Could You Handle an Overnight Best-seller? Epicenter Press’ Kent Sturgis talks about how his small press tackled the instant, overwhelming demand for the only Sarah Palin biography.
Biographies of political hopefuls typically see a significant bump in demand during presidential election years. But a sudden spike in orders wasn’t something Publisher Kent Sturgis expected for Epicenter Press’ 2008 biography of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Kaylene Johnson’s “Sarah: How a Hockey Mom turned Alaska’s Political Establishment Upside Down”—the one and only biography of the 44-year-old politician in print at the time. That all changed Friday, Aug. 29, when Sen. John McCain announced that Palin would be the Republican vice-presidential nominee. Almost immediately, Sturgis and his small publishing house, which consists of himself and three part-time employees, mobilized to meet the sudden, overwhelming demand for the title. Within a week, the company had 86,000 copies of the book in print.
Just a week after Sen. McCain’s selection, Epicenter Press announced a partnership with Chicago-based Tyndale House Publishers, who began shipping 250,000 copies of a trade paperback edition of “Sarah” yesterday. Earlier in the week, Zondervan announced that it would release a biography of Gov. Palin Oct. 10 entitled, “Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader,” by Joe Hilley.
Sturgis spoke with Book Business Extra about the challenges of having a regional title, with an initial run of 10,000 copies, become a national best-seller within a matter of days.
Book Business Extra: What were the first steps that you took once you realized there would be a significant increase in demand for “Sarah”? What was your initial reaction?
Kent Sturgis: It was a shock. The phone starting ringing immediately. Then the calls back and forth … began between ourselves and our distributor, Graphic Arts Center Publishing Co. They work with Ingram Publisher Services (IPS). Pretty quickly, we had a conference call with Graphic Arts, IPS and Lightning Source, [an Ingram content company]. We decided right away that we needed to release a trade paperback. It was pretty easy to put together. This was initially a regional book. With a little tweaking, it held up [for a national audience].