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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Our Publishing Program: What Direction? (Bumped up)

As it is with any publishing program, a managing director must keep an eye on a wide variety of business matters, from employee issues to financial concerns, to developing new lines of business to keeping everyone working in the same direction--and everything else in between.

Our readers, however, are primarily concerned with one thing: the books we publish.

One of my primary (and favorite) tasks is to assess our current titles and upcoming titles, and solicit, develop, accept, and contract new manuscripts for publication 12- 36 months out. It is a most enjoyable endeavor.

One of the most interesting conversations (emails, letters, phone, in person) I have with our customers concerns the books we publish and why we publish them.

So my question to you, our customers, is a simple one: What do you want to see more of, and why?

More Civil War studies? Union? Confederate? More Gettysburg? (I used to say "No more Gettysburg!" but we have been blessed with original, groundbreaking titles on that campaign, which forced my hand!)

More atlas-style books, like The Maps of Gettysburg, by Brad Gottfried? On what battles?

More American Revolutionary titles like The Guns of Independence: Yorktown, by Jerome Greene, or Saratoga: A Military History, by John Luzader? Battle studies? Biographies?

More sports history in our Sports by the Numbers series? What teams? Why?

Perhaps we should pursue additional "mainstream" titles like Gary Moore's Playing with the Enemy? (We do have another one in contract negotiations.)

Or modern warfare, like Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander's Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery, by Nick Popaditch (with Mike Steere)?

I would deeply appreciate hearing from you on this important topic as we dig through our slush pile of manuscripts and prepare the titles you will read in the future.

Thank you.



Anonymous said...

Civil War battle studies like Champion Hill and Shiloh. The East is covered enough.

Bob Marsh

SGT Volkin said...

Great question. As an author of "How to" books you know what my answer would be. However, as for the general public, it seems as though the popular titles nowadays have to do with "war stories". Books Savas Beatie has published such as Once a Marine are excellent examples of how our brave men and women in uniform can articulate and explain their life stories so well. They are always an enjoyable read and provide inspiration to almost all walks of life.

Mike Volkin
Author, UltimateBasicTraining.com

Anonymous said...

I liked the Maps of Gettysburg book. I read on line there is a Chickamauga one coming out? I would love that. Is it the same author? Also I was at Manassas park last wek and someone there said there is a Manassas map study coming out like the Gettysburg one and this company is doing it. I would buy those books. Very helpful. John R.

Jim Hessler said...

Interesting question...of course as a Battlefield Guide, I am partial to anything Gettysburg! But I would like to see Brad do maps books on Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Fredericksburg.

I am also a huge Little Bighorn enthusiast-- Would like to see Savas get into the Custer world and I'd love to see someone do a new Myles Keogh biography.

Baseball books---anything on the Yankees!

Jim Hessler
Author of "Sickles at Gettysburg"
Due May 2009 from Savas Beatie

TPS said...

Thanks all for the feedback. It is most appreciated. Keep it coming!

I will more fully respond once I digest all the responses. To date, eleven or more emails have also been received.

Mr. Hessler, our marketing director is going to banish you to the far slope of Little Round Top if you fail to leave a web address on any other post you leave in the blogosphere. (LOL)

For the record, information on Jim's outstanding new biography of General Sickles (2009) can be found at www.sicklesatgettysburg.com

Stay wall.


Mark Wilensky said...

With the amount of money that Congress is allocating for increasing history education, the concern that our newest citizens are more disconnected from civics and American history is real. Phenomenal books may continue to be published, but what if there is no audience in the future? We should recognize that a love of American History can be instilled early on. Primary source documents, and all that they reveal, excite students. And they will be the readers of top notch books in the future. Hopefully, the focus will be on, not only great books, but developing the audience to cherish them.

Mark Wilensky,
author of "The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine: An Interactive Adaptation for All Ages"

James McCorry said...

We need more battle-map studies like Gottfried- Maps of Gettysburg. We need Antietam, Chickamauga, Shiloh. Keep up the great publishing. I have about eighteen books you have done.Thanks James McCorry

Sarah Keeney said...

Don't worry, Mr. Hessler, I won't banish you for your first offense. You did, after all, have the name of your book in your signature. =)

Sarah Keeney

Steve Basic said...


Just a thought, but a subject that should be tackled book wise is what occurs in the East after Gettysburg from 1863 until 1864. There really is not much out there on this time period, and would be a great follow up to "OCF".

A lot happened in Virginia post Gettysburg.

Hope all is well.

