Have you ever written a book review?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Favorite Savas Beatie book of 2008?

Hello History Fans,

Since a few people have emailed or called to talk about their favorite books, I thought it might be smart to keep it light through the next week and do the same.

Here are two questions I hope a few of you will take the time to and trouble to answer:

1. Name your favorite Savas Beatie title from 2008 and why (a sentence or two will suffice.)

2. Name your favorite Civil War or military history title published by another press, and tell us why.

Thanks, and Happy New Year too all of you, and I hope 2009 offers us peace and prosperity. At the least, it will be interesting (and yes, I know the the old curse.)


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Meaning of Christmas

I wrote this for a local paper about six years ago (back in my editorial writing days). I hope you enjoy it, and wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a safe holiday season.

How can Christmas be here again?

Feels like only a year ago we spent a small fortune on a dead tree, hauled it home, stuck a branch in my son’s eye trying to get the thing into the house, and then waged a mini-world war with my wife over the all-important issue of whether the tree was straight. It was, of course, but dutiful husband that I am, I grabbed the sappy trunk with my freshly washed hands and pretended to adjust it until my wife victoriously announced “perfect!” (I take my little victories wherever I can find them.)

I have always loved Christmas and all its trappings. But as I grew older and left behind my youthful lust for gifts, I discovered something strangely schizophrenic about this ostensibly happy time. My grandfather Ted (or Papou in Greek) once hinted as much to me when I was about ten. My sister and I were decorating our tree while Papou sat nearby watching the tradition with his usual skeptical interest. An Andy Williams Christmas record accompanied the moment. Papou reached out and held my arm.

“What does all this mean to you?” His usually cheerful smile had been replaced by a sad demeanor.

“Toys and no school for three weeks!” shouted back the happy boy who no longer exists.

He smiled when I leaned over to kiss his shiny bald head. “When you get older and have a family of your own,” he sagely advised, “Christmas will be different for you.” After seeing my puzzled look, he added, “Older eyes do not always see just the happiness.” He nodded knowingly, but I had no idea what he meant.

I think I do now.

At this time every year for the past decade I have had exactly the same dream. Exactly. I am about fourteen. It is a cold and snowy Midwest Christmas day, and my extended family is squeezed into the old house—chatting, yelling, arguing, laughing, kissing, and hugging. (If you have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you have met my entire family and know how I grew up.)

The dream never changes. I drop a load of freshly cut firewood in front of a hot roaring hearth, walk into the dining room, push open the heavy swinging oak door, and peak around the corner into the kitchen. My maternal grandma (Yia Yia) locks her bright hazel eyes on mine and flashes her brilliant white teeth as she pulls a fragrant Christmas lamb from the oven. My Papou is standing nearby at the cutting board, gripping his white bone-handled knife while waiting to carve the meat. He smiles and says something to me, but I can’t make out his words. Holly, our wonderful and long-gone German Shepherd, is waiting impatiently beneath the cutting board, ready to lap up the occasional drip of juice or misplaced scrap of lamb.

Great Uncle Bill, the one with a bum leg (suffered during a championship soccer match or World War I, take your pick), is sitting on the living room sofa next to my equally old Great Uncle Louie, who is dressed, as he always was, in the only suit he owned.

Fussing over the table behind me is my mom, four decades younger than she is now, while my Dad, always busy but rarely helpful at such times, walks from one room to the next as if unsure what to do or how to do it.

And then it happens. Each of them fades away, one by one, in the order of their passing. Only my mother remains when the dream ends. And she is old again.

“Older eyes do not always see happiness.”

Now I realize now what Papou was trying to tell me: Gather your family around you and cherish your time together, for everything is fleeting and nothing stays the same. Those you love and have near you today will one day leave you. And that day is always sooner than you think. Those who are young will grow old, and those who are old will pass on.

Now, when I watch my two wonderful kids laugh and cavort around the tree, hanging the special ornaments and mementos that mark the milestones of our lives together, I make an extra effort to soak in the moment, to absorb the significance of the experience, to appreciate my wife and family and my good fortune like never before. To give thanks.

Thank you, God, for everything that I have. I am a very blessed man.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

OT (sort of): Free Markets, and THE BOOK

This article caught my eye, primarily because Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is one of my three favorite books (I argue with myself about the other two), I am a businessman and entrepreneur, and I think government regulation in almost every way is about as evil as (you choose the adjective).

I heartily encourage you to read this article, Who is to Blame. It shocks me that something this good is in Newsweek (the Economist or Financial Times, sure, but TimeNewsweek??) Two miracles in a single week.

From a publishing perspective, Atlas Shrugged is a giant. It was published more than 50 years ago and has never been out of print. It still sells six figures each year. According to a 1991 Library of Congress report, Atlas Shrugged is second only to the Bible in its influence on readers' lives.

If you have never read Atlas Shrugged, I highly recommend you do.

One of my early college instructors told me it would change my life.

"How," I asked.

"It will confirm who you are, or who you are not."

Intriguing, no?

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Incestuous Nature of . . . Book Publishing

Le Provocateur, also known as Dimitri Rotov (look for his likeness in a post office near you), usually hits the nail on the head when he picks up his witty pen to poke and prod. He has done so again, brilliantly, with his Logrolling-in-our-time essay.

And people wonder why The New York Times is going bankrupt faster than my son can wolf down a $9.99 tub of Red Vines?


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Publishing Layoffs Hit Random House and Simon & Schuster

"Yes, Virginia, book publishing is NOT recession proof," said Patricia Schroeder, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Publishers. "It's sad day." Read the entire article here.

No, the important issue is not that Pat Schroeder managed to string together words that make sense for the first time since childhood. (I will never forget reading a review of her autobiography that included this description: "Now I know what history looks like through the eyes of an idiot." But I digress.

The elephant in the room is about quality, flexibility, and treating people right. You can run a big company for a long time, and even find and put out a mega bestseller like Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and still lose your job.


Well, let's use a phrase my grandfather often muttered when he took me somewhere for lunch or dinner and was disgusted by the service, the setting, or the meal. "Teddy," he would say, shaking his head slowly as he withdrew his unlit cigar from his mouth, turned it over, and waved it around to make his point. "The people who are running this business today are not the people who built the business yesterday."

Think about it.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Steel Boat, Iron Hearts" and "Hunt and Kill" to appear in German Language editions

A pair of our U-boat titles, Steel Boat, Iron Hearts: A U-boat Crewman's Life Aboard U-505 by Hans Goebeler with John Vanzo, and my own Hunt and Kill: U-505 and the U-boat War in the Atlantic (edited, with tremendous assistance from every chapter contributor!) will be published by Ullstein, one of Germany's finest publishing houses. (Ullstein, by way of reference, has published several editions of an earlier compilation I edited called Silent Hunters: German U-boat Commanders of World War II).

We have always worked hard to maximize our authors' work by selling into specialty markets, to book clubs, and into foreign languages whenever possible. There is always money sitting on the table with any book; the question is usually one of time, energy, and opportunity.

If you like high adventure in the form of submarine warefare, I can recommend both.


Luzader's "Saratoga" Heading for History and Military Book Clubs

We are proud to announce that Saratoga: A Military History of the Decisive Campaign of the American Revolution, by John F. Luzader (October 2008) has been chosen as an alternate selection by the History and Military book clubs. Congratulations, John.

The book has been a big hit at the park and among Revolutionary War readers, primarily because of Mr. Luzader's deep research into the original sources, and his willingness to let the sources shape the history, rather than allowing popular opinion and compounded errors dictate his storyline.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How to Publish Without Perishing

"Go back to an old-fashioned idea: that a book, printed in ink on durable paper, acid-free for longevity, is a thing of beauty. Make it as well as you can. People want to cherish it."

