Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A Book Marketing Idea

Back in August, Montag Press released my new dystopian novel, Rules of Order. As with any small press (but probably with any press period... and especially with self publishing), much of the book marketing efforts fall on the author. I've read around a little bit, and learned that the average book sells about 500 copies over its lifetime. However, here's another little fact from a Publisher's Weekly blog: "in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies."

So... 79% of books published sell less than 99 copies. That's super depressing.

Some of those lackluster sales come from a lack of a marketing plan. I want to say upfront that I am by no means a book marketing expert. I've had five novels, three short story collections, and several chapbooks and poetry books published. Believe me, if my bank account is any indication, I know very little about book marketing.

My book marketing may have a fatal flaw. I've often heard the phrase, "You gotta spend money to make money," but my book marketing approach involves zero capital output. 

I'll just say it... I'm cheap. But, there are a multitude of ways to market a book on a zero-dollar budget. And, some of those ways do produce sales.

I want to talk about one way I've tried in the past and tried again with Rules of Order...

...local television news stations.

Yes, local television stations are always looking for local news. And, as much as you hear that cable is dead and streaming is king, there are still a ton of people who watch local morning television news stations. And many of those folks would love the chance to support a local author.

Here's the trick. Yes, after your book comes out, you can email your local television news station with a "news tip" about your book. There's a chance they might have you on.

But... if you can additionally tie your book news email to a unique event around the book? Even better. 

For instance, I didn't contact our local television station about Rules of Order until I had a pretty unique event set up. In my case, I was offered the opportunity to give a reading/book signing at the Theodore Roethke Home Museum over in Saginaw, MI. Not everybody knows, but the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Theodore Roethke, was born in Saginaw and often returned to Saginaw in his adulthood to write in his childhood home:

I had a connection at the Roethke museum because in the past I'd written a novel entitled American Poet, which centered around a young poet trying to save the Theodore Roethke Home Museum from demolition. The novel won a Michigan Notable Book Award and brought a lot of attention to the actual Theodore Roethke Home.

In any case, because I was able to not only talk about my new book, but also my unique venue for a reading from my new book, our local television station offered me a spot on their morning news program.

I don't know that you have to be reading at a Pulitzer-Prize winning poet's boyhood home, but I think you should at least have a reading or book signing set up before you reach out to your local television station.

If you get on the air, it will do a few things. First, your event gets free, wide-net advertising... so more people likely to show up to your reading/signing. Not only that, but the book gets exposure in general. After my interview, my book sales jumped on Amazon. These were purchases from folks who likely wouldn't come to the reading, but still wanted the book.

So, yes, local television... an all-around great thing when it comes to marketing your book.

Here's my television interview if you care to see it: here

If you'd care to get your own copy of Rules of Order, you can: here

Sunday, October 30, 2022

The Eagle's Hammer: A Book Review

America is divided… literally. California and some other west coast states have formed the liberal Commonwealth of California. Texas has seceded. What remains of the Midwest and East Coast is plunged into a dystopian world characterized by huge disparities in wealth and psychological control. Stoking the fear and obedience of the masses is Trucast, the only remaining media conglomerate. More so than any other force, they dominate the will of the people. They control what is and isn’t truth. And, if you don’t conduct yourself according to this dark society’s expectations, you might just find yourself murdered… live on broadcast television, like a Cops episode taken to the extreme.

Taylor Evans is part of an elite task force of… well, for lack of a better term, assassins. The Eagle’s Hammer, the task force, was formed after a bomb attack wiped out the capitol in D.C. Devastated and spiritless, the people needed hope. And so, The Eagles Hammer was formed to hunt down the perpetrators of the attack. Their hunt and execution of the domestic terrorists was shown live on television each night. The show was hugely popular. People tuned in each night to feel the vindication of justice.

Then, all the terrorists were executed. What next? The show was too good. The ratings were too good. The control of the populace was… well, too good. And so, The Eagle’s Hammer turned its sights on other criminals. And when those real criminals ran dry, the sights were turned on ordinary citizens guilty (or not guilty) of minor infractions. People continued to tune in… not for the entertainment or justice. No, they tuned in out of fear… fear that it would be their home on the live broadcast… fear that it would be them receiving “justice” at the talons of The Eagle’s Hammer.

Taylor Evans lived a luxurious life as the leader of the The Eagle’s Hammer. He had fame, money, and a trophy wife. The only tradeoff? He’d killed hundreds of people… people he knew who were only vaguely guilty or not really guilty at all. Then, one night, when the order to kill comes through his earpiece he says, “No.” His protest is broadcast live. People are shocked. And Taylor Evans… he goes on the run. He has to. By uttering one small word, he’s made himself the next target of The Eagle’s Hammer. His jealous and vindictive teammates are all too happy to have him as their prey.

