In order to receive consideration for a fall/winter release you need to have your book at the spring book shows. This book wasnt even in the galley stage at that time, said Lewis. I guess I dont do things the way your supposed to in this industry. It is really remarkable that I am receiving the placement that I am in major chains like Barnes & Noble and at several major independent bookstores. I consider myself to be very lucky and blessed.
Sales of the book are nearing 35,000 copies. Lewis originally printed 20,000 copies, which sold out in three weeks. She quickly had 30,000 more copies printed and now is preparing for a third printing of the book. Industry experts that are now tracking the books success project sales to exceed 50,000 copies before Christmas. Brad Pitt and Adam Sandlers agent has inquired about obtaining the movie rights.
BOOKS FOR KIDS
National success was never her goal when she established Mackinac Island Press in Traverse City three years ago, Lewis simply wanted to publish regionally-themed childrens books. At the time, she was working with her husband Brian Lewis, who owned Sleeping Bear Press.
I had worked for Brian when he owned his press and I always enjoyed writing. My vision was to create a small publishing company that would publish books that were inspired by and themed in Northern Michigan, said Lewis. I grew up downstate but summered at Crystal Lake each summer and during college my summer job was as a windsurfing instructor. When Brian sold his interest in the Sleeping Bear Press four years ago we moved up here. We both love Northern Michigan (they met at Crystal Lake one summer) and the lifestyle the area offers.
So how does an author/publisher whose vision was regional become a national bestseller?
A New Jersey Barnes & Noble store manager asked me to come out and read from my book Lighthouse Fireflies, said Lewis. While I was waiting I was reviewing the galleys for Has Anyone Seen Christmas? She was looking over my shoulder and loved what she saw and asked if I would read from the galleys as well. I was shocked thinking that it wouldnt be of interest to the kids in the middle of August. Well the kids loved it. So this manager called all the other Barnes & Noble stores in New Jersey and eventually called stores throughout the country. So when the book was released it was a featured title in their chain.
Lewis sees the theme of the book resonating with children and parents alike because it focuses on the true spirit of Christmas, which is giving not just gifts but of ones time as well.
As I was developing the idea for a Christmas book I started thinking about the challenges of the season and life in general, said Lewis. I kept thinking about the fact there is never enough time to get everything done. So I started playing around with the word time and when you spell it backwards you get Emit and I thought that was a cute name for an elf so the story evolved from there.
In Has Anyone Seen Christmas?, Lewis has Emit the Elf fall off Santas sleigh to embark on a magical journey by traveling through all the major holidays in search of Christmas. Children (parents too) learn the importance of history and the value of tradition as Emit encounters Baby New Year, Cupid, Mr. Turkey, Lady Liberty and others. By books end the reader will come to the realization that the Spirit of Christmas is present all year long.
Lewis sees illustrations as equal to the words on the page as the key to successful childrens books. For Has Anyone Seen Christmas?, Lewis partnered with accomplished mural artist Wendy Popko. Residing in the Detroit area Popkos murals appear in the childrens rooms of the mayors home (Manoogian Mansion) as well as several prominent Detroit industrial leaders and professional athletes. Popko has recently appeared on national televsion morning shows painting characters from the book, which have been auctioned off for charity.
It is important for the author and illustrator to connect. Many childrens book authors never even meet the illustrator and it often results in the illustrations not matching the words on the page, said Lewis. I like to get to know the illustrator and have them get to know me. It is important that they understand my vision. Wendy did a remarkable job. When she presented me the illustrations they were as I had actually visualized them to be as I was writing the story.
Lewis has made it all look easier than it really is.
This is tough business and it requires a lot of hard work and long hours. If you are thinking about writing books for children, visit your favorite bookstore and spend some time in the childrens section and see the competition you will be against, said Lewis. We (Mackinac Island Press) are getting on average 10 submissions a week and already have our publishing schedule set for the next three years.
Mackinac Island Press will release six books a year and Lewis will write on average two of those books. The competitive nature of the business prevents her from discussing future releases but information on the 2006 releases will appear on her companys website in January.
Despite being the owner of the press, not all of her ideas are accepted for publishing.
I have ideas that are not always good ones, said Lewis. I bounce ideas and concepts off my children, my husband and some trusted booksellers. In particular Lois Orth at Horizon Books in Traverse City, as she knows what children are looking for.
So with her recent success Lewis has been finding time difficult to come by, but hasnt forgotten the meaning of the words of her story. She recently left her national book signing tour to come home to celebrate her sons birthday and take him to lunch, before rushing back out on the road.
It all really does get down to time. It is hard trying to be a mom, a writer, a publisher, a wife and a business owner all at the same time, said Lewis. I am not complaining because I feel very blessed in having a wonderful family and a successful business at the same time.
Lewis majored in political science at the University of Michigan in pursuit of a law degree. She jokes that a marriage proposal from her husband rescued her from the ranks of becoming an attorney.
Actually I still plan to go back to law school some day and become an attorney, said Lewis. I dont think you are ever too old to learn, to have dreams and to continue the educational process.
The book publishing industry might be wise to take some lessons from the Lewis family. Brian has launched the successful Petoskey Press that has partnered with the University of Michigan Press to publish several successful titles including this years hottest seller in the north the Northern Michigan Almanac written by radio talk show host Ron Jolly. Now Has Anyone Seen Christmas?, has become so popular that signed copies are selling on eBay for as much as $90 a copy and several Barnes & Nobles have sold out of their copies.
To learn more about the Mackinac Island Press visit www.mackinacislandpress.com. To get a signed copy of the book (well below the eBay price) catch Lewis at one of her four in-store visits in the area before Christmas. She will appear December 17 in Petoskey at McLean & Eakin from 1 3 pm and then Horizon Books from 4 5:30 pm. Her Traverse City appearances will be December 21 from 2 4 pm at Borders and then December 22 (Mens Night) in downtown at Horizon Books.