ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
We're back with All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook. A small publisher in suburban Seattle has hit the big time. The reason, Sarah Palin.
Mr. KENT STURGIS (Publisher): My publishing career is probably all downhill from here. I don't know that we could ever top this.
SEABROOK: That's Kent Sturgis, he published a biography titled "Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down." It came out six months ago, long before just about anyone was talking about Palin as a potential vice president. Now, the book has put his Epicenter Press on The New York Times bestseller list for the first time. From member station KUOW in Seattle, Phyllis Fletcher reports.
PHYLLIS FLETCHER: You'll probably drive right past Epicenter Press the first time you try to go there. It's in the back end of a micro mini-mall off a state highway next to a comic book shop.
Mr. STURGIS: We used to do our single sales from here.
FLETCHER: Inside, the only sign that Kent Sturgis is some kind of big shot is a highlighted copy of The New York Times bestseller list taped on the wall over his photocopy machine. He wrote...
Mr. STURGIS: How sweet it is...
FLETCHER: On the top in red ink. The rest of the place fits in with Sturgis' low key demeanor.
Mr. STURGIS: There's not much to see here. It's, as you can see, we don't have a real clean and organized office. It's a little bit in a state of disarray.
FLETCHER: So, let's get the gold rush analogy out of the way.
Mr. STURGIS: You're just sort of toiling in the creek, looking for color in your pan, and that's the same way with independent book publishing.
FLETCHER: 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.
Ms. KAYLENE JOHNSON (Author, "Sarah"): 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.
FLETCHER: Sturgis released the book regionally earlier this year. The first run of a few thousand copies did well. Then, eureka, John McCain announced his running mate.
Mr. STURGIS: 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, and then there was two very crazy, crazy weeks.
FLETCHER: Sturgis and his colleagues couldn't make phone calls because their phones were always ringing. 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 fulfill orders, almost 500,000 so far. Sturgis says the resulting gold rush could 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?
Mr. STURGIS: I wouldn't mind selling some, you know, film rights or TV film, if it comes to it. We're kind of working on that.
Mr. STURGIS: Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching!
FLETCHER: It's just not easy to get Sturgis excited. But what if McCain wins? Sturgis himself would be 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.
Mr. STURGIS: I support Obama. What can I say? I respect Sarah Palin very much, or we wouldn't have published her book, but I'm going to vote for Obama.
FLETCHER: So, this hasn't made you want to say, oh well, you know ,if she wins, maybe I'll sell even more books?
Mr. STURGIS: No, I don't - I don't think that.
FLETCHER: Sturgis doesn't like to talk politics, but he's happy to talk to new customers. A Republican Party organization in the Midwest called to see about a bulk order of Sarah hardbacks to give as gifts to donors at a GOP event. Sturgis offered a discount. For NPR News, I'm Phyllis Fletcher in Seattle.