Have you ever written a book review?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Publishing Choices. Which Publisher? (Part 1)

It is time to discuss this aspect of publishing once again, in greater depth.

This a post is a variation from one I wrote many years ago. I will expound in detail on a wide variety of matters authors must consider before selecting a publisher. We have plenty of manuscripts coming in, so I am not hunting for more material. So what is driving me? Watching authors make clear "rookie" mistakes in choosing publishers that all but guarantee a mediocre (at best) product, low royalties (or no royalties--a couple publishers out there are crooks who do not pay), and a waste of years of hard work.

If you care about your manuscript, READ ON. 

A Cautionary Tale: A well-known Civil War author worked on a Civil War biography for many years. In the early 1990s, he placed it with a well known university press. The press made a few demands, he modified his text accordingly, and that was it. There was little or no further input on anything else of real substance.

When the finished books arrived, he opened the box with eager anticipation. The first thing he saw was the dust jacket. It was, to use his adjective, "hideous." He skimmed through his labor of love and discovered the paper was heavy but cheap, and that advertised "cloth" was not cloth at all. The binding was also inexpensively done, and glue was visible between and around the signatures. He stuck the book on his shelf and, according to him, never opened it again. Five years of research and the disappointing finished product was something he would have to live with forever.

He was never offered a chance to see the jacket design or the interior design.

But it did not have to be this way.

By this time, some of you are likely wondering why I am sharing a story like this. The answer might be posed as a question: Would you marry a girl you have never seen? Would you buy a car you have never driven? For most of us, the answer is obvious. And yet, authors often jump at the first press that says "yes" to their manuscript.

The acceptance minuet performed prior to signing a contract should not simply consist of a press accepting your manuscript, but must include a thinking author willing to "accept" the press--and all that entails. It is a bilateral arrangement, one both sides should enter with eyes wide open. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a partnership (at least, that is how we think of it at Savas Beatie.)
If you have a manuscript ready, before you submit it to a publisher I strongly suggest a trip to the local bookstore (or to your own local or home library). When you find a publisher that produces books in your genre, study as many as you can with deliberate care. Pick them up, read them, feel them, sleep with one under your pillow.

Is it well designed? Does it have a dust jacket? Is the jacket professionally designed? Look at the flap credits and try to determine if the designer is an outside professional. Is the interior formatting pleasing, readable, and cleanly presented? Is the paper appropriate and of good quality? How is the binding? Tight and square, or loose and inexpensively done? If applicable, does this press use maps, photos, footnotes, or end notes? If so, are they plentiful, well done, and helpfully displayed? Is the text well edited? Generally speaking, look to see if the books by this press are reviewed positively or negatively by readers. Is the company brand (think r-e-p-u-t-a-t-i-o-n) strong and well respected within its publishing niche? Will the company give you the names of 3-4 authors and allow you to contact them?

Books are not an exact science; human eyes and hands create them. However, a good sampling of a publisher's titles will give you a strong sense of what your finished manuscript will look like.

The submission process is, in many respects, caveat emptor--buyer beware. When you go onto a car lot and open your wallet, you know whether you will be driving away in a Mercedes or a Chevy. If your eyes and ears are wide open, you will have a pretty good idea what your final product will look like before you sign on the dotted line.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

How deeply imbedded is the now thoroughly disproved myth about General John Hood's addiction to drugs? [Read General John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General, by Stephen M. Hood (Savas Beatie, 2013) for a complete examination of this slanderous issue, how it originated, and what recently discovered medical reports tell us today.]

Well, as friend Craig Swain brought to my attention, here are the optional rules from the old board game "Embrace an Angry Wind" (published in 1992, the same year Wiley Sword's book of the same name appeared).

The game covered the battles of Spring Hill and Franklin and boasts . . . ready for it? . . . a "Hood Addiction Table."

Wrong history leaks in many directions.

-- tps

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Grant and the Rewriting of History" Chapter Excerpt: "The Relief of Rosecrans"

According to our marketing department, we are offering a FREE with a signed author book plate if you stand on your head and drink a beer through a straw. Or something. (See below for details).

We have posted a chapter excerpt from General Grant and the Rewriting of History: How the Destruction of General William S. Rosecrans Influenced Our Understanding of the Civil War, by Frank Varney (Savas Beatie, 2013). We think you will find this very interesting reading. As professor Varney has told me,"I don't care whether everyone agrees with me or not. I just want them to think about the sources and think for themselves about what they tell us."

Here is the link on Facebook. We encourage you to copy the link, the excerpt, download it, print it, and share it with others via email, Facebook, Twitter, and all the social media outlets. 

If you have read the book, please review it on Amazon.

I am curious as to your thoughts, observations. Slings and arrows are also welcome.

FREE BOOK CONTEST: Spread the word. If there are 20+ shares on FB with 20+ comments about some substantive aspect of the excerpt, we'll select one lucky winner for a free copy of the book! 

Have a great weekend. Go Vikings. 

-- tps

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Why We Publish What We Publish . . . and How We Market.


This will be fairly brief and I hope unconditionally clear.

We publish because we love what we do, and we do it with the intent of being the best in the business in general, and in the American Civil War arena in particular.

The buying decisions of our readers and supporters around the world, the decisions of committees that assign awards, the national book clubs that select our titles, and the quality of the authors who ask to publish their work with us (often over and over) tend to be a good barometer of how we are doing. We don't always succeed, but we work hard with high goals and aspirations.