Hmm. That sounds oddly familiar.

The New York Times occasionally spills ink on something worthwhile. Accidentally, mind you, but when it does so we like to point it out.

THE gloom that has fallen over the book publishing industry is different from the mood in, say, home building. At least people know we’ll always need houses. . . .

Read on.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Author Addresses United States Marine Corps

Retired Gunnery Sgt. Nicholas A Popaditch, author of Once a Marine (Savas Beatie, October 1, 2008), spoke recently to the Marines and sailors of 1st Tank Battalion in the battalion’s classroom at Twentynine Palms, California (filmed for C-SPAN BOOK TV).

Read an article about his talk, Retired Tank Commander Popaditch Gives Motivating Leadership Talk. Popaditch, a Silver Star recipient for actions displayed during a battle for Fallujah, Iraq in April 2004 while attached to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, spoke about such Marine Corps values as honor, courage, and commitment, as well as training and leadership.

When talking about these topics, Popadtich turned to personal experience and advice that had been handed down to him over the years by senior Marines.

Popaditch is increasingly being asked to deliver his address to businesses--an NCO's drill instructor's camp (Gunny was a former drill instructor also) for mid-level management. He is well prepared to do so. Read the article and see if you can spot all the parallels with running a successful enterprise.

Catch him on the radio, on TV, or at a bookstore near you. Read his book. You will not be disappointed. I guarantee it.

To see a full picture of Gunny speaking, click here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Real Thanksgiving (or, "The One Not Taught in Schools")

"Shoot! If you can keep everything you make, of course you're going to work harder. Everybody knows that."

A great article on the real Thanksgiving. Somehow, this made it into the Los Angeles Times. Will miracles never cease?

Happy Turkey Day to one and all.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Authors Will be Happy When Royalty Statements Come out in Early 2009?

The answer is the same even when the economy is good: hard working authors who never stop and never give up. This is especially true this year.

Our national bookstore chains are suffering (Borders is in deep financial trouble and is ordering new books in smaller quantities, which makes them less widely available nationwide), Barnes and Noble's business is down, and returns across the board are way up.

We have spent the past eighteen months aggressively opening new markets (specialty, corporate, and others outlets outside the normal bookstore trade channels), and our authors whose books are attractive in those venues will see the difference. Some of our books, however, are not suitable for strong specialty sales, and that means the primary revenue stream from those books is through the book trade. The returns, once fully calculated, will stagger some.

I can't wait to get the call from Author X about this. The conversation will go something like this:

"I just got my royalty statement. I only made $59.26 all of last year?"


"That's impossible! What kind of business are you running?"

I explain the numbers, the trade returns, and so forth, and then ask. "How many radio interviews did you do last year?"

"Ah, well, I have been busy. I can't just drop everything like some can."

"How many tours did you lead? How many speaking engagements did you schedule? Bottom line: How many of your own books did you help promote and sell?"

"Well, I don't have time . . ."

"That's fine," I interupt. Of course it is true that some authors are better situated to promote their own books. "There is no rule that you must work harder. But the realities of the business we are in dictates the result for authors who will not, or who can not, go the extra mile week after week. I don't control that. The rules of the free market, however, do."

So are some authors having a banner year? Yes. Who? Those authors who are actively blogging about their book, continually finding ways to sell them, scheduling and leading tours of battlefields, etc. We have many authors booking events weekly (or even more often) in local rotaries, Elks Clubs, VFWs, colleges, high schools, libraries, and even churches. Every group, large and small, welcomes speakers who have suitable talks for their members (and a creative author can always come up with an angle to address any group).

Many of our authors also work close with our marketing director to set up special events and radio interviews. Why is this good for the everyone? Because the author gets to sell his own books and keep a big chunk of the money, the buyers get personally inscribed copies, and we move inventory. It is a win-win-win situation.

There is another benefit. Showing the flag anywhere results in more sell-through in the chains, on Amazon, and direct sales here at the office, which means returns are fewer in number. Why? Because people who don't have their checkbook when an author speaks go home, go online, and buy a copy. Or drive to their local bookstore. Or log onto our site and purchase a copy.

With returns, steep discounting requirements, and a population being steadily dumbed down and turned off to history (and books in general), everyone is getting squeezed. The dirty secret is that the author is at the bottom of the food chain in this equation. Those writers who rely upon the book trade for the large bulk of their sales have a shovel in their hands are and digging themselves an oblong-shaped hole.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veterans Day

To all our wonderful vets everywhere, dead and alive. I salute you. I have always honored what you do so. And I cannot begin to thank you enough. And I support you AND the mission you are sent on wherever it is. Always.

When asked why he served, one of my favorite Gunny Sergeants answered this way: "I fought thousands of miles from home so your biggest worry is whether your favorite football or baseball team is going to win its next game. When that is your concern, I have done my job and am happy to have done so." Amen . . . and thank you.

Two videos I highly recommend:

Remember me (make you you watch it to the end. It takes a few twists along the way)

The War. Pay special attention to the lyrics.

If you can get through either one all the way without shedding a tear, you have checked your soul somewhere along the way. Trace your steps back and try to find it.

West Coast Civil War Round Table Conference

I am just back from an outstanding conference (November 7 - 9, 2008) in Clovis (Fresno), California. The theme this year was the Shenandoah Valley, and the two premier speakers included old friend Robert K. Krick and Jeffry Wert. You can read a write-up of the event here.

Contrary to what many on the East Coast believe, the Civil War is and has been alive and well here on the Left coast. The conference was well attended and the talks were generally outstanding. I have only missed three West Coast events since 1988, and seeing everyone each year is a wonderful experience. For the last decade or so I have acted as the conference's bookseller. I stepped in when Bob Younger of Morningside (who wore that hat for many years), could no longer easily travel so far.

San Joaquin Valley Civil War Roundtable hosted this event, as they have many others. Were it not for this hearty bunch of great people, this important conference may have faded away after the passing of its founder, Jerry Russell. Thanks guys and gals for all your hard work.

Next year, the San Jaoquin bunch is hosting the November West Coast conference again, with Chickamauga front and center as the major topic. (Coincidentally, our The Maps of Chickamauga is slated for a September release.) The speakers they have lined up are strong and thus far include Wiley Sword, Glenn Robertson, Jim Ogden (historian at the park), and many others. I urge everyone reading this to give serious thought about attending. The talks are always good, the facility is top-rate, the food is more than passable, and . . . and a side tour to Yosemite is being planned.

And we will be there with loads of signed books for sale.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Our First LA Times Article . . .

He has a new life and a new set of goals, including one to become a high school teacher. He has written a book, works with other wounded veterans and is a sought-after motivational speaker.

The quintesenntial Gunny Pop quote you can take to the bank: "I want people to see that when you're faced with a life-changing event, you can survive," Popaditch said. "When you get rearranged physically, one thing that doesn't change is your character."

Read the entire article: Retired Marine rebuilds his life after brush with death in Iraq, by Tony Perry.

The print version is scheduled to appear in this Sunday's LA Times.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Who Says History is Boring?

From Mercury News wire reports

Every field of endeavor that is conventionally thought of as uninteresting and dull needs a smart, sarcastic, sex symbol to enliven it. In the field of history, Sarah Vowell is that person. Having previously written a book about a road trip to tourist sites devoted to the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, McKinley and Garfield, the squeaky-voiced history wonk has turned her attention to another potentially mind-numbing subject — the Puritans.

Vowell, who is popping up on radio talk shows promoting the book, "The Wordy Shipmates," has her own ideas about the group.

