Mitch Troutman's Blog

Inside a Rural Book Tour

Welp, my book is finally out, in print, in people’s hands. I’ve had a whole strategy about its release that I’ve been thinking about for years and I’m now through the first leg of it. I did 5 events in 4 days out in the coal region & vicinity, and I have another batch coming up soon. I wanted to share some reflections from behind the scenes.

First, due only in part to the printing delay, I announced my book way too early! I had an article run in the Pottsville paper in September 2021 announcing the book, and now one in August 2022 when I finally did an event! Doing promotion like that a year early might have built a little buzz, but would have been much better done when it actually came out, not even shortly before. I got ~150 preorders which, by my publisher’s standards is much higher than the majority of their books, but even still most people who were excited about it waited to buy it once it was out. I wanted to prove my reach to my publisher, but they were fine either way.

Setting up coal region events was a big deal. Lots of people came, including a few that made long drives, and I talked to almost everyone who came. It was powerful for them. More than a few people cried as they told a story either to me or the rest of the audience. As my mom said, people just wanted me to hear them. You can see event photos here. I sold ~150 copies over these 4 days, too. Well that’s a lie—I had a lot to do, and friends and family did the sales for me.

Planning these events was tough because I wanted to break molds. I wanted to tell the region its own history, very publicly, not stick to bookstores (of which there’s next to none) and historical societies (who get very low turnouts). That meant doing events in places where a book event was a totally foreign idea. One was in a church library and set up by Mondragon Books, but the others were in a bandstand, in a bar, outdoors, and in a gift shop. For every one event that happened, I had 6 or 7 I tried to set up and things just didn’t work. But hey, fun fact. It turns out that flyers and word-of-mouth drive turnout in rural PA way more than facebook events do. There is a glimmer of hope for the world.

Writing the book was a lonely process and doing the promotion has been as well. I’ve had tons of help AT events but my own personal to-do list infinitely replenishes itself. Generally, it’s the publisher’s job to do this stuff, but they can only help me in the anarcho-sphere. I’m doing all this because I want to cement the history as part of peoples’ identity. And it’s pretty affirming getting to explain what I’ve done to everyday people from the place I’m from. And people overwhelmingly love it. There’s a lot of pride and no pearl clutching over what the bootleg miners did. When people today hear this story, they know whose side they are on. Maybe that’ll go a little way to helping them see whose side they are on today.

Also, if you made it this far, do me a favor!! Leave an honest review of the book on amazon or goodreads!

Thanks everyone!

The Bootleg Coal Rebellion: The Pennsylvania Miners Who Seized an Industry, 1925–1942