Erika Engle

Maui publisher has
a hit in MoveOn book

It's the little publishing house that not only could, it did. Makawao-based Inner Ocean Publishing Inc. and its staff of eight published "50 Ways to Love Your Country," authored by members of the online activist group


The book of 50 essays describes activism by individuals and it hit No. 1 on the bestseller list March 30.

One writer is a woman from an Indiana farming community who noticed that poor neighborhoods had significantly more potholes than others. It became her cause and eventually public works commissioners were convicted of corruption.

"Too many people feel like, 'what's my little voice,' " said MoveOn co-founder Joan Blades. "With all these stories, you go, 'That's amazing, one person did that?' "

Members constantly urged MoveOn to get on with a book of some sort, "but it never seemed to be a priority, there was always so much going on," Blades said.

She and former California resident Karen Boursin, a MoveOn member and publishing industry executive, had numerous conversations about the idea and eventually took a cue from a book about ways to save the planet.

"All of a sudden it made sense. That's what MoveOn is all about," said Blades.

Boursin then became publisher at Inner Ocean and pitched the Maui company to MoveOn.

"Obviously there's a big difference between big publishing houses and small ones," Blades said.

Boursin agrees.

"I think there are great advantages to being in the middle of an island in the Pacific, versus being in the middle of the island of Manhattan," Boursin said. "I had to build up quite an argument."

Blades said MoveOn was sold. "Inner Ocean would be a great publisher for us, because they're passionate about the books. It wasn't going to get 'lost' with them.

"I don't think a traditional publishing house would have been able to take advantage of and run with such innovative programs," she said.

Inner Ocean is planning promotional events at 100 bookstores across the country, from small stores in small towns to huge stores in major markets where celebrities such as Arianna Huffington and Amy Goodman will appear. MoveOn volunteers will follow an Inner Ocean "script" to stage the events.

"It's unprecedented. This has never been done by a publisher before," said Boursin. Even the big guys only do 20 to 30 max, she said.

"We felt independent bookselling and the spirit of publishing are in line with what MoveOn is doing."

Boursin wouldn't say how many books have been sold, but said Inner Ocean initially had 75,000 books printed; then another 35,000.

With massive backorders, another printing will be ordered.

Boursin is getting congratulatory calls from industry colleagues. She also has received calls from large publishing houses wanting to purchase the rights to the book. "It's a great affirmation."

You tell them no, don't you?

"Of course," she exclaimed. She does thank them for calling, however.

"They're so New York-centric, but guess what, we can do nationally important things from Hawaii and have a voice here."

Book sales are under way, but the official release date isn't until tomorrow. MoveOn and Inner Ocean are thrilled with the top-seller ranking on Amazon but are hopeful it will also make the traditional print lists, such as in the New York Times.

"We really want this book to be part of the national political debate right now."

If the pro and con reviews posted at are any indication, "50 Ways to Love Your Country" already is.

After nine months of hard work on the book and four months of rain in Makawao, the Inner Ocean crew pulled a half-day on Friday.

"We have to have a little reward here and enjoy the fruits of Hawaii," said Boursin.

The team was heading for the beach.

"I'm sure we'll have some very important book discussions at the beach," Boursin laughed.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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