"My Puritans were not the generic, boring, stupid, judgmental killjoys" history makes them out to be, she says. "Because to me, they are very specific, fascinating, sometimes brilliant, judgmental killjoys who rarely agreed on anything except that Catholics are going to hell," Vowell writes in the book.

Consider Vowell's portrayal of the Puritans — led by John Winthrop — as well-educated, literary people.

"Winthrop and his shipmates and their children and their children's children just wrote their own books and pretty much kept their noses in them up until the day God created the Red Sox."

She doesn't consider herself a historian, but has recently become more comfortable thinking of herself as a writer who can teach history in her own way.

"I'm offended that people think history is boring," she said in a recent interview. "I find the same part of me that loves movies and TV shows and novels is the same part of me that is obsessed with history because it has all the drama, it has all the characters and strange dialogue ... and all the killers that the films of Martin Scorcese have."




Monday, October 20, 2008

Savas Beatie Author Ben Weider Passes Away

It is with tremendous sadness that we pass along to our readers that bodybuilding legend, entrepreneur, philanthropist, Napoleonic scholar, and a tremendously good man, Ben Weider, passed away suddenly Saturday night in Montreal, Canada. The cause of his death was not immediately known.

Weider was a businessman of world-wide stature. He built an industrial empire at the head of the International Federation of Body Building, which he founded and over which he presided for decades. Dr. Weider is the author of many published works translated into forty languages, including the global bestseller The Murder of Napoleon and our own The Wars Against Napoleon. He founded in 1995 The International Napoleonic Society (INS), a non-profit association based in Montreal. France awarded Dr. Weider the distinction of chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 2002. Weider "was instrumental in launching Arnold Schwarzenegger's career in the United States."

For more information on Ben and his extraordinary life, see this article.

Weider recently purchased the core of American history magazine publishing with Civil War Times, America's Civil War, Vietnam, and many others, all published now under the Weider History Group imprint and overseen by his son Eric.

I regularly spoke with Ben, who had a wonderful sense of humor, a caring heart, and was always a man of his word. I will miss him very much.

Savas Beatie extends its deepest condolences to the Weider family.

--Ted Savas

Monday, October 13, 2008

Several Titles Sold out, Coming back in Paper

Every publisher perusing monthly sales and inventory reports enjoys watching particular titles sell strongly, or at least steadily, until they sell out.

And therein rests the dilemma. Are sales strong enough to warrant a reprint? Is it worth paying a printing bill up front to so so? Hardcover or paper, or a split run?

We recently sold out of these longstanding steady sellers: The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781, by Jerome Greene; Steel Boat, Iron Hearts: A Crewman's Life Aboard U-505, by Hans Goebeler with John Vanzo; The Quest for the Lost Roman Legions: Discovering the Varus Battlefield, by Tony Clunn. Each has its own unique market, in addition to the general trade.

The Guns of Independence: Yorktown title, for example, has always done very well at the Yorktown and other Revolutionary War battlefields and fully warrants a paperback in the spring.

Steel Boat, however, does not have similar park outlets. But it does have the one and only Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, which houses the renovated (and MUST SEE) U-505. The heavy and constant turnover in attendance has resulted in solid hardcover sales there. Not in huge numbers, but sufficient to witness a steady drain in inventory with zero returns.

Major Clunn's Roman Legions book is very unique. It sells well in an English-language hardcover in Germany at the museum erected to interpret the Varus 9 A.D. battlefield and the thousands of artifacts pulled from the ground. It has also been a good seller in the general trade market here in the US.

All three of these titles merit reprinting, in paperback; the Clunn title will appear in a split run (X number of hardcovers, and Y number of paperbacks). Watch for them in our Spring 2009 offerings.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

C-SPAN Book TV. Watch It Now.

Once a Marine author speaking to his former 1st Tanks outfit in 29Palms. It is about 45 minutes, with questions. The Introduction of Gunny is not included.

Link: C-SPAN Once a Marine.

Click the small red "watch" button on the upper right.

"Find them, fix them, finish them--take the initiative. You are the hunter, not the prey." -- Nick Popaditch

A WW 2 Army Ranger Returns to Saratoga

Each publishing company exists for different reasons. One of my "prime directives" has been to find gems in the rough--unpublished original manuscripts on important topics that deserve a good book--and craft them into books people want to purchase, read, and own a lifetime.

The Road to Saratoga: A good example of the execution of this directive occurred a few years ago when I discovered Jerome Greene's spiral-bound unpublished work on Yorktown. It was produced for park insiders during the bi-centennial years, and so never intended for public consumption. Greene's work was built on a mountain of archival and firsthand knowledge. There was something damn near definitive on those yellowing pages. One need only manipulate, write, add, design, and envision the big picture to produce something worthwhile for general readers and scholars alike. And so I connected with Mr. Greene, and together we collaborated to produce The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781 (2005). This title was a book club selection and has been a strong seller. We are pleased to announce our distributor has effectively sold out in hardcover (we have perhaps two cases left--hurry if you want one). It will be reprinted in paperback in Spring 2009.

Discovering Saratoga: John Luzader, a WWII Army Ranger served as the staff historian at Saratoga National Historic Park in the 1960s. During his tenure he scoured archives on both sides of Atlantic, he walked every yard of Saratoga's expansive battlefield (and its related satellite engagements at Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Stanwix, Oriskany, Bennington, and others), and decided that many of the pivotal issues we had been spoon fed by other writers and historians through the years were simply wrong.

John began writing what would become his opus magnum decades ago. His style might be termed "old school"; it drips with charm, verve, authority, and insight. John kept writing, year after year, tinkering, putting it aside, writing, tinkering . . . As bestselling author and former chief historian for the NPS Robert Utley told me, "John just could not let go."

With some prodding from friends and fellow historians (including Jerry Greene), John "let go" of his manuscript to Savas Beatie. A finished copy sits in front of me as I type these words.

Returning to Saratoga: The 87-year-old Veteran of D-Day--still sharp as a tack with a dry wit that is contagious--is on his way back to Saratoga today. He will speak and sign books there and at Forts Ticonderoga and Stanwix over the next few days, and has already been interviewed by several talk radio stations.

John's deep insight into the campaign and its personalities opens windows into the American Revolution in general, and Saratoga in particular, that no other historians have explored as well or as deeply. The book is a treat to read, from the opening chapter exploring the halls of British power and the roots of the 1777 invasion to the final chapter explaining the ramifications of the campaign.

I particularly enjoyed Luzader's ability to peel back the sources and call a spade a spade: he identifies which officers had trouble with the truth, which were conspiring to create problems between Benedict Arnold and Horatio Gates (a long fascinating appendix covers this topic), why Burgoyne ended up where he did, when he did, and why he did, and lets the major participants, whenever possible, speak through their own pens. Luzader offers a fresh, invigorating assessment of Horatio Gates that surely must be closer to the truth than what popular history and glib writers have offered us.

All of us here at Savas Beatie are honored to finally make John Luzader's lifetime of work available to the general reading public. We hope you enjoy it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Author on C-SPAN BOOK TV

Author Nick Popaditch (Once a Marine) will appear on CSPAN's BookTV on Saturday, October 4. It will run twice: 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. EST.

A Silver Star winner and the face for the national HIRE A VET campaign (see right photos), Gunny Pop filmed the Book TV segment with S-SPAN at The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California, in front of more than 300 Marines primarily from 1st Tank Battalion (Nick's former unit.)

A former Marine tank commander who served in Iraq, Gunny Pop talks about his life in the military "as a trigger-puller" and his service in Iraq. He also discusses at length his severe wounding in Fallujah in 2004 and the lengthy recovery process he and his family endured.

