only the Dead, is due out in the fall of 2014 and the third installment, The Ravens, will be published in the fall of 2015. The University of Minnesota Press has North American rights to the series.
While the book’s sales are modest compared to blockbusters by, say, Stephen King, it was the best-selling book of 2013 for the University of Minnesota Press.
The Land of Dreams has sold more than 9,000 copies and more than 1,500 e-book editions, according to Emily Hamilton, assistant director for book publishing and marketing director for University of Minnesota Press. Hamilton said that a typical general-interest title sells in the range of 2,500 to 3,000 copies.
The Land of Dreams garnered reviews in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Publishers Weekly, which called the book a “stellar psychological thriller.”
Anderson said that some New York publishers passed up the chance to publish the book.
“This was a new niche for us,” said Anderson. “I don’t know how many Nordic crime books about Grand Marais you’ll ever see again. What we felt was that there could be great potential.”
The early sales numbers for The Land of Dreams are impressive, said Kevin Finley, who does book publicity for both Minneapolis-based Hillcrest Media Group and freelance clients.
“Nine thousand [copies] for a small press, that’s a ton of books to move,” Finley told Twin Cities Business.
Finley said that national coverage of the book likely drew the interest of book buyers for retail stores.
“If a place like the [New York] Times covers your book, that validates it,” Finley said. “Those are huge, huge breaks. That doesn’t really happen very often.”