My nine year-old daughter, Phoenix, believes in magic. She also believes in Santa Claus, as do I by the way.

A few years ago, she got a gift that made its way to our house on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a little magical visitor from the North Pole that apparently works for Santa all year round. (“He’s making a list, and checking it twice; gonna find out who’s naughty and nice!”)

This little visitor was sent by Santa to keep an eye on my daughter, and report back to him, in the days leading up to Christmas.

Maybe you’ve heard about this little phenomenon called an, Elf On The Shelf.

Fortunately, he came with a book that described the miracle for us—it even outlined the rules that this little elf has to live by, to maintain his magic.

In short, the kids are not allowed to touch him. And since he’s magic, he will periodically move about the house when no one is looking, or when everyone is asleep.

During these times he can become quite mischievous.

My daughter named her first elf, Floodle.

Phoenix loves him. No, I mean, LOVES him. She gets very excited for him when he arrives on Thanksgiving. She speaks with him daily while he’s here. She writes him notes. She discusses her Christmas wish-list with him. She buys him special clothes. It’s quite a big deal at our house.


As Christmas day nears, and it’s nearing time for him to leave, Phoenix gets really sad—she doesn’t want to see him go. So before his departure, she made us get him a reindeer (that he could ride before heading off on his long journey). This very specific “Elf On The Shelf” reindeer got to stay behind, after Floodle went back to work with Santa at the North Pole.

That was the first year.

The second year, Phoenix conned her grandparents (who are Jewish) into buying her a second Elf On The Shelf. Apparently there are girl elves too. Who knew?

Her name is Rose.

She also came with a book. Which was identical to the first book, but with a girl elf instead of a boy elf. She, of course, needs clothes. She has a suitcase, special outfits, and shoes, and her own reindeer, etc., etc. But it didn’t stop there.

A third Elf On The Shelf, named Chip, now graces our house from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and those little elves get into all kinds of trouble. They eat sweets, they drink hot chocolate, they get cuddly with my daughter’s other dolls and stuffed animals. They even wrapped our toilet in wrapping paper.

I’ll tell you a little secret. We’re not the only crazed family who has these little elves and all the gear that goes with them. By now, you may have made the connection between how powerful a “book” can be, when there’s an entire marketing plan and business behind it.


Listen to this sleigh ride to success:

Since its launch in 2005, this Christmas tradition has snowballed from a cute poem, written in a little book (The Elf on the Shelf), into a multi-million dollar franchise.

As reported in FORTUNE magazine, on December 12, 2012, year-over-year growth has averaged 149%. Sales hit $16.6 million in 2011.

Not too shabby.

Question for you:

How would it help your business, if a major TV station did a story about you and your book?

Well, not only was The Elf On The Shelf featured by CBS, but a helium-filled Elf On The Shelf balloon floated through Herald Square during Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

[Read more about this story in the BONUS CHAPTERS section: The Elf That Stole Christmas.]

This is where the money really starts kicking in…

The Elf On The Shelf costs $30. We have three. Add up all the clothes and gear, and extra stuffed reindeer, and we’re easily $300+ into this little guy.

If they didn’t create all that “extra stuff,” behind the book, there’s no possible way for them to have had the impact and created the income we’re talking about here.

Our job as authors is to leverage our books into our most powerful marketing tool, so it becomes a money making machine.

I hope you agree.

PS: If you haven’t written your book yet, check out, Write a Book to Grow Your Business.
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A Little Bed-Time Story

A little elf who is playing a mighty big game.

    “In 2005, Christa Pitts left her job as a QVC host to help her mother, Carol Aebersold, and twin sister, Chanda Bell, to launch The Elf On The Shelf.

    I don’t remember a Christmas growing up without our elf, Fisbee. He would arrive every Thanksgiving. Each morning until Christmas Eve, my siblings and I would race out of bed to see where he was hiding. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized no other families had that tradition.”

    In 2004, my mom was suffering from empty-nest syndrome, and my sister, Chanda, suggested that the two of them write a book together about Fisbee.

    Every publisher turned them down.

    I decided to quit my job and move back to Georgia to help them self-publish the book, which we planned to package with a toy elf. I was sure that other families would fall in love with the tradition, too.

    To promote our first 5,000 units, we sent letters to every single person any of us had ever known.

    A big tipping point came during the 2007 holiday season, when actress Jennifer Garner was photographed carrying an Elf on the Shelf box. Then the Today show ran a segment on us. That helped open doors with retailers like Barnes & Noble. Our products are now in more than 10,000 stores. We also have an animated Christmas special this year on CBS.

    My mother, sister, and I are equal partners. We don’t always agree, but we’ve spent our entire lives learning how to work through things together.”

    —Christa Pitts, Co-Creator Of The Elf On The Shelf

About The Elf on the Shelf.

Whether you find The Elf on the Shelf, cute, annoying or somewhere in between, he’s everywhere these days. I’ve heard that some parents lament the creation, because it makes the holiday season even more complicated for them. Personally, I love it. Anything that grows the sense of love and magic in the world, and preserves the innocence and creative mind of my daughter wins in my book.

Did you know where this guy (or gal) came from, or who benefits from his shenanigans? Here are a few things you may not know about that elf on your shelf:

Where Did the Elf Come From?

What I love about this, is that it all started with a story and a book. It’s a relatively new Christmas story and holiday tradition that started in 2005. The mother/daughter team, wrote the ‘Elf on the Shelf’ story. Despite tremendous setbacks they began their own publishing company. In the first year, they scraped together enough cash to make 5,000 of the $30 box sets and, after marketing them only at small festivals and events in Georgia and North Carolina, sold every last one of them. The company has been growing ever since.

What Has This Little Elf Done for His Makers?

The tenacity of the elf’s creators has really paid off. Since the 2005 launch, the yearly growth of ‘Elf on the Shelf’ has averaged about 149 percent. Every year’s increased production was paid for by profits from the year before. By 2011, sales had hit $16.6 million. The popularity of the little elf got a giant boost in 2007, when he was photographed with Jennifer Garner and the world wanted to know where she got him. The little elf has even won multiple book awards.

Where Else Can You Find Him?

Yes, you can find your shelf elf in random places around your home, but you can find him in other places as well. First of all, 2005 was not the first time scout elves were sent from Santa to watch over children. A company in Japan has been making “knee-hugger elves” since the 1960s, which were also sent from Santa to see who was being naughty and nice. So, you can find Elfie in Japan if you look. Since November 2011, you can find him in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The sneaky little guy even appeared on television in 2011 when CBS aired a holiday special called ‘The Elf on the Shelf: An Elf’s Story.’ Beyond that, little elves can be found in pretty much every corner of the Internet.

Sometimes He Can Behave Strangely

Basically, the elf’s job is to sit there all day watching how kids behave. Then, at night he magically comes to life and heads to the North Pole to report back to Santa about what he saw. This is how he ends up in a different spot every day. Of course, the elf has a tendency to fight boredom by committing other strange and heinous acts while everyone sleeps—at least this is what we can tell from what we see on the Web. If there isn’t another elf to keep an eye on your elf and report back to Santa, it appears that he will just do whatever he wants.

*Information featured in the article, “5 Things You Might Not Know About the Elf on the Shelf” By Kathy Landin December 16, 2013|

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