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  Stranger in the Woods
A Snowballing Success

November 2003

When Carl R. Sams II and his wife, Jean Stoick, decided to self-publish their first children’s book, Stranger in the Woods, they had no idea it would still be on the bestseller’s list in 2003, more than three years after it was published.

The impact it had on their lives and the lives of others was unexpected. The book’s story has moved many readers to tears. Jean explained, "Somehow it just touches people’s emotions often taking them back to the time when they formed their first snowman — a very significant memory. We’ve had an amazing response."

Stranger in the Woods is a charming tale of winter wonder. It uses the Michigan couple’s wildlife photography to tell the heartwarming story of animals’ reaction to a snowman who appears in the woods after a winter storm.

To date they’ve had a million copies printed, something they never even imagined possible. "We thought we’d sell a few books to customers who’ve been buying our wildlife photography over the years." Carl said. "We had no idea it would get this big."

Deciding to self-publish was an expensive endeavor, but Carl and Jean wanted complete artistic control over the project. They were thrilled with the results but they weren’t sure how to get the book into bookseller’s hands. "We’d spent all our money to print the book and had nothing left for distributing. We hand-carried our books to Michigan bookstores to get them there before the holiday season ended," Carl explained. The couple, however, was amazed when their first 20,000 books disappeared like snow in the sunshine.

Read more about Laura and Rob Sams or Sisbro Edventures by visiting their special pages on our web site. They are very creative and journey around Michigan doing presentations in schools and communities.

  After only a few weeks, the book went to number one on the regional hardcover fiction best-seller’s list in Northern Michigan. For sixteen weeks, it held that position, beating out Harry Potter and John Grisham’s The Brethren.

The following year the book made the New York Times best-seller’s list for the first time, quite a feat for a self-published book. It had quickly become a favorite of teachers and librarians and was awarded the 2001 International Reading Association Award and the 2001-2002 Early Childhood News Awards.

"We’ve received wonderful letters from teachers and students who have used the book in the classrooms. They’re even doing Stranger in the Woods plays!" Daggett Elementary in Daggett Michigan had 101 children perform in a play based on the book, dressing up like the woodland creatures and singing the songs from Stranger in the Woods: The Movie, released in November of 2001.

"We’d been shooting video along with our traditional photography. We put together some great footage and wanted to incorporate the two," Carl explained. "And, teachers wanted a how-to video on making a children’s book so we added The Making of the Stranger in the Woods as a bonus on the video." A CD Soundtrack and book read-along was added that same year. The three products have earned a total of twenty-six awards!

This past December Stranger in the Woods hit another milestone. Three years after its release the book hit the #1 spot on the New York Times best-seller’s list. "Everyone in the studio was on cloud-nine. We didn’t come down for days," Carl said. "And the media coverage was really incredible. Newspapers gave us full page, color articles. You can’t buy that sort of advertising."

Carl and Jean are off and running on their second children’s book which they plan to release in Spring 2004 , but they don’t expect Stranger to melt away.. Publishers may look at a three-year-old book as a back page item, but they believe their book will be around for a long, long time. "We’ll continue to market and sell Stranger in the Woods as long as there’s a demand. Margaret Wise Brown’s Good Night Moon has been around for 47 years. Who knows? Maybe Stranger in the Woods has that kind of magical staying power."

Both “Stranger in the Woods: The Movie” and “Stranger in the Woods: The Soundtrack” released in December of 2001, are selling like blockbusters across the United States. More information on them and the best selling book, “Stranger in the Woods”, can be obtained by calling 1-800-522-1867
or ordering online right here.

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