Regards from the Garden State,

Steve Basic

Larry Tagg said...

Mr. Savas,

I would like to see some books on the political infighting in the times that produced the great American military conflicts, especially the Revolutionary War and Civil War.
Lincoln's struggles with his detractors, which included just about everybody, are treated in my book. But I would love to see a book about the politics of the Revolutionary War. The whole Age of Jackson was a battleground--bloody fights frequently broke out at the polls. The 1876 election, which introduced a century of Jim Crow, would also be interesting.

Larry Tagg
author, The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln (Savas Beatie, Spring 2009)

Anonymous said...

Hello Ted
I appreciate the offer to put my two cents into your business. I've been buying your books for a very long time. I collect Amer. History from the Revolution to WW1. However, my main interest has always been Civil War History. Like some of the other responses, I think interest in the Western and Trans-Miss. theaters is growing. Biographies like your latest on Robert Rodes I think will be widely accepted. There also seems to be plenty of generals on both sides that need a good biography. I've not read any of your regimental histories, but I do think interest in the common soldier continues to grow. Regarding campaign studies, your books on Champion Hill and Wilmington Campaign are two of my favorites. Studies of this quality will always be very popular. I heard somewhere you are publishing something on South Mountain? Other subjects specifically:
Campaign study of Chickamauga
Campaign study of Knoxville
Campaign study of Battle of Mobile
Something similar to your series on Army of Potomac only dealing with either of the two main southern armies

I always check your website looking for annoucements on upcoming titles. I'm always interested in what is coming up.

Don Hallstrom

Michael Josefowicz said...

Have you ever considered putting your civil war knowledge and content in a form that could be used in K-12 curriculum?

I've done some consulting with school systems in NY and have seen the kind of stuff that can make even the Civil War boring.

I know it's hard to believe, but there it is.

One thing that might work are small paperback (48 pages - 64 pages) focused on an issue, with excerpts from some of the great books you have in the backlist.

The neat thing is that by using POD, there is a way to do this with little investment, other than the content you already have. And a way to get real feedback from the marketplace about what works and what doesn't.

If this sounds interesting, feel free to get in touch. Or just post at your site. (You are on my RSS reader.)

Mark Hughes, WB4UHI said...

Mark Wilensky and Michael Josefowicz make good points. I often talk to school groups (primarily 3rd, 5th,and 11th graders in North Carolina). I developed a PowerPoint presentation for each age group. I tell the story of my G-G-G-Grandfather Andrew Jackson Hughes’s minor role in the war. He was wounded twice and captured once. His son did win a Pulitzer Prize.

The first book I purchased was William Price’s Civil War Handbook. I was eight years old and visiting the Richmond National Battlefield. The photographs in the book caught my eye. I forked over $5.00, five months allowance, for the book. I still use it as a reference book.

I am so impressed with the Civil War Handbook that I am revising and expanding it for Savas Beatie. What should I include that would make the book more useful in classroom? Should I include more photographs of soldiers? What about photographs of a soldier’s daily life in camp? Would a timeline of the war be interesting to high school students?

Any suggestions?

Mark Hughes
author, The New Civil War Handbook (Savas Beatie, Spring 2009 – I hope)

Michael Josefowicz said...

Mark -

Congrats on putting together that power point. My guess is that you have seen the ppt creating interest and excitement. The hard part is to be able to follow it up so that the students have a way to explore and leverage the interest you've created.

That's where on demand paperbacks published in quantities of 30 or 50 or 100 would come in. Customized to that class, their curriculum, their interests. And delivered in close to real time.

I would be very interested in your opinion of the value of the following scenario : at the end of your presentation you give each student a small book - that fits in their pocket - to reinforce the story you've just told them.

The content might be the "good parts" of the traditionally published book.In the paperback could be links to web sources so they follow their interest, where and when they have the time. Also in the book might be annotated recommendations of grade level appropriate books they - OR THEIR PARENTS - could buy or get from the library.

All of this is pretty simple to do with today's technology. The hard part is the content - both IP and selecting the right content for the purpose.

Re the Civil War handbook, you say "Should I include more photographs of soldiers? What about photographs of a soldier’s daily life in camp?"

My response is most definitely yes.

What I've seen missing from an appreciation of history is the difficulty of teachers to empathize with the actors who made history.

The ironic part is that students naturally love stories full of conflict and heroism. For a host of reasons exactly those kinds of stories are the hardest to bring into the classroom.

IMHO, one part of real problem is that most teachers are focused on "teaching skills" which can be measured on tests. The other part is the relatively few teachers love history. The unintended consequence of customized content paperbacks is that teachers will also read them.

