Publisher Of Palin Biography Hits Jackpot

Kent Sturgis, owner of Epicenter Press i i

Kent Sturgis, who runs Epicenter Press, has been overwhelmed by interest in a biography of Sarah Palin he published months before John McCain tapped her as his running mate. But don't expect the Alaska native to vote for the GOP ticket. He says he supports Barack Obama. Phyllis Fletcher for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Phyllis Fletcher for NPR
Kent Sturgis, owner of Epicenter Press

Kent Sturgis, who runs Epicenter Press, has been overwhelmed by interest in a biography of Sarah Palin he published months before John McCain tapped her as his running mate. But don't expect the Alaska native to vote for the GOP ticket. He says he supports Barack Obama.

Phyllis Fletcher for NPR

A small publisher in suburban Seattle has hit the big time with a biography of GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

"My publishing career is probably all downhill from here. I don't know that we could ever top this," says Kent Sturgis, who runs Epicenter Press, publisher of Sarah: How A Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down.The book came out months before Palin hit the national spotlight.

Now the book has put Epicenter Press on The New York Times best-seller list for the first time.

When it comes to its offices, Epicenter Press defies its name. It is at the back end of a mini-mall off a state highway, next to a comic book shop. Inside, the only sign that Sturgis is some kind of big shot is a copy of The New York Times best-seller list taped over his photocopy machine.

But the rest of the place fits in with Sturgis' low-key demeanor.

"There's not much to see here. As you can see, we don't have a real clean and organized office. It's in a little bit of a state of disarray," he says.

Gold Rush!

"You're just sorta toiling in the crick looking for color in your pan, and that's the same way with independent book publishing," Sturgis says.

Sturgis grew up in Alaska. His company specializes in books about Alaska — survival guides, histories, memoirs, humor books.

So it made perfect sense for him to commission a biography of the newly elected governor. He asked Kaylene Johnson to write it.

"I was really delighted to have that opportunity, because I had been following Sarah Palin's political rise in Alaskan government, and I was quite interested in what kind of person she was," Johnson says.

Sturgis released the book regionally earlier this year. The first run of a few thousand copies did well.

Then John McCain announced his running mate.

"When I walked in the front door, the phone was ringing, and I grabbed it, and it was Barnes and Noble. They wanted 15,000 copies," he says.

The phones at Epicenter Press then started ringing off the hook. If it wasn't a big order, it was a reporter wanting to interview the author.

So Sturgis got a publicist. He hooked up with a bigger press in the Midwest to help fill book orders — almost 500,000 orders so far.

Sturgis says the resulting "gold rush" could help put his struggling company back in the black.

European publishers have asked about translations. He's already sold the rights to the audio book. What's next? Hollywood?

"I wouldn't mind selling some film rights or TV film, if it comes to it. We're kinda working on that," he says. "That's always a possibility."

If McCain wins, Sturgis himself could wind up as the "Hollywood story." He'd make even more money. The European editions would almost be a sure thing. But if that doesn't happen, Sturgis is fine with it.

"I support Obama. What can I say? I respect Sarah Palin very much, or we wouldn't have published her book," he says. "But I'm gonna vote for Obama."

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