Author out to beat the odds

Tuesday, 07 July 2009
In the glow of the sensational blockbuster movie, Twilight, (see movie clip) a sweet, enigmatic tale romanticizing the notion of love between vampire and mortal, based on Stephenie Meyer’s book series, it’s evident a strong market for mythology exists.

So much so that Twilight cast members are scheduled to start filming the third book, Eclipse on Aug. 17, wrapping up just in time for Halloween.

Tapping into this mass media blitz and growing vampire frenzy is Oklahoma author Joe Harwell, who is out to beat the odds with his first novel, entitled, The Indian Rock Vampire.

His greatest challenge, he says, is finding a successful way to market the book.

"A lot of people write and publish books," said Harwell, a Broken Arrow resident. "But very few books sell more than a few hundred copies through traditional book publishing and distribution channels."

Harwell’s novel is based on a sinister interpretation of the symbols on the Heavener Runestone located in Leflore county near Poteau Oklahoma where he grew up.

"I’ve always been interested in vampire stories, especially female vampires. In 2005, I had an idea to combine the runestone symbols with a vampire story set in Howe Oklahoma in the 1950’s.  People in the 1800’s called it Indian Rock although Indians had no alphabet,” Harwell said.  “In the 1920’s, the symbols were identified as Norse runes and the rock was later renamed the Heavener Runestone."

The area, that Harwell writes about, was developed into a 50 acre state park in 1970 with nature trails, a playground, and gift shop.  He started writing the novel in January 2009 and it will be published the week of July 13th by Plain Brown Wrapper Publishing which was started by Harwell.

"After spending four months writing this book I began talking to publishing companies.  What I discovered is most of the books published and made available through and Barnes and Noble on-line actually sell very few copies.  One independent publisher told me that he started his own company after his last book that was published through these traditional methods had used copies available on just two days after it was released,” Harwell said.

“It’s a trick used by book distributors to discount prices and gain orders. The bottom line is the author realizes a profit of only 20 to 30 percent of the selling price."

In May, 2009 Harwell began taking a proactive approach to marketing his first novel. Joe said, "I’m lucky to have relatives and friends who are authors and editors and others who are very avid readers of the vampire genre.  I sent copies of the manuscript to ten people who would read it and give me an honest review.  I was gratified when all of them said the book was very good.”

He continued, “One relative who is both an author and an editor but not what I would call a fan of vampire books called me about three days after receiving the manuscript.  She was less than half way through the 85,700 word manuscript and said she had to put down her editor’s pen and just finish reading the story because it was one of the best she had ever read.  You can’t believe how that felt–I actually cried.”

The reality of book publishing is that very few books, especially those by first time authors ever make enough money to offset the cost of production and promotion.

"It’s a very competitive field, and knowing those facts, I made a decision that there was nothing a publishing company could do for me that I couldn’t do for myself," Harwell said.  "I’ve been in sales for more than 25 years.  I’ve owned a newspaper and a television channel and I’m going to use all of my experience to push this book out into the marketplace.  Some of my motivation is profit driven because I believe the author should receive the majority of the financial reward from the sale of their material.”

The main reason, however, he says is due to love of craft.

“I love this story and believe in it so much and I think people who read it will also enjoy it and tell their family and friends.  If I meet the sales goal I’ve set by the end of 2009, I’ll let one of the major publishing companies pick it up and run with it. Honestly, I hope to make Howe Oklahoma as famous with The Indian Rock Vampire and Forks Washington has become from the Twilight series.”

He says he has already started on the next installment of The Indian Rock Vampire which will move the characters into the 1960’s.

The story is built around three generations of powerful women in southeastern Oklahoma.  Although it’s very much a vampire story The Indian Rock Vampire is quite a different take on the traditional vampire tale.

Harwell designed and published a web site through GoDaddy and contracted with a local company to print The Indian Rock Vampire which he’s selling exclusively through the website at

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 07 July 2009 )