IMHO, the challenge of a timeline is that is really the end of the process. It should be there, but filling it with the stories, is the real issue for students (and most teachers.)

Michael Josefowicz

mark hughes said...


The problem I am encountering is that in schools today the state test at the end of the school year is the only thing that counts. Most elementary school teachers skip history and science to devote time to prepare students for the end of grade test. I don’t blame the teachers; they get bonuses based on the test scores. Seven years ago I talked to over 3,000 people, most of them elementary school students. Today I might get a chance to talk to 30 students in a year.

A customized book is an excellent idea. The problem is who pays for the book? With the current budget shortfalls in many states the person giving the program would have to pay for the book.

Mark Hughes
author, The New Civil War Handbook (Savas Beatie, Spring 2009)

Terry Johnston said...


I'm the developmental editor assigned by Ted to work with Mark on his revised CW Handbook. It's an exciting project; Price's original handbook, while a classic, is clearly dated (the original came out in the 1960s). There's definitely a need for a concise and lively book for novice and intermediate CW enthusiasts—whether students or buffs—that's both entertaining and educational. We're now in the process of deciding how best to tailor the book toward the interests of a modern audience. So, to echo Mark's request, we'd be grateful for any suggestions as to what you would like to see in such a work—images, tables, bibliographies. Nothing's too small to mention.

Michael Josefowicz said...

Mark -

Once you say that "this is an excellent idea," then "who pays for it" does become the central question. The real answer is that it critically depends on thousands, maybe millions of local situations.

To clarify what I am trying to get at I submit these data points.

1.48-64 page paperbacks in quantities of 50 can be produced for between $2 and $3 per book by many digital printers spread across the country.

2.The investment to write and edit the book has already been made, so the marginal cost of the content is zero. The content has a long tail.

3. The software to move from a database to a printed book is now well defined and therefore accessible at low cost.

4. The cost of warehousing and the risks of an expensive print run disappears for the publisher.

5. The cost of delivery is much lower if using the internet or local printers to print.

6. The traditional logistic system of selling to a wholesaler who then sells to a bookstore (or school system) who sells to a customer disappears, as do the multiple markups.

Once the risk and the time/money investment are so low, the publisher has the time to find their readers - slowly and organically. Meanwhile, selling books in the traditional way is not in any way harmed.

In fact, the distribution of school based paperbacks might be seen as a self-liquidating "word of mouth campaign". It might give independent publishers a way to compete, going under the radar of the main stream media.

On the question of money in the education system, my experience is that there is "no money", until a principal decides to spend money. If principals become convinced that convenient-to-read and real content increases reading skills and therefore test scores, my bet is that every principal who knows about it will find the money to pay for it.

Plus the money pouring into education from non profits and business increase every year, and will continue to increase, as the competition with China and India heats up.

But the really interesting market is highlighted by your comment that "I forked over $5.00, five months allowance, for the book."

Right now, most of the books available to our students suffer from the "dog food" problem. The purchaser does not use the product.

Lots more to say, but I think I've gone on long enough.

Michael Josefowicz
josefowm (a)gmail.com

mark hughes said...

Let me reiterate Terry’s comments about the New Civil War Handbook: Facts and Photos from America’s Greatest Conflict. We are finalizing what photos to include. I need input about what facts to include. What data do you have to look up? Obviously the book will include a list of the casualties in the major battles of the war and a timeline of the war. But what else should be included?

What about a table listing deaths in the both Union and Confederate POW camps?

Should I include a list of the largest Confederate and Union cemeteries? I have never seen a list of Confederate cemeteries in any Civil War book; nor have I ever seen an accurate list of the burials in National cemeteries.

Would a table listing the regiments with the highest loss in a battle be interesting?

This is your chance to help determine the contents of a book. Not many Civil War buffs get this opportunity. Please take advantage of it.

Mark Hughes
author, The New Civil War Handbook (Savas Beatie, Spring 2009)

TOCWOC - A Civil War Blog said...

I second Steve Basic's desire to see a campaign study or studies on the Bristoe Station and Mine Run campaigns. All we have currently are two H.E. Howard books, both now ridiculously overpriced, and primary accounts. The war in the east from Falling Waters to the end of the Mine Run Campaign would be something I'd eagerly await. Make sure you add the name Gettysburg in the subtitle (something like "What Happened After Gettysburg") and you'll get even more readers! ;-)

Brett S.
TOCWOC - A Civil War Blog