And from here the story really takes off in a very satisfying way. Everything that follows will leave the reader wondering… is this an act of Evan’s freewill or is even his rebellion scripted by TruCast?

I’ll admit that lately I haven’t been reading very much. I’ve kept myself busy with various creative projects – woodworking, filmmaking – but I just haven’t had the attention span to read a book. Then, I came across a copy of The Eagle’s Hammer, and I was hooked from the first chapter. I finished it in five days, which is a record for me lately. Kugler knows how to plot a novel, while at the same time creating a conflicted character. Kugler can also write action sequences, and the only word I can think (and thought it many times while reading) to describe his writing ability is: cinematic.

“Dead ahead of us now,” Kugler writes, “is city hall. The massive, ornate building sits at the city’s center, and we turn onto Penn Square. Sliding around the corner, it’s a quick jaunt before we’re both cutting our wheels the other way, circling the building. We collide again, our fenders mangled and mashed as CJ tries pushing me into the curb. But these hammermobiles are beasts.

     We slingshot down Rizzo Boulevard, side by side, racing toward Trucast Tower. Desperate, CJ slams into me. And then again. Both of us, our vehicles are pushing a hundred miles per hour when our fenders lock up.

     Me, I fight the steering wheel to stay in control.

     What happens next happens fast…”

That’s just a taste of the high-impact action writing that awaits you in The Eagle’s Hammer. You’ll get a healthy dose of hand-to-hand combat, shoot outs, and ample explosions, as well.

But, the book isn’t just about the violence and action. It raises interesting questions about the nature of overreaching surveillance versus personal privacy. It makes one question the nature of media and its ability to twist lies into some perverse version of the truth. We see it now in our own world as media moguls deliver news that spins information like a washing machine. Do you really know all the details behind the Ukraine invasion? Is the pandemic truly over, or did someone simply decide to make it so through reporting? Has truth come down to conviction? What we believe is the truth is the truth, and it’s easy to find some “reputable” news outlet that supports our version of what we want the truth to be. News outlets chase ratings, and so how a story is delivered has the sole goal of keeping the audience coming back for more. They want you to believe that if you don’t return the next night, it could be a matter of life and death. We might miss something that could save us.

They make us feel that we are at risk if we aren’t constantly consuming news. In Kugler’s novel, the risk is very real, but the sense of risk is no less real to us… and so we return so as to be “informed” and ever fearful.

From a writer’s perspective alone, it’s worth reading The Eagle’s Hammer just to witness Kugler’s strategic, though occasional use, of second person perspective, as Evans addresses a woman viewer as “you” … describing to her what she’s experiencing as she tunes in each night:

“Now, decades later, you’re sitting in your living room, your husband by your side, watching as the team’s supersonic scramjet lands within their target’s city limits – it looks to be Baltimore, and you breathe a sigh of relief: they’re not after you, not tonight. A cargo ramp extends, and each team member charges out in their own heavily armored hammermobile…”

The reoccurring references to the unnamed “you” are a part of what makes this book work so well.

My guess, you’ll enjoy this book from its first page right up to its perfect ending.

Purchase a copy: here

Your Reviewer: Jeff Vande Zande teaches English at Delta College. He is the author of five novels... his latest being a dystopian entitled Rules of Order, which you can purchase: here

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Upcoming Events for Rules of Order

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, I will give a presentation at the Wirt Library in Bay City, MI (500 Center Ave.)

More information: here

On Thursday, Nov. 10, I will read from and sign copies of Rules of Order at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette, MI.


Thursday, November 10, 2022, 7 p.m.-8:00 p.m.  Peter White Public Library Shiras Room.  Teens, Adults, Seniors.  In partnership with NMU’s Department of English, PWPL hosts Michigan writer Jeff Vandezande, author of the Michigan Notable Book American Poet.  Jeff will read from his recently released dystopian novel Rules of Order.  No admission charge.  For more information, contact Marty at 226-4322,, or visit

Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Potential in Dystopias

Of all the genres one can write in, as a literary guy, I find the dystopia to have the most potential to share an overt message.

I enjoy literature that teaches me or gives me perspective or, in short, gets at some truth. That's pretty much why I read literature. Sure, I like to be entertained, but I also like to be changed. I like to see the world in a different way. I like to see some truth.

The best dystopias take some aspect of our world, our currents times, and then turn the volume up on that aspect. Orwell's 1984 turns up the volume on authoritarianism... something Orwell saw as a threat in his times. (In that way, the book is still relevant). 

Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale turns up the volume on attacks on women's rights. Thus, it's no wonder in our current times, that the book and the streaming series are so popular and terrifying at the same time.