His book hits bookstores nationwide and Amazon October 7. Don't miss this one.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Review for Robert Rodes biography

"For any serious student of the Civil War, and especially those interested in the vaunted Army of Northern Virginia, this book is a must. It is also a most welcome addition to Civil War historiography, for Collins was able to save Rodes from drifting further and further into the shadows of neglect." --John Hoptak, Park Ranger, Antietam National Battlefield.

Jump over to John's website by clicking here if you would like to read the entire review about Darrel Collins' recently released and simply outstanding biography.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

One Continuous Fight heading for the Book Clubs

We are proud to announce that One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863, by Eric J. Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent has been chosen as an alternate selection by the History and Military book clubs. Congratulations, gentlemen.

We are also pleased to announce that the second edition has been printed, and will be released the first week of October. The popularity of this title continues, with back orders mounting and Amazon and individual here in-house orders stacked up. We printed a reasonable second edition run according to our normal sales models, but as it stands, the second edition is already 60% sold out.

Stay tuned for more information, and thank you for your support.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Gunny Pop Appears at Ground Zero

On September 11, Nick "Gunny Pop" Popaditch appeared with other vets at Ground Zero on the anniversary of the attack against our country by 7th Century death cultists who quickly found themselves in Hell. With the help of Nick and other brave American soldiers and Marines, thousands more have joined them.

After four radio shows (including a great interview on WOR with Rita Cosby), Nick, his wife April, and co-author Mike Steere attended a special book release/signing event in a Penthouse on the 66th Floor of Trump Towers in Manhattan. The Donald showed up to meet Nick, which was very special. That was the only reason he came, and he left immediately thereafter.

Nick and April are flying to Texas today (September 12) for a big event in Dallas.

New York publicist Sandy Frazier attended the September 11th event and captured some great photos (some appear with this post) She prepared a great write-up of the event. She also prepared a superb slide show that is available here.

We hope everyone reading this post will take a moment to forward it to their email address base, link to it, and purchase a book for themselves or a friend (inscribed first editions available at www.onceamarine.com).

Support our vets. They allow the rest of us to live the wonderful free lives we enjoy each day.

Thank you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Watch the Book Trailer for "Once a Marine"

As many of you know, we are always seeking ways to stay ahead of the competition, elevate our books and authors, and maintain a momentum in what is an otherwise stagnant industry.

Therefore, I take great pride in presenting to you a Hollywood-style book trailer we prepared for Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander's Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery, by Nick Popaditch with Mike Steere (Savas Beatie, October 1, 2008).

Turn up the volume, and make sure you watch to the very end for a "special" photo message from "Gunny Pop" Nick. I know you will appreciate seeing him.

PLEASE NOTE: this YouTube trailer is the LOW-resolution version. The high-resolution trailer (with full credits and better graphics) will be streaming off a variety of websites including www.savasbeatie.com, www.onceamarine.com, and all the Weider History Group sites. The high-resolution version can be opened to full screen to fully appreciate the power of the imagery. It will also be available for free high-resolution download, and is TV quality.

ABOUT NICK: Nick "Gunny Pop" Popaditch is a former marine Gunnery Sergeant, a Silver Star winner, a 15-year veteran of the USMC, and was widely known around the world as "The Cigar Marine:" (Google it.). His tanks captured Firdos "Saddam" square in April 2003 and pulled down the hated statue. Nick was severely wounded one year later with an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) to the head, which was captured live by a media news crew. He had to fight his way through an incredible odyssey of turmoil, heartbreak, and bureaucracy to recover everything he had lost. His website is www.onceamarine.com.

HOW TO HELP NICK: We would appreciate if you would consider embedding this on your site, linking to the video, and supporting Nick and his family in any way you are able. The success of this book will open doors for this blind warrior, and hopefully provide revenue and success to someone who has sacrificed so much for his country. Nick is a very apolitical marine. He "stays in his lane" and talks about what he knows--the USMC, leading men, training, being a drill instructor, combat, and leadership.

EMAIL US and we will send you the code to embed this video.

If you would like an excerpt of his book to post on your site, photos, or an interview with Nick himself, just contact Sarah Keeney: sarahs@savasbeatie.com / 916-941-6896.

SIGNED COPIES: Signed / inscribed first edition copies will be available, and they can be reserved at www.onceamarine.com or www.savasbeatie.com. They are going fast, and the first edition is already 50% accounted for.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Digital Downloads, Part 2

The post about digital downloads, together with the quiz I ran recently triggered a lot of interest, inquiry, emails, and a few phone calls.

The quiz read as follows: Would you purchase digital downloads of select portions of titles?

Here is how the answers broke down:

YES: 2 (8%)
MAYBE: 11 (45%)
NO: 7 (29%)
I AM NOT SURE: 4 (16%)

I think these numbers reveal that there is interest, and if the right downloads are made available, people will download them. It is a direction we are actively exploring, and I will report back as events dictate.

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.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Digital Downloads

Before I post a reply on all the fascinating comments, emails, and calls to my query on our publishing direction, let me ask a related follow-up questions.

Are the military and general history readers interested in digital downloads, and if so, what types of books?

Are there particular titles or sections of titles suitable to download for a less expensive price?

For example, we have been asked many times to make available selections from Gottfried's Maps of Gettysburg as separate digital files. "I am really only interested in the Culp's Hill fighting," explained one customer recently. "Can I buy just that portion?" The same queries on Pickett's Charge, Day 1, Day 2, etc. have also been duly noted.

We are preparing to make many of our titles available through Amazon's Kindle reader, but pdf downloads on our website might also make sense.

Does it?


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Off Topic: Random House Does not Know the Meaning of Publishing or Freedom of the Press

Publishing is all about freedom. Freedom of thought. Freedom of the written word. Liberty. You know, that dying concept that is withering all around us with speech codes and "hate-speech" laws.

Comes now the news that Random House has pulled Sherry Jones' The Jewel of Medina, a novel about Mohammad's wife. It was supposed to be published on August 12. The advance was paid, all work done, and advance galleys sent for review. But then a hard-Leftist PC instructor at a university in Texas let the publisher know that the book might "be offensive to some in the Muslim community" and "could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment." Random House melted and pulled the book.

Let me see if I understand. Because a few 7th Century throwbacks who want to drag the Western world back to the medieval times, treat women and gays like cattle or worse, and cut heads off those who do not think like them might not like what someone else writes, the best thing to do is to . . . stifle our own speech so we don't offend them? That will work.

First Amendment? Freedom of speech? Whoever made this decision at Random House is a bloody coward and should be fired.

Soviet dissedent Alexander Solzenitzen was right. After spending many years in the Western world (USA and Europe), he was asked about a single dominating characteristic of our world. His answer: "A decline in moral courage."

Irshad Manji is not a coward. For her insightful view by a Muslim reformer, see her website and read her book The Trouble with Islam.

(sigh) Back to the Civil War. (Thanks to my daughter for bringing this to my attention.)


Friday, August 15, 2008

Savas Beatie Author Makes it to Cooperstown

Indefatigable. That word describes the tireless Gary Moore, who just made a 24-hour jaunt to address a crowd of baseball / history fanatics at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Playing with the Enemy Goes to Cooperstown

The highlight was when his guide showed him the spot, next to the Field of Dreams and The Natural film exhibits, where Playing with the Enemy will be permanently displayed when the movie is released (likely next summer). Filming is set to begin the first week of October, with a big cast that I will name as soon as I am able.

Congrats, Gary. You deserve all your hard won success.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Publishing Glossary Worth Reviewing

Don't know your French flaps from your headbands? Here's a guide to the arcane terminology of the book world. A Publishing Primer.

And a tip of the hat to Mark Hughes, a soon-to-be published Savas Beatie author of a new completely updated Civil War Handbook.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Most of our Authors . . .

