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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nick "Gunny Pop" Popaditch in New York City

Our author Nick Popaditch (Once a Marine) flew into New York at the request of Fox's TV show Red Eye so he could do the entire show with them in studio (Nick has been on 2-3 times via remote). Picture to right has Nick with Greg Gutfeld and the rather attractive columnist/blogger S. E. Cupp. Lucky guy. (Yes, I can say that. This is my blog.)

When he heard he would be in NYC, Dennis Miller invited Nick to spend 30 minutes with him in studio. It was a perfect match and the show was lively and fun.

John Batchelor's popular syndicated radio show (KABC in NYC) also had Nick on, and has since called to invited him back next week.

I don't have the links to these shows yet, but when I get them I will post them here and Sarah will post on Facebook.

Filner's lying stunt with the foreclosure deal is proof his internal polls show a tight race. Nice work Gunny. We are proud of you.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Going Archival . . . Poll Results

Question: "How important is it to you that a Civil War book be based upon exrtensive [sic] archival research?

Very important. Otherwise, why write it? 36 votes (83%)

Important, but not that critical to me: 6 votes (13%)

I can look past that. Secondary sources are fine: 1 vote (2%)

Meh. I will read anything with Civil War in the title: 0 votes (0%)

This question generated a lot of interest, both in the comment section and in emails (and a few calls) to me. I think the verdict is about as lopsided as I expected given the readership of my blog. Someone made the distinction that archival research and primary research are not necessarily the same--a good point, although not germane to the poll question, which did not link the two.
(Only JD asked what I meant by "archival." OK, he really did not ask that.)
Thank you for participating.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Going Archival . . .

We receive on average one manuscript query each day, either via email or snail mail. They span the gamut from cringe-worthy to spectacular.

During the last two weeks I received a half-dozen on outstanding topics I would love to publish, from campaign/battle histories to brigade histories and biographies. Five from this group were (to my dismay) grounded in secondary sources and very light archival research. By "light" I mean one or two repository visits or a few letters here and there. What is obviously missing? Work in the National Archives, Library of Congress, Southern Historical Society Collection, newspapers, etc.

Savas Beatie does not publish work that has already been written by other authors, if you get my drift.

If I have an interest in a manuscript and see real potential, I write back and explain this to the authors and encourage them to finish the good work they have started. Below is an excerpt from one of the five who wrote back:
"Thanks, but I am finished with my manuscript. Another publisher will take it as-is. I don't need to pay for a trip to Washington DC just to satisfy a few readers who might get mad because I missed a letter from some obscure private."
I did not bother to respond. As far as I am concerned--both as a publisher and a voracious reader--if an author has never heard of the Compiled Service Record files in the NA and doesn't care, he is not worth the time or money to publish or read. Yes, it is that simple. It has taken me a long time to learn, but you really can't make a silk purse from a pig's ear. And we have too many good manuscripts to choose from as it now stands. Let's see what the other three authors have to say.
How important is solid and extensive archival research to you? Is repackaged work acceptable? I posted a poll on this subject at the top-left of my blog. Feel free to vote there, and weigh in on this blog post with comments.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Strategic Transitions: ePub Format

Good morning.
One of the most difficult things to do when running a business started from scratch (as Savas Beatie was in 2004) is to get out of the "shoveling coal in the boiler room" mentality and spend more time on the bridge. For it is only from that higher vantage point that one can see the seas ahead, the sky, determine wind speed, current flow, heading, and make damn sure Frederick Fleet is not dosing off in the crow's nest.

Even if the vantage point is not as high as Mr. Fleet's, it is easy to see the approaching digital iceburg. 

But does this digital ice pose a threat, or an advantage? My guess is that the answer lies in how soon we recognize it for what it is and turn the rudder accordingly.

The book world is experiencing tectonic shifts. Print is here to stay, but so are digital books. (I believe the advent of digital books will increase print sales in the mid-to long-term, but that is fodder for another post.) Trade sales are falling, returns are increasing, the major chains are in severe financial distress, etc. Some of these problems are beyond the control of the publisher, but many of them pose new opportunities (I tend to see opportunity in every pitfall and exploit it accordingly.)