Orwell and Atwood are using some future setting, some imagined bleak future, not to depress us but instead to say, "This is where we could be headed. This, in more subtle ways, might be where we already are."

Burgess's A Clockwork Orange set out to say something about the desensitization towards violence, especially in the young... but also the authoritarian desire to control such violence at the expense of free will.

Of course, you have to mention Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and its messages about the suppression of art, especially art that might offend or say something melancholy. At the same time, the book rails at technology and people's desire to live on the surface of things through technology. He worried about people wanting to be entertained, rather than think, feel, and truly ruminate on what it is to be a human being. It's so interesting that in our times, we are seeing the eroding of attention spans. Books don't need to be banned or burned because fewer and fewer people are reading them. No offense to those who indulge, but too many people want to scroll through Tik Tok video after Tik Tok video rather than read a book in their downtime. It leads to a world in which people aren't paying attention to what matters... as in the end of Bradbury's classic when so many people are caught flatfooted by the atomic war that's been impending over the course of the book, but nobody was really paying attention.

(You might say that Tik Toks can get at important things, but I wonder if their brevity truly allows for the proper rumination. They seem to be designed to watch one after another and elicit a brief emotion or thought that is soon replaced by the next brief emotion or thought.)

Of course, dystopias have become, for good or bad, a thing more relegated to YA literature, especially with the popularity of The Hunger Games. I think those books too say something about our world, but maybe not as in depth as dystopias written for adults.

When I set out to write my new novel, Rules of Order, I wanted to write a dystopia for adults. I wanted to say something about our world by projecting a future world that shows the consequences of our current living. And yet, too, the circumstances of that future world reflect what we are currently going through as regards the protection of our climate and dangers of greed and individual rationalization.

I hope too it tells a good story with interesting characters and an engaging plot. I mean, any dystopia has to have that... otherwise you just get a long diatribe masquerading as a novel.

If you're interested in reading a new dystopian novel, consider checking out mine, Rules of Orderhere

If you're a writer and want to try a dystopia, I would suggest reading some of the classics to truly understand how the genre works.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

My New Novel: Rules of Order and Montag Press

I'd played around with speculative fiction in the past with my short stories. Elements of two of my speculative stories, "The Neighborhood Division" and "Lilac in October" were combined for my first attempt at something longer... my novella, Parable of Weeds, available: here

In the very early spring of 2020, I realized that my short story "Load" had the potential to be something longer. I started to develop it with the idea that maybe it could be a novella. After I started the writing, I was about seven thousand words in and was thinking that finishing the novella or novel would make for an excellent summer project.

Then, the pandemic hit. And lockdown hit. And our school moving from face-to-face to strictly online hit.

Since we'd had nine weeks of the semester already finished, I was mainly waiting for my students to send me written work... either for comments or for a grade. My approach to finishing the semester was to keep things as simple as possible for my students.

As I spent hours on the couch waiting for student emails to trickle in, I continued work on my manuscript. I ended up finishing a fifty thousand-word draft of what turned out to be a novel in six weeks. I then spent another three months rewriting (and slightly expanding) the draft until I felt it was polished enough for some small presses to consider it.

I did have an early acceptance of the manuscript, when it was titled Falling Sky. I wrote about how I ultimately turned down that offer: here

I did worry that turning down that offer might be turning down the only offer that the manuscript would receive. But, as it turns out, turning down that offer was the right decision. It wasn't too long after that I received another acceptance email... this time from the wonderful Montag Press (named after the title character from Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.)

It took awhile for us to move from acceptance to production, but I was fine with that because I was still busy marketing my short story collection, The Neighborhood Division (Whistling Shade Press).

When production started, I was very pleased. Charlie Franco, Montag Press' managing editor, was great to work with. He gave excellent feedback on some narrative issues. He even encouraged me to play around with some different titles, and together we agreed upon the much preferable, Rules of Order. He allowed me to suggest cover art and, with the expertise of Amit Dey, Montag Press designed the following cover/back cover.

It wasn't long after approving the cover that I began the proofreading/final edits stage. Again, Amit Dey was great to work with. I would send him edits, and he would send back the manuscript within a day or two for another read-through by me. Though I got sick of reading the story, Amit's thorough process allowed me to catch numerous proofreading errors (and even some consistency errors). Had I only had one chance to proofread, I surely would have left some errors in the manuscript. But Amit patiently returned the manuscript to me five times, and it was clear that he was willing to keep going until I was ultimately satisfied with my proofreading efforts.

The rest, as they say, is history. Rules of Order is now released and available for purchase. I would love if you'd consider taking a chance on it: here

A Book Marketing Idea

Back in August, Montag Press released my new dystopian novel, Rules of Order. As with any small press (but probably with any press period......