Family Turns Self-Publishing Success Into William Morrow Deal

By Neal Comment

Tuesday morning, we told you about the self-publishing success of Notes Left Behind, a book created by the parents of young Elena Desserich to chronicle the final months of her life after being diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer. We mentioned that Martin Literary Management was taking the book to the big publishers in an auction—earlier today, Sharlene Martin announced that the book’s North American publication rights have been sold to William Morrow, in a deal coordinated by Lisa Sharkey, the leader of HarperCollins‘s creative development team.

“Sharlene and I have been wanting to work together for a while,” Sharkey told us when we called this afternoon, “and she knew that if a story like this would move the producers at Good Morning America, it would strike my heart as well. And she was right.” Before coming to book publishing in 2007, Sharkey’s career in television included producing segments at GMA; she speaks fondly of former colleague Patty Neger, who produced the segment on the Desserich family that played a role in her decision to take the proposal to Morrow’s editorial team for their consideration. “I like projects that lift people up,” Sharkey elaborated, and despite the “unimaginable tragedy” of Elena’s death, “the lessons inside this book for parents are extremely important and valuable… I think this book has the ability to really inspire people.” She cited one thing she’d already taken to heart, about parents who get woken up by children early in the morning and send them out to the living room to watch TV: “Those kids are excited about life and they want to be with you,” she said. “Spend the time with them. Don’t look at your BlackBerry when your daughter wants to show you her drawing.”

Sharkey said that the book is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2009, in a hardcover edition which will be substantially different from the self-published version currently available.

(Note: Last summer, Morrow took on another book that had found its earliest success in self-publication, the Brunonia Barry novel The Lace Reader.)