We’re barely two weeks into the new year, and already there’s a self-published book that’s not only become a significant commercial success, but seems to be in a pretty good position to become the new The Last Lecture. Last month, Good Morning America aired a segment about the family of Elena Desserich, who died of an inoperable brain cancer in August 2007 at the age of six. In her final months, as she fulfilled all sorts of wishes (from swimming with dolphins to getting a painting in a museum), Elena left little notes for her parents and younger sister hidden all over their house. Her parents decided to take those notes, and the story of Elena’s life, and publish a book, Notes Left Behind, both as a tribute to their daughter and as a fundraiser for The Cure Starts Now, the foundation they created to support research on pediatric brain cancer.
After that GMA segment, the family sold roughly 8,000 copies of their book, and literary agent Sharlene Martin is taking their story to auction. The bidding started yesterday—and whatever the final outcome turns out to be, the Desserichs’s experience will be used as a case study in self-publishing for a book about nonfiction publishing that Martin is writing for Writer’s Digest Books in collaboration with her colleague Anthony Flacco.