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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.


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.