Thursday, June 25, 2015

Spreading the Word

Last week, I had the good fortune to do four successful book events in six days. If you follow me on Facebook, you know it was not your typical book tour and one that certainly raised my blood pressure.

Signing at the Caribou Street Festival
The tour consisted of driving 1,200 miles in my reliable 2007 Honda Pilot, leaving Gill, Massachusetts, at 10 a.m. Tuesday and arriving in Houlton, Maine, at 5:30 for a 7 p.m. library talk and signing, the first of four events.

I say the tour was not “typical” because, in large part, of the impetus behind it. A single phone conversation spawned the trek.

“Can you run to the B Dalton in the mall to make sure my new books are there?” I asked a friend.

“Ah, that B Dalton closed,” he said.

“Well, can you buzz to Caribou and make sure they have them?”

“John, the Mr. Paperback closed a year ago.”

“Well,” I said, “whatever. What’s the local bookstore?”

“Dude, you’re not getting the picture . . .”

My new series is set in northern Maine, along the Canadian border. The region is the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined and home to 72,000 people.

And there’s no bookstore in sight?

Delaney and Sharon Campbell
Needless to say, I contacted my publisher and offered to buy two cases of books and drive to the region selling them to whomever I could find. My 17-year-old daughter Delaney came along. We had plenty of time to catch up after a hectic year for both of us. (She will be a senior, so there was plenty to discuss on the college front.) But this was far from a vacation trip. I had $250 into the books (thanks to my author’s discount) and at least $200 in gas and food. A friend was in Washington, D.C., for the week, so we crashed at his house. Still, selling trade paperbacks for $15, and hand-selling each individual copy, I had my work cut out for me.

My pitch was simple, “Do you like mysteries? I’d love to tell you about one I wrote that is set up here, and if you’re interested, I’d be thrilled to sign it for you. It features a single mother who’s a border patrol agent.” It’s about up here? People wanted to hear about the setting. We all love regional fiction. We love books we can identify with, and local bookstore or not, this community is no different.

And when all was said and done -- after book talks and signings at Houlton and Presque Isle libraries and serving as the Caribou library guest at a Thursday night street festival -- I sold out. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel toward the community members. The trip could have very well been a disaster. But the people of Aroostook County, Maine, came out and supported the series, I generated some media attention, and, hopefully, word will spread around the community that there’s a series being written about the area.

So now that the tour is over, where do I go from there? I might have found a small store, central to the region, interested in carrying the Peyton Cote novels. I’m waiting pass them on to my publisher.

Regardless of whether or not they carry the series, I’ll be sure to go back next summer.

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