When I heard the news, I ran a few rough calculations in my head of our own internal sales--and smiled.

Given her high visibility, national prominence, and intense media tour, one would have thought that have Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would have sold a lot more copies of her recently released memoir than a few thousand units. But she hasn't.

So why did I smile? Most (note the bold) of our authors--writers without national fame and prominence writing within a niche--have outsold the Speaker of the House. Some have outsold her many times over. Gary Moore's Playing with the Enemy, Sgt. Michael Volkin's Basic Training Guidebooks, Brad Gottfried's Maps of Gettysburg, Eric Wittenberg's and J.D. Petruzzi's Plenty of Blame to Go Around are just a handful of names.

I am still smiling.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Iron Brigade

I posed this question: "A soldier from which Iron Brigade regiment captured Confederate Brig. Gen. James Archer on July 1, 1863?" The answer was the 2nd Wisconsin, which most people answered correctly.

The Iron Brigade is not a unit I have read all that much about except for In the Bloody Railroad Cut, by Lance Herdegen and William J.K. Beaudot (which covers only the 6th Wisconsin while lightly touching the other regiments), or the occasional piece in Gettysburg Magazine.

Stay tuned for an update on a new book we have coming out October 1 by Lance Herdegen called "Those Damn Black Hats!" The Iron Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign. Lance's new book is difficult to pigeon hole. Suffice it to say that it is military and social history at its finest, with dozens of previously unpublished photos and sources that help flesh out the Westerners' "finest hours."


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Election of 1789

The U.S. News and World Report consequential elections series by Ken Walsh continues, with this one covering the election of 1789. (For those of you not keeping score or busy watching American Idol, that was our first presidential election.) Mr. Walsh is better versed on colonial-era politics than he is on Civil War-era elections. (See last week's series on the Lincoln-McClellan 1864 election.)

The country knew the importance of electing the right man, so they selected someone who, "Throughout his adult life, as a Virginia planter, wartime commander, and political icon, had been a model of honesty, persistence, and courage." Hmm.

Is there a good modern academic (unbiased) study available that dissects each election like this from our founding to the present?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

New History and Military Book Club Selection

I am going to brag a bit, so please pardon me for doing so.

For a small(ish)--we are growing fast--independent press, Savas Beatie has enjoyed remarkable success in placing books with the national clubs. In fact, we have placed so many with the clubs that I cannot with complete confidence name them without going to the lengthening book shelf and checking each spine.

So it is with great pleasure that we announce a new addition to the national clubs: One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863, by Eric J. Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent. (Release mid-August.) This book deserves the selection and recognition. As one reviewer recently noted, the authors have produced so much original material, in such a convincing fashion, that one can argue the battle of Gettysburg lasted from July 1 through July 14.

And this selection will irritate some in the publishing world. Keep reading.

Recently, a friend who works inside the marketing department of a sizable publishing house called to tell me about a meeting she had just attended. One of the bigwigs held up several book club catalogs and fliers, ticked off the names of several of our titles--and spat out the name "Savas Beatie" (mispronouncing the latter as "Beetee" instead of "Baytee").

"How in God's name," he asked through clenched teeth, "do they do this? A small publisher in Northern California places book after book with the clubs, and we can't? Why?"

The answer, sir, is really straightforward. We find, develop, enrich, produce, and distribute better books in our genres written by a higher caliber of author than most publishers.

And let me tell you, Savas Beatie authors work hard. They are routinely courteous, very helpful to others, and absolutely love what they do. And we screen them much more thoroughly than some probably even know. (A warning to prospective authors: one fellow was rude and short recently on the phone with one of our staff when he was told to submit his manuscript using the guidelines found on line. When he did so two days later, I immediately rejected his work. If he is rude about protocol, we don't want to work with him. And I told him exactly that.)

I write all this not from a position of arrogance, for that is not me. This is what our customers tell us. Over and over. Our books are fresh, original, cutting-edge, and they fill a void. We are humans, though, and book publishing is not an exact science, so neither we nor our books are perfect. But they are, if I might say so, worthy additions to the world's literature, and we are pleased to produce them.

All of this spills over into success in other areas, like with the History and Military book clubs. So if I call, the editors pick up the phone and listen because they know I don't waste their time trying to sell them garbage.

So Eric, J.D., and Michael, congratulations from all of us here at Savas Beatie. Your success is well-deserved, and your tireless labors to promote your work are appreciated, not only by your publisher, but by your readers.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Election of 1864

U.S News and World Report is running a series on important elections in U.S. history. The election of 1864, when Lincoln thumped George McClellan, is the current offering.

The author's level of understanding of Lincoln's perilous standing through most of 1864, and the grave difficulties he and the North faced during the heavy combats that year, is open to question.

Dimitri Rotov could have fun with this one.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Luzader's Saratoga: The New Yardstick

This is why I love publishing so much.

John Luzader served as the staff historian at Saratoga National Historic Park in the 1960s. During his tenure there he scoured through archives on both sides of Atlantic. Armed with reams of original source material, he walked every yard of that expansive battlefield (and its related satellite engagements at Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Stanwix, Oriskany, Bennington, and others). As a result, he came to understand the American Revolution's decisive campaign in a way no other historian ever has. And all of his peers acknowledge exactly that.

And then John began writing about it in his unique "old school" style that drips with charm, verve, authority, and insight. And he kept writing, year after year. And then he tinkered--year after year. As bestselling author and former chief historian for the NPS Robert Utley told me, "John just could not let go."

John is now in is mid-80s and lives in a retirement center in West Virginia. With some prodding from friends and fellow historians (including Jerry Greene, our author of The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781, and Indian War Veterans) John let go of his manuscript, which we picked up two years ago. Other than a few odds and ends, it is now finished and ready for the proofreader. I remembered it as being good; I had forgotten just how good.

John's deep insight into the campaign and its personalities opens windows into the American Revolution in general, and Saratoga in particular, that no other historians have yet explored. The book is a treat to read, from the opening chapter exploring the halls of British power and the roots of the 1777 invasion to the final chapter explaining the ramifications of the campaign.

I particularly enjoyed Luzader's ability to peel back the sources and call a spade a spade: he identifies which officers had trouble with the truth, which were conspiring to create problems between Benedict Arnold and Horatio Gates (a long fascinating appendix covers this topic), why Burgoyne ended up where he did, when he did, and why he did, and lets the major participants, whenever possible, speak through their own pens. Luzader offers a fresh, invigorating assessment of Horatio Gates that surely must be closer to the truth than what popular history and glib writers have offered us.

The end result is a 504-page magnum opus with a dozen original maps, modern battlefield photos, a helpful dramatis personae, nine appendices, orders of battle, end notes, bibliography, index, and a Foreword by Eric Schnitzer, the park's current ranger/historian. All of us here at Savas Beatie are honored to be the company that finally makes John Luzader's lifetime of work available to the general reading public.

This is why I love publishing so much.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Gettysburg Encyclopedia: Update

Nearly three years ago we revealed that author Brad Gottfried (Maps of Gettysburg and a host of other Gettysburg-related titles) and I had begun work on a large single-volume Gettysburg encyclopedia. We receive a steady stream of emails and calls asking about the status of this project. Here is a brief update . . .

We are both happy to announce that content-wise, the volume is about 85% complete.

Scores of contributors from all walks of life (from licensed Gettysburg battlefield guides to college professors, from freelance writers to amateur historians who have amassed immense knowledge on particular slices of the Gettysburg story) are being edited now, or are ready to go. I believe Brad is still seeking contributors for a few remaining entries. We would like to complete this aspect of pre-production by January 1, 2009. (That might be a bit optimistic.)