There is not a single publisher who has not at least thought about how to handle the digital issue. Some refuse to see it and like Mr. Ismay have ordered full steam ahead. Others remain frozen at the wheel, unsure what to do and so by default have adopted Mr. Ismay's position. A few, however, are busy turning hard to port or starboard in an effort to glide past the potential pitfall. Savas Beatie is in that latter category. It is my hope that within a short time I will be able to reach out and chip off some clear clean ice into a tumbler and follow it with three fingers of 20-year-old single malt and a good cigar. And from that glass both publishers and authors will sip. (You have to bring your own cigars.)

After spending an extensive amount of time reading and pondering the issue, I decided late last year that one of the three primary strategic goals for Savas Beatie in 2011 was the digitization of our title base for sales crossplatform. Many of our books have been available in Kindle format for some time, but I knew that would not be enough to get the bow of this ship around the berg.

I am happy to report that most of our available books (including our growing and vibrant back list) have now been (or are being) converted into the various ePub formats. The entire process should be done by the end of September.

In additon to the Amazon Kindle format, these include: Apple's iPad (available through the Apple iBookstore), Sony's Reader, Barnes and Noble's Nook, Border's ebookstore, and others. Wholesalers who also deal with digital editions (like Baker and Taylor) will also be carrying our titles. Each digital book also has its own eISBN number. Although Kindle sales have been modest thus far, they have been steadily increasing. Once the transition is complete and our titles are widely available, we expect to see strong growth in this area--but not at the expense of print titles. Growth in one area does not have to translate into a decrease in the other.

The digital age is upon us, and that iceberg is not of the "blue" variety. [Look up blue ice if you are unsure of my meaning.] Indeed, it has been visible for some time--even the coalers in the boiler room have heard about it.

Best to chip from that block and enjoy its advantages than hit it full on and go down by the bow.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ever-Shrinking Borders: Sales Fall 11.5 Percent On Loss of Over $51 Million

It was more enjoyable writing about the Slash concert . . .

Borders reported second quarter sales of $526 million, down 11.5 percent from a year ago (when sales were down 17.7 percent compared to 2008--when sales were also down.) For a little perspective, sales in this quarter were $617 million in 2009; $749 million in 2008; and $945 million in 2007.

The loss from continuing operations (to reflect the sale of Paperchase) was another $51.6 million, or 74 cents a share (perilously close to what shares themselves trade for), worse than $45.1 million a year ago. The operating loss of $37.7 million was also worse than the $25.7 million recorded a year ago. The loss came in part from "increased promotional discounts" required to prop up declining sales.

In the glimmers of "good news" offered, same-store sales fell by only 6.8 percent, which is actually an improvement, and their very small Borders.com business grew by 56 percent, at $15.5 million, reflecting the ebookstore they opened during the period and increased online physical book sales. Unfortunately, from a publishing perspective the store comp sales number is even weaker than it seems. The company said in this morning's investor call that the cafes actually increased while the declines were "largely due to our trade book category."

Overall debt of $262 million is actually higher than a year ago, by 2.7 percent, even though inventories continued to shrink, at $798 million this quarter, compared to $868 a year ago (reflecting some of those big returns that some publishers have been experiencing). The closely-watched trade accounts payable were $348.5 million, a little higher than six months ago but down from $401 million a year ago.

They proudly noted in this morning's investor call that one of their best strategies for improving performance is "opportunistically" negotiating early lease buyouts (like the one just announced in San Francisco). They have recently terminated seven underperforming leases before the end of their term.

With fresh financing, the company invested a little bit in capital expenditures this year, spending $7.7 million "focused on the development of the Borders eBook store." They say that "sales of the Kobo as well as pre-orders for the Aluratek and Velocity Micro devices have exceeded expectations."

The company says their consumer research "has indicated that most customers come to Borders to escape the pressures of everyday life." That's used in part to explain their "shifting our product mix to include additional non-book products that are both compelling and relevant, and providing an escape for our customers though an inspirational in-store environment and consistent customer service."