The Part of Writing I have The Most Trouble With

My Book Box

My Book Box

My most recent novel, THE BLACK ORCHID, was released in mid-March and received a favorable review from Publisher’s Weekly: : “…Hardacker keeps the action flowing all the way to the violent climax.” I was also pleased to learn that My Book Box had selected it to be included in their April box (if you aren’t familiar with them check out: They are an up-and-coming book club. Each month they send a book box containing 2 books are included (one from each of the subscriber’s selected genres).  Most often the children’s books will be hardcover and adult books will be paperback. They are always new releases in the U.S. within the past 45 days.  Do not expect to receive the latest New York Times Bestseller, but do expect an amazing read from a talented author.  Each box will also include something special, usually some sort of token such as a book mark or even just a letter from one or both authors, and when available, exclusive content for the included book!

So, you’re probably asking “What’s to hate?” For me the answer is easy PROMOTION!!! I have never been an out-going person (as a matter of fact I kind of envied the North Pond Hermit–not the fact that he was a prolific burglar but the way he avoided encountering a member of the human race for twenty-seven years). My late wife was cut from the same mold. When we lived in New Hampshire a major winter storm hit the Nashua area where we lived. She and I nestled into our warm home and didn’t come out for three days (we only popped out then because a concerned neighbor knocked on our door to see if we were still alive…) completely content to ignore Mother Nature and her cruel sense of humor. However, I must clarify this somewhat: I am not afraid to do public appearances; in fact the opposite is true. I gladly agree to appear at any author event that is offered… There is the key the phrase: that is offered…

What I have a difficult time with is finding the venues. Living up here in the county doesn’t help either. The closest book store of any size is in Bangor, a three and a half hour drive) and attendance at the appearances I’ve done at local libraries has usually been two: me and the librarian. I have come to finally realize that people go to libraries to borrow books; not to buy books! There was one pleasant surprise however, last September I appeared at the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick and spoke to an audience of more than fifty readers. Even more surprising was that from their questions, it was evident that many of them had read my books!

The most success I’ve had in booking appearances (and I don’t mind traveling anywhere in the northeast) has come from our own Kate Flora. Kate knows me for the introvert I am and when we attended the 2015 Maine Literary Awards last year took me by the hand and introduced me to several other people there. She has also aided me in getting a number of appearances–the Curtis Library among them (terrific venue! Over fifty people in attendance and it was a great evening.

When THE BLACK ORCHID was released I made up my mind that I was going to aggressively promote the book and determined to construct a campaign that included a number of steps:

  1. I setup a Goodreads giveaway of five autographed copies of the book 1204 readers have requested it; another 643 readers added it to their “to Read” list. A word off caution here: If you have not done a Goodreads Giveaway and elect to do so, Be careful how you set it up. They offer a number of options one of which is what country(ies) would you like to run it. I wanted to do it in the US only (you are responsible for mailing the books to the winners) but hit the wrong selection and included Canada and the UK. Three of my five winners were from outside the US–two from Canada and one from Great Britain–the postage came to $60.00! Still cheap if you figure that if 1204 people registered to win that comes out to about five cents per registration, pretty cheap exposure. Still it was a bit of a shock when I saw the postal charges. Thank god all five weren’t in Great Britain. FYI, outside the US there is no media mail and you have to pay regular mail rates in my case $22.50 to Great Britain and $15.50 to both Nova Scotia and Ontario.
  2. I have emailed each of the major bookstores serving Maine and many of the indies. I have yet to hear from Books-a-Million or Barnes and Nobles. I was contacted by Sherman books who informed me that they were in the middle of inventory and for me to please get back to her in June. I am finding that BAM and B&N are pretty much an exercise in futility (if any of you has had success in booking an appearance at one or the other, please get in touch with me and tell me the secret).
  3.  I have booked several local venues to wit: commencing on June 2 Caribou will be starting their bi-weekly Thursdays on Sweden event (I blogged about it last summer) and on Wednesdays they will be having a weekly Farmer/Craft Market (No admission fee for either of these events. You do have to register for ToS–I have a table reserved for each Thursday so if you’re up this way touch bases with me I’ll gladly slide over and let you have a seat at my table (FYI last summer I sold over $500.00 of my books–I was one of three vendors selling books.)

The above schedule still leaves a lot of gaps on my calendar… If you should find yourself in need of someone to appear either with or for you, contact me. I decided to print up some business cards…they will read: HAVE BOOKS: WILL TRAVEL…


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7 Responses to The Part of Writing I have The Most Trouble With

  1. MCWriTers says:

    I am 100% with you, Vaughn. Recently, when I was pondering on the question: What makes me happy, I immediately focused on what doesn’t: book promotion. I do it. We all do it. It is part of the job. But I get so discouraged with the endless rounds of contacting bookstores, doing the “buy my book” dance, and the never-ending rounds of social media. Sad…because, like you, I love talking about writing, I love libraries and bookstores, and I love teaching and encouraging other writers. I never could have been in sales, because I hate those cold calls. But it sounds like you are doing everything right, and I have my fingers crossed for you today. I know the perseverance and courage you’ve shown on your journey…never giving up on becoming a better and better writer and not taking “no” for an answer.


  2. Barb Ross says:

    Six books in, I’ve decided to focus on the promotional things that make me happy–newsletter, guest blogs, Goodreads giveaways, my Facebook fan page (which after all this time finally has some fans I don’t know on it). (Note that there’s still some distance between me and the actual humans in these activities.) I go to conferences I enjoy and would go to anyway, or ones that are in places I want to visit. I give talks where I’m asked. Every once and awhile I throw my hat in the ring for a SinCNE speakers bureau event.

    That’s it. I don’t do big book launch parties, because I don’t enjoy being the center of attention in quite that way. I don’t do cold calls, because I managed to build a whole career, even occasionally managing a sales force, without doing them, and I’m not starting now. I hate calling for pizza, so a cold call, you can imagine…

    It’s my belief that most traditionally-published authors can only move the needle about 10-15% beyond what the quality of the book and their publisher’s distribution strategy can achieve, so the most important thing is to focus on the quality of the next book, and doing the promotional things you enjoy.

    • I’m with you, Barb. When I launched the BLACK ORCHID I did it at the Jesup Memorial Library and had about ten people show up (which for most libraries is a huge crowd–my best was at the Brunswick Library, over 75 people there!). What I find most disheartening is that of the fifteen Maine libraries I contacted via email, only three responded.

  3. Skye says:

    Many people feel this way about book promotions; frankly Vaughn, you sound very interesting and I am one of the multitudes who entered the Good Reads Giveaway. The title of your book is wonderful and reading your post makes me feel as if I know you a little more than just the title of your book.

  4. Thanks, Skye. As writers we deal with a tremendous lag time between signing a contract for publication and getting reader feedback. Thus far the few reviews I’ve gotten on ORCHID have been very, very good. I personally feel that it’s my best work thus far.

  5. Remember the Potato Blossom Festival- you can probably still get in, and I did well selling my books and making connections and new fans there last year.

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