We anticipate this single volume will run about 800 pages (including lots of original maps) in a 7 x 10 hardcover double-column format. We have not yet determined a retail price. The date of publication has not been set, but we are hoping for June 2010.

In the near future we will republish the Gettysburg Encyclopedia web page, and include a list of the individual entries, a brief bio of each contributor, excerpts, and much more. If there is something in particular you would like to see on this web page, please send us an email and let us know.

One of the issues we will be dealing with is whether to sell this title into the main book trade (chains, Amazon, etc.) or make it available only through Savas Beatie. Your thoughts on this are also welcome.

As always, we look forward to any suggestions you have that might make this project a better book. It is a true (and expensive) labor of love, and we want it to stand the test of time and functionality.

Civil War Subject Preferences--Poll Results

I ran a poll recently asking this question: "Primarily, I buy Civil War books with a focus on . . ." The three possible answers were: Confederate, Union, or both about equally. Although only 15 people responded, it was about evenly divided (4, 5, and 6, respectively).

The poll did not reflect what sales figures have long told us: Southern/Confederate titles sell substantially better than similar Northern/Union titles--and by a factor of at least 2 to 1.

Let's assume a pair of manuscripts are submitted to us for publication, one on General Smith (CSA), and the other on General Jones (USA). Let's also assume we can only fit one into our program. All things being equal (general's status, writing and research quality, author compatibility with Savas Beatie, etc.), I would select the Confederate-related manuscript. If sales were the sole reason driving my decision, sales history tells me it is the right decision.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Exceptionally worthy volumes." We like that.

We received a lengthy H-Net review today on our recent Shiloh battle study. This caught our eye:

"Not alone among publishers that present conventional military research as a
cornerstone of their catalogs, Savas Beatie has in its five-year existence established a notable reputation for producing exceptionally worthy volumes. This trend continues with O. Edward Cunningham's path-breaking Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862, a work originally penned over forty years ago. With its printing, only now will it receive the recognition it assuredly deserves."

-- U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

The trick is dusting off the chaff in search of the wheat. It is not easy, but we work hard, and will work even harder, to bring you "exceptionally worthy volumes."

Thank you to everyone for your continued support of our titles. Without you doing your thing there, we could not do what we love to do here.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

As Publishing Barriers Lower, Quality Suffers

One of the hallmarks of maintaining a competitive edge in any business is the difficulty of entering into that business. Once you are there, great. But is the barrier of entry for others high or low? How easy is it for others to slide into your livelihood? For book publishing, that answer is careening in one direction like a wild car chase in a James Bond movie.

Software, the Internet, and print-on-demand technology has pummeled the barrier and opened the floodgates to independent publishers and authors who choose to self-publish. As the managing director of a thriving independent publishing house, I understand this. I also welcome it. But there is a learning curve, as one author recently discovered.

I received a call last week from "John," whose manuscript I had turned down last year. His research was very strong, his writing less so, but his work merited publication because of its unique topic. But it was not something Savas Beatie was seeking to publish. "John" decided to publish his book on his own. (I advised him not to.) He called to tell me the book was in the mail. (I thanked him.) He was sending me a copy as a way of saying thanks for some of the guidance I provided him.

The book arrived. It looked as I thought it might: self-published. The paperback boasts a mediocre cover design even though it was "professionally" done. The type size inside the book is 1-2 points larger than it should be, and the font is not one I would have selected. The headers are cringe-worthy, as are the margins and choice of paper. The text reads well because he hired a capable editor (at my suggestion).

I called John this morning to thank him for the signed book. He acted embarrassed, and told me as much, because the book did not turn out as nicely as he had hoped. One early review crucified his effort. I immediately decided to put him at ease. Our conversation went something like this:

I can't believe how awful it looks . . .

Look, I wince on occasion when I pick up and flip through some of our inaugural titles from the early 1990s. Book publishing is not an exact science, and there is a steep learning curve for anyone who wants to get involved and do it right.

I tried to do too much myself . . .

Those who have never ventured into this morass we call publishing have little idea what it entails. All the pieces have be in place--from designers and editors, to printers, suppliers, distributors and, of course, buyers. The other day I picked up one of our recent titles, and the first thing I spotted when I opened it was a small mistake in the text! Authors, editors, designers, indexers, and proofreaders scrubbed it, and yet a mistake slipped through. Alas, it is the nature of the beast.

But the review really hurts . . .

It is easy to lampoon a book for this or that fault or mistake--especially when you don't have to produce one yourself. It's the cousin of blasting another's labor in a public review, without ever having written one yourself to fully grasp the difficulty involved. I offered Tim Smith's bestselling Champion Hill as an example. Lauded by nearly everyone, a lone reviewer trashed it. We later found out he was deeply involved in researching the battle and our book preempted his efforts.

John hung up relieved (I think). And I'm relieved, too. As soon as our conversation ended, I reached over and opened our latest book and spent twenty minutes scanning for something amiss. I closed it with a smile.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Judicial Tyranny Averted

Upholding the Second Amendment should not even be news--and yet we nearly lost one of the most fundamental rights of our freedom this morning with a razor-thin 5-4 decision today in District of Columbia v. Heller, 07-290.

The Second Amendment is THE pillar of the entire Bill of Rights. And yet, it survived judicial tyranny by a single vote? The right for you to keep and bear arms sits in the hands of a single, unelected elite snob in a robe in Washington, D.C.?

The fools running our lives locally and/or nationally have the right to tell me I can't own a pistol in my home to protect my family? As someone recently said, "Citizens are armed; subjects are not."

I am a citizen and a free man. I will remain armed.

Another 5-4 vote. We are dancing on the slippery edge of the blade.

Read the majority slip opinion here.

SCOTUS blog is here.

(I am taking my son to the firing range this weekend to celebrate.)


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Savas Beatie Author Launches Radio Show

"Drum Corps Lunch," the radio show, goes live Sunday, June 22, at 1 p.m. Pacific.. Join Colt Foutz, the author of our recent release BUILDING THE GREEN MACHINE: Don Warren and Sixty Years with the World Champion Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps, as he chats with Cavaliers booster and high school bass drum alum Tom Montgomery, editor of the Cass City (Mich.) Chronicle; and Santa Clara Vanguard alum Jeremy Van Wert, author of the drum corps memoir Not for the Faint of Heart.

Here is the link for the show: Drum Corps Lunch

Colt is our second author with a radio show. Sgt. Mike Volkin, author of The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook, and The Ultimate Basic Training Workbook, has a wildly successful radio show you can access by clicking here.

See you online.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Iron Maiden--Inspires Young to Read History?

The core of our publishing program is military (and general) history.

People who know me well know I played classical piano for many years (well into college), toured the Midwest with rock bands (bass, keyboards), and love music. People who know me really well know I love Mozart, Chopin . . . and Iron Maiden.

I love good hard rock, and Iron Maiden is not your typical rock act. After 30 years, they are better than ever, and their cerebral approach to music is, for those who take the time to study it, breathtaking. The hooks are memorable, the music complex and based on classical training, and the harmonies wonderful.

Many of their songs are based upon historical events (or famous pieces of literature). For example, their opening song on their 2008 tour is Aces High, about the Battle of Britain against the Nazis in 1940. Others include Paschendale (WWI battle), Flight of Icarus, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (one of my personal favorites, a 13-minute epic based upon a long poem by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written at the end of the 18th century), Tailgunner (B-17 gunner, WWII), Mother Russia (about the Tzars)--the list is long indeed.

(Stay with me; the payoff is worthwhile, I think).

I took my 12-year old son to his first concert last month: Iron Maiden at the Concord Pavilion. It was the best I have ever seen (I have seen them before). My son Demetri (DT) has never been a big fan of history, though he loves to read. Recently, I caught him reading Coleridge's poem Rime (see above). Then, yesterday, I found him reading on-line about D-Day--Operation Overlord. When I asked him why, he brought up Iron Maiden's song on their latest album called "The Longest Day."