We only select books that offer fresh, original, solid research and topic coverage that is well written and attractively presented. (Generally speaking, we accept about one in 30 submissions.) We do not shy away from well-presented arguments and contrarian views-- even if it provides some readers with anxiety, a mild panic disorder, additional insomnia, or even some mild depression and rage while curling up in the fetal position. Pop a Xanax and wash it down with a couple fingers of Maker's Mark and enjoy it for what it is: a different perspective.

Finally, we market aggressively inside and outside the book trade. Our authors know this and appreciate it when they get their royalty checks. Recently, however, I read someone who claimed that I intentionally over-hyped a title just to sell it and admitted to him that I had done so. I also had someone tell me a person emailed him and claimed the same thing. People who know me, know our program, and know our books understand that is complete baloney.

Several people are involved in writing, proofing, and approving marketing copy, from the author and myself to our marketing director; sometimes the copy editor and even the developmental editor occasionally have a say. Even our accounts manager reads the copy and comments. We know our books inside and out before a single word is published, and the entire purpose is to inform you of what we believe is inside the book, and what you can expect in exchange for your hard-earned dollars. We stand firmly behind our marketing campaigns, dust jacket copy, and advertising blurbs. Period.

Thank you for your continued support.

Happy Opening NFL day. Happy continued reading.

-- tps

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

HISTORIANS vs. HOOD. Entire Chapter Excerpt Below.

 Frankly, I am saddened and a bit frustrated by so-called "students" of the Civil War (substitute history there if you like) when they announce they don't have to compare sources or read and think for themselves. One poster on Facebook let us know that "
Sword wrote a good biography of Hood. He is critical of Hood but if you know about the Battles of Nashville and Franklin the criticism is justified." He later wrote this: "Sword treats Gen Hood sympathetically. After Gen. Hood's experiences and physical pain that he became hooked on pain killers only makes the general human."

I think it matters whether what you "think" you know something, and have solid evidence of that. In this fellow's mind, no historian of any standing could ever misuse sources (accidentally or intentionally), and once an author writes an award-winning and/or "bestseller" and/or "really good authoritative book" on a subject, there is nothing left to say. I know Wiley Sword personally, and I like his work. I love his Shiloh volume. I don't know what he was thinking when he wrote and sourced what he did, and readers will have to decide for themselves. He wields a hell of a pen and is one fine writer.

This Chapter 11 excerpt, entitled "John Bell Hood and the Battle of Nashville" is from our new book "John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General," by Stephen Hood (Savas Beatie, 2013). 

You can also find it here: http://www.savasbeatie.com/books/pdf/Hood_Nashville.pdf

We suggest a careful reading to fully appreciate what you will find near the end on pages 196-199. Tragically, this is how falsehoods and exaggerations become cemented in the public mind and popular history as “truth.” There are 19 chapters like this. N-I-N-E-T-E-E-N.

We ENCOURAGE you to copy this, print it, and share it with others via email, Facebook and the various social media outlets. 

Enjoy and thank you for your continued support.

-- tps

Monday, September 2, 2013

Did Another Prominent Historian Resort to Photocopy History?

Is historical curiosity dead?

Dr. Allen Guelzo has a good and well-deserved reputation as a historian, and he is a fine writer. I have never met him, and I do not believe I have ever corresponded with him. I am reading his new Gettysburg book, and it is a good single volume on the campaign/battle.

But . . .

Did he lapse into photocopy history mode by following Wiley Sword and Company in their interpretation of General John Bell Hood? It appears so. This is what he wrote about General Hood:

"John Bell Hood, an aggressive Confederate field general who suffered a mangled arm and an amputated leg, sustained himself on alcohol and opiates, and they in turn probably helped him lose his luckless campaign in Tennessee in 1864 by sapping his strength and deadening his judgment." 

Source: Guelzo, Allen C. (2012-04-20). Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction (Kindle Locations 5317-5319). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition. [Submitted to me by a reader.]

And what credible sources did Dr. Guelzo use to conclusively state that Hood "sustained himself on alcohol and opiates"? Answer: None.  Others had written it, so it must be true, right?

Note thereafter Guelzo's eyebrow-raising qualifier "probably" [one of Sword's favorite words] as to how this combination of mind-altering substances sapped Hood's strength and deadened his judgment. Really? Ah . . . no. None of this is remotely accurate. And it is not subjective and no longer even arguable on any level. 

General Hood did not sustain himself or even use alcohol or opiates as Sword and others continue to endlessly prevaricate about, and historians who should know better copy without curiosity or question.

Stephen Hood's John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General (2013) unhorses these (and other) untruths and buries them under a flurry of stomping hooves. He does this in two ways: with newly found original firsthand sources, and a simple if time-consuming comparison of the "sources" originally used by Sword and others to characterize Hood as a drunk, crippled, drugged, hack of a leader. 

This new book conclusively demonstrates that, even WITHOUT these newly discovered documents, the sources used by Sword and others were, in the author's opinion, hearsay or misread or intentionally misused (readers can decide, and the plentiful reviews on Amazon and elsewhere demonstrate that they are shocked by the mountain of evidence). The record is one secondary mistake built upon another, piled upon a third, each with its own new purple adjectives thrown in for good measure. If Stephen Hood had left this subject alone, there is no doubt some author would have soon described an inebriated General Hood selling crack and meth in an Atlanta ghetto during leave.

Even good historians make mistakes. This is but another example. Hopefully, at least regarding General Hood, it is the last one.

(And if you would like to see the Hood book trailer, click HERE.)

-- tps