“Elf on the shelf ideas” is one of the most popular searches on Google and Pinterest as December rolls along, but this holiday tradition wasn’t an instant success with the publishing industry.

When Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell first wrote The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition in 2004, they couldn’t find a publisher willing to work with them. None of these editors had seen anything quite like the book and accompanying toy before.

However, with a bit of determination, these industrious women were willing to self-publish the book and turn it into a brand that has become a Christmas tradition for families across the world and one of the best sellers on Amazon.

Adapted From a Family Tradition

The Elf on the Shelf is adapted from an Aebersold family tradition dating back to Carol’s childhood. Her family had a Christmas elf toy named Fisbee that they maintained would keep an eye on the family and report good (or bad) behaviour directly to Santa.

When Chanda became a mother herself, she wanted her children to have their elf that could talk to Santa. She looked around for a similar product she could buy, but nothing like it was on the market. So, she set out to create her own.

Mother-Daughter Collaboration

Bell teamed up with her mother to write a book that would bring the story and tradition of Fisbee to other families. The Elf on the Shelf introduces families to Santa’s “scout elves” who watch over children during the day and report back to Santa at night, to help him determine who’s naughty and who’s nice.

The elf then returns to a new hiding spot in the house, so he can continue to keep watch. The book includes a scout elf toy, which families can “adopt” as their very own. 

Self-Publishing Success

Unable to find a publisher willing to publish their book, Bell and Aebersold took matters into their hands, along with Bell’s twin sister Christa Pitts. The three of them worked together to publish and market the book, often by sharing the background to the elf and the family tradition personally to potential customers.

The brand became (and still is to this day) somewhat of a phenomenon that includes custom scout elf wardrobes, accompanying books like The Elf on the Shelf: A Birthday Tradition, and even an Elf on the Shelf animated TV Show.

The Elf on the Shelf toy is what makes the story a great tradition. At night, when the elf is supposed to be travelling to and from the North Pole, parents can secretly place it in a fun new location. The scout elf may end up on the mantle near the Christmas stockings or inspecting the lights on the Christmas tree, or anywhere else you can think of. There are even websites and a mobile app that you can use to get ideas on where to place your scout elf. Pretty nifty!

Do you have a Christmas elf like Frisbee in your family? If not, there’s no better time to welcome one into your home. Who knows what great hiding places he’ll find and what news he’ll report back to Santa himself? It’s a tradition the whole family will love!

While you’re in a Christmas reading mood, perhaps you’d like some last minute holiday shopping inspiration?



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