"Pop, did you know this was about D-Day?"

I played dumb. "Really? How do you know?"

DT promptly brought up the lyrics, and then produced an on-line history of D-Day, and began comparing and discussing them. He also discussed the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan.

"This is so cool. And their long song--Rime of the Ancient Mariner--you know, the one you sing all day long, it really follows the actual poem pretty close!"

He was excited. About H-I-S-T-O-R-Y.

Now he is reading about Icarus and Alexander the Great.

Here are some lyrics from The Longest Day. Bring up the studio version on Youtube.com and see if the music and words move you as much as they do us. You will feel the build up, the landing craft approaching, the fear, the determination, the machine guns spitting death, the confusion, chaos, etc.

It may take you a time or two, but when you get it, beware . . . the virus is contagious!

In the gloom the gathering storm abates
In the ships gimlet eyes await
The call to arms to hammer at the gates
To blow them wide throw evil to its fate

All summers long the drill to build the machine
To turn men from flesh and blood to steel
From paper soldiers to bodies on the beach
From summer sands to Armageddon's reach

Overlord, your master not your god
The enemy coast dawning grey with scud
These wretched souls puking, shaking fear
To take a bullet for those who sent them here

The world's alight, the cliffs erupt in flame
No escape, remorseless shrapnel rains
Drowning men no chance for a warriors fate
A choking death, enter hell's gates

Sliding we go, only fear on our side
To the edge of the wire
And we rush with the tide
All the water is red
With the blood of the dead
Although I'm still alive, pray to God I survive

How long on this longest day
'Til we finally make it through

So Iron Maiden is encouraging my son to read history? It doesn't hurt that the lead singer is a commercial airline pilot and semi-pro fencer--i.e, a quality guy. So I am encouraging this excitement in my son.

I hope it continues.

(I bet Bob Younger and Jerry Russell, wherever they are today, are shaking their heads. LOL)

Friday, June 6, 2008

What's Wrong with Today's Publishing?

Despite Jane Friedman's comments last weekend at BEA about how much she loved being CEO of HarperCollins, the ax fell and her ten-year reign of looking at the world from the pinnacle of publishing came to an end. Read more about it here. Stepped down "to pursue other interests?" Umm . . . doubtful.

Looking up (way up) at the pinnacle of publishing from my small mole hill of the book world convinces me that, while I would love to earn a Pinnacle salary, what we do is more worthwhile and important. Permit me to step up on my soap box a moment.

Large houses are so tied to the bottom line and dinosaur-like thinking that they have lost their publishing souls. The idea of producing quality, both in production and concept, is largely foreign to much of the New York establishment. Sure, there are many good people in the City and within its publishing network who see the problem, talk about the problem, and a few who actually try to DO something about the problem. But where has it gotten them?

Publishing, to me at least, is about ideals, culture, education, elevating the literary soul. We have selected a core niche (military history) and do our best to produce high quality, original concepts. The "bottom line" is important, of course, but I often accept titles I know will not make us a dime. But they scream to be published, and published well. We are human, we make mistakes, and sometimes we succeed and sometimes we do not. But we know why we exist, and it is not all about dollars.

Someone asked me at BEA why I left my successful law practice to start a company at the bottom of the publishing world in a small niche, on my own.

The answer rolls of my tongue as easily today as it did ten years ago:

Who will care how many bankruptcy, or tort, or criminal, or business-related cases I handled when they lower my box into the ground? My files will be shredded, and another drone will take my place. And what, exactly, will I have contributed to the betterment of the world? Now, someday, somewhere, in a format not yet invented, a person not yet born will read one of our books and learn something useful. The words will create excitement, stir his senses, stimulate his soul! Perhaps he will look at the spine and wonder who Savas Beatie was, or read the acknowledgments and ponder our contributions, large and small, to the uplifting of mankind.

Somehow, I doubt you will get an answer remotely similar to mine if you asked Ms. Friedman or others in similar Pinnacle positions this same question.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Back From Book Expo

Sarah, Alex, and I just returned from our annual pilgrimage to Book Expo. It is expensive, time-consuming, heavy on caloric (and alcohol) intake--and indispensable.

We spent nearly two full days with Gunny Sergeant Nick Popaditch (The Cigar Marine), his wife April, and co-author Mike Steere. Nick and Mike signed nearly 200 advance galley copies of Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander's Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery (September 2008), met many members of the media, taped a podcast (which will be listed in a few days on our website and at the new Once A Marine site), and answered scores of questions from interested readers.

What I found especially interesting was how Nick was treated by anti-war attendees. Alex handed out postcards announcing his signing events. Most people were very respectful, even if they did not have an interest in his book. A few grumbled, sneered, and came close to yelling at her (she is 16 and my daughter), called Nick a "baby killer" and one said "he would not walk across the street to p*** on him." Very sad.

Some, however, were against the war (and even the existence of the military), but they wandered over and cautiously lifted a galley. After studying it, they moved closer to Nick (his is a very imposing presence that radiates well beyond his personal space) and struck up a conversation with him. As usual, Nick brought his moto-Marine A-Game with him. He was not what they expected him to be. According to what many told me, they expected to really dislike him and get into an argument. Instead, they came away with a completely different perspective of the Marine Corps, the war, and what we did (and are doing) there.

One lady picked up the book Saturday, read it in her booth, at a restaurant that evening, keep reading later in her hotel room, and finished it the following morning. She stopped back to talk with Nick, but he was not in-booth when she returned Sunday. She told me she found the book "riveting," and although she does not support the current war, she "understands people like Nick now better" and wanted to tell him so. She was especially interested in his wounding, treatment, and recovery, and how he was treated. She also told me she is going to recommend it to her friends who feel the same way as she does. (A couple people gave her a hard time for even picking it up.) As a publisher, I found the entire exchange very interesting.

Standing next to a big smiling guy with a glass Marine Corps emblem eye (top right photo, home page), 8% vision in the other (yes, EIGHT PERCENT), who needs to put his face three inches from the page to sign the book, is a rather amazing and unnerving experience. This is so especially since Nick is the ultimate gentleman. The former physics high school honor student who loved Shakespeare, spent four years as a Drill Instructor, has eight tank kills to his credit, a Silver Star, and terrible wounds (a 4-pound RPG hit him in the head traveling a couple hundred miles an hour during the Second Battle of Fallujah) tells everyone he has had a BLESSED life. His words, deeds, and actions can make one feel small without intending to do so. That would not be Nick.

In all the years I have been in the book business, I can honestly state without reservation that Once a Marine is the most amazing firsthand account I have ever read. The book moves at lightening speed, putting the reader right next to Nick as you enlist, ride, fight, suffer, think, emote, and recover with he and his family. One advance reader thought it reminiscent in style and feel to Dalton Trumbo's masterpiece Johnny Got His Gun. Of course, there is an obvious irony in that comparison. Nick's book, however, is not pro-war screed; rather, it is his story and experience in the USMC, serving our country when duty calls. And it is not a combat memoir, per se. You have to read it to understand why that is so.

Nick is an incredible man, father, husband, and Marine, and we are all looking forward to sharing his story with you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Off to Book Expo 2008 in Los Angeles

I had hoped to post another segment on the Unappealing Byproduct series, but will not be able to do so before leaving for Book Expo American 2008 on Thursday. Click here for what Book Expo is all about. If you are attending, stop by our booth, No. 1211.

Tens of thousands of book industry professionals--librarians, booksellers, authors, media, and so on--together with general book lovers of all stripes and flavors descend on the Los Angeles Convention Center for several days of meetings, rights deals, publicity, learning, freebies, and more. For the uninitiated, Book Expo with its thousands of displays and mountains of new books is . . . overwhelming. So can be the eating and drinking that follow each long day.

This year, in addition to selling foreign, paperback, and audio rights, we will be proudly featuring our Fall 2008 author and title Once a Marine: An Iraq Tank Commander's Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery, by Gunny Sgt. Nicholas Popaditch (with Mike Steere). Nick (or Gunny Pop) will be signing hundreds of copies of his book in galley form, meeting with media, and recording interviews.

"Gunny Pop (now known widely as "The Cigar Marine"--Google it) graced the covers of newspapers around the world when an AP photographer captured him in his tank smoking a cigar while protecting the square where Saddam Hussein's statue tumbled into the ash bin of history. On his second tour to Iraq (three if you count the 1991 Gulf War) Nick was critically wounded with an RPG to the head during the second battle of Fallujah in 2004. His is an amazing story, and Once a Marine (compared by some advance readers to Dalton Trumbo's masterful Johnny Got His Gun) captures it magnificently.

We look forward to providing more information on this title very soon.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Radical Shift in the Publishing World

And none too soon.

Ironically, it dovetails nicely with my recent posts about how screwed up the traditional publishing business model really is.

HarperCollins recently announced that it is launching a new book imprint, and the model for it is rather radical. The publisher plans to focus sales through the Internet more than usual, will no longer accept returns from booksellers, will no longer pay sizeable advances to authors, and will not participate in paying co-op fees for placement programs. (Those books you see face out, on end caps, or on special tables are often there only because publishers paid money to put them there. Most people do not know this.)

This only makes sense and how the model fares will be interesting to watch, though it will take a few years to figure it all out. Still, entering this Brave New World might be akin to some far sighted seaman in, say, 1912, remembering to take binoculars into the crow's nest in time to spot any telltale water lapping at the bottom of an iceberg.

Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An Unappealing Byproduct, Part 3 (Author Impact)

As I explained in my first two blog posts in this series, the advances in technology, coupled with a change in buying habits, has impacted publishers in any number of ways (some good, some not so good.) During this flood tide of change (and partially as a result of it), the distribution-payment schedule for traditional trade sales has evolved into a seriously flawed model. Review those posts here and here.

By way of recall: a book with a $30.00 retail price nets each publisher (give or take a quarter or so), $9.75. That means publishers must pay everything--authors, printers, storage, taxes, shipping, design, formatting, editing, utilities, wages, insurance, office supplies, travel (I could keep going) out of the $9.75. "That's Impossible!" one person announced to me recently. He is not far from wrong.

This impacts authors in many ways, but the main result has been a significant change in the structure of royalty payments. The impact on authors can be positive and negative, depending upon the publisher the author selects, and the author himself.

Traditionally, authors were paid a royalty based upon the retail price of the book. If the book was $30.00, and the royalty was 10%, the author received $3.00 for each book sold, whether the publisher received the full price or something less than full retail. Recall that before the advent of the Internet, Amazon, eBay, etc., a large percentage of books were sold at full price. But buying habits have changed, and so few books are sold for full retail unless there is a value-added incentive (early shipment, signed copies, first or publisher edition as opposed to a cheaper book club printing, and so forth).

With some publishers, especially those who handle their own distribution (and so do not have to fork over 35%-50% in distribution fees), authors are still paid a royalty based upon the retail price. However, many (most?) of these publishers pay little or no attention to individual authors and titles, do not plan a book tour (even the large houses plan few tours), arrange media for only a select handful of dozens or even hundreds of titles, and then rapidly remainder their remaining inventory after the initial push into the book trade is over (just 90-180 days). Authors who have spent years working on a book suddenly find they cannot get a meaningful response from their publisher, little or no marketing support, and their labor of love is quickly thrown into the remainder bin at Walmart or online and sold for $3.99. Being paid off the full retail suddenly means very little when a very large percentage of the print run is remaindered.

The flawed distribution and payment model, coupled with the influences of the Internet, make it virtually impossible for small- and medium-sized houses to pay authors off the full retail. Some still do, of course, and we have on occasion depending upon the title and how and where we believe we can sell it. But for many authors--especially niche writers--this traditional arrangement is no longer as viable as it once was.

So what does this mean for authors? It means that, in most cases, they will be paid less for trade sales because there simply is not enough of a margin to allow otherwise. It has nothing to do with a publisher wanting a larger slice of the pie. Rather, it is about being able to continue publishing books. Understanding this, and then altering behavior and viewpoint accordingly, will be the subject of my next post, followed by the effect on end users: buyers.


Friday, May 2, 2008

An Unappealing Byproduct, Part 2

As I noted in part one of this series of posts, the confluence of technology and buying habits is affecting the industry from top to bottom. This post explores pricing structures, and how it affects many publishers, authors, and in the end, buyers.

Many publishers (usually the big guys) manage their own distribution. Many more (especially the smaller and niche publishers) do not, and so contract with a distributor to handle some or all of their access to the market (think general book trade--Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, and so forth). Our distributor is Casemate Publishing. They know the military and general history market inside and out, and handle our distribution into the book trade only. We manage and oversee all other sales.

Technology and Dollars. In the not-so-distant past, a sizeable chunk of any print run sold at full price, or darn near retail. The advent of big box stores, the internet--eBay, Half.com, Amazon--and varying technologies has changed that dramatically--for the better and for the worse. Let me explain.

Let's say we publish a book with a suggested retail price of $30.00. If we sell it at full cost, fine. If we sell it to a book dealer (bypassing the distributor), they go from 25% - 50% off retail. Again, acceptable discounts with few or no returns. But usually the largest percentage of a print run goes into the book trade via the distributor. The division is rather ugly.

The original $30.00 price is cleaved in half because the bulk of books leave the warehouse at 50 percent off. That leaves us with $15.00. The distributor has to take a slice of the revenue, and depending upon your distributor, it can be anywhere from 25% to 55% of the $15.00. (Yes, you read that right.) I am not going to reveal our contractual details, but let's take a middle ground and use 35%. So, $15.00 less 35% ($5.25) leaves us with $9.75 from a $30.00 title.

Book wholesalers who pick up from the distributor (Baker and Taylor, Ingram, Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, etc.) pay months after the shipment, and we receive our check four months plus 15 days AFTER the month of shipment. In other words, if 100 copies of a $30.00 book ship in January 2008, the funds ($975.00) are paid to us in the fifth month thereafter: JUNE.

It gets worse.

These same wholesalers and stores allow patrons (that would be you) to read them in-store, eat over them, spill coffee on them, tear or fold pages, bump the corners, etc. and then put them down so they can go find a used copy on eBay or a cheaper copy on Amazon. These copies (and others--some that never get out of cartons) can be returned for FULL CREDIT to whittle down the outstanding debt to the distributor. So using our example, when June comes around, and the stores return 50 copies, that is immeediately deducted from our check, which cuts the payment from $975 in half. These same stores can the very next day reorder new books, and the cycle starts again.

What does this mean? It means that publishers must pay everything--authors, printers, storages, taxes, shipping, design, formatting, editing, utilities, wages, etc. out of the $9.75 we receive for each $30.00 book.

This model is seriously flawed. Publishers (and by extention the authors--more on that in the next post) shoulder the debt. Put another way, Savas Beatie is carrying the paper--making us creditors for booksellers. We do not rely upon the book trade for our survival and dedicate significant energy into marketing outside the book trade. Success, therefore, requires the right product and very active, and understanding, authors.

I will continue this post by addressing the impact on authors and a follow-up post on how this impacts you, the reader.