20 April 2006 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 8 comments

The Stuart’s Ride project is finished, but for the index. I’ve already made my misery with the subject of indexes known here.

The Stuart’s Ride book is the second book I’ve done with Savas-Beatie Publishing. These two books are also the only two books I’ve done of the twelve where I’ve been forced to go out of pocket to pay for the index myself. Typically, I have either been asked to pay for them by deductions from royalties (the usual method), or in recent contracts, I have specifically negotiated this issue in the contracts, and specifically, making this a strictly publisher cost. None of the other accomplished and well-respected Civil War authors I know are asked to pay for indexes, and I have to admit that it REALLY irks me that I have to go out of pocket to pay for this.

Let me explain why.

Over a period of about twelve years, I have probably invested four or five thousand dollars in researching the materials that ultimately led to the publication of this book. The maps cost us another thousand dollars or so, as the maps are usually author expenses (although I’m going to start trying to get the publishers to absorb those costs, too–neither Jeff Wert nor Gordon Rhea are asked to pay for their maps). That means that I’ve got even more money tied up in this project, and I now have to go out of pocket to pay for the damned index. It galls me. To a very great extent. We’re going to have to sell a hell of a lot of copies of this book just to break even.

I might also add that these two books are the first two that I’ve had published by commercial publishing houses since my first book where I haven’t been paid some sort of an advance to help defray some of the expenses I incur in doing these projects. Some have been decent ($4,000) and some miniscule (one was $250), but there has been something. There are no advances with Savas-Beatie, AND I now have to dig into my pocket to pay for this damned index. Part of me would be perfectly content to see the book go to press without an index if I have to pay for it, but I know that it would be savaged by reviewers without one. Thus, as much as it galls me, I have very little choice but to suck it up and dig into my pocket yet again.

I went with Savas-Beatie for a couple of reasons. First, and foremost, Ted Savas is an old friend of mine, and I know that he creates terrific books. His track record bears that out, and the final product of my Monroe’s Crossroads book is first-rate. Second, Ted does a good job of marketing his books and does a good job of getting his books out there for the public to see and buy. As an example, Ted does a great job of getting the book clubs to pick up his titles (Monroe’s Crossroads is an alternate selection of the month for the History Book Club, and we’re hoping that Stuart’s Ride will be chosen as a main selection; it’s about to be submitted), which is an entirely new market sector for my work. Thus, I made the decision to have him publish those two books even though there were to be no advances coming for either book. What I didn’t know, though–and shame on me for not asking–was that I would end up being responsible for paying for the indexing. So, I guess it’s my cross to bear, even though it galls me almost beyond words’ ability to describe to have to pay for this.

I can only hope that these two books will sell well enough to allow me to recoup the extra $1000 or so that I will end up investing in the indexes for the two books. At least with the Stuart’s Ride book, I have JD to share this miserable expense with.

I know one thing: this is the last time I will ever go out of pocket to pay for an index, even if that means not signing a contract with a given publisher. I think I’ve earned the right to be treated like my peers Gordon Rhea, Jeff Wert, and Andy Trudeau.

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Comments

  1. Paul Taylor
    Fri 21st Apr 2006 at 2:54 pm

    Rant on, Eric! Unfortunately, I fear that the shifting of such expenses onto the author’s back will only get worse in the Civil War field, especially if the market continues to contract as other bloggers are pointing out. Of course, if one’s last name is Sears, Rhea, or possibly Wittenberg, then it could be a different story. But for the majority of us who are not “name-brand” authors, it appears that cost-shifting and no advances will become only more pronounced.

  2. Randy Sauls
    Fri 21st Apr 2006 at 3:35 pm

    I’m brand new to this, so excuse my ignorance. I wonder: how uncommon (and difficult) is it for authors to create their own indexes? It must be quite an undertaking if publishers are making this an author’s cost, and authors are contracting the task out.

  3. Fri 21st Apr 2006 at 3:42 pm

    Randy,

    It’s difficult, mind-numbing detail work that is overwhelming if you’re not used to doing it and don’t know what you’re doing. The only author I know who does his own is Ed Longacre, and I genuinely don’t know how he does it.

    Eric

  4. Fri 21st Apr 2006 at 3:42 pm

    Paul,

    I hope you’re wrong, but I fear you’re not.

    Eric

  5. RAD
    Fri 21st Apr 2006 at 4:30 pm

    Your map comment helps to explained why so many reviews of Civil War books complain about the lack of maps.

  6. Paul Taylor
    Fri 21st Apr 2006 at 5:24 pm

    Eric,

    As a followup, here’s another reason why I think cost-shifting will continue. This is just a feeling based on conversations I’ve had with publishers, authors, etc. Nothing scientific, just a hunch and purely anecdotal.

    While the number of CW books being published and printed may be declining, as a response to declining CW readership, the number of writers seeking to have their manuscripts published is far from shrinking. If anything, it’s increasing. Thus we have a case of supply and demand. The supply of manuscripts is up, the demand for them is down, hence the “price” goes down as well. I’ve gotten the feeling at times that some smaller presses believe that the satisfaction of seeing one’s name on the spine of a book is partial payment in and of itself!

    Paul

  7. Fri 21st Apr 2006 at 7:31 pm

    Paul,

    Sadly, I think you’re absolutely correct. And that’s a sad statement, isn’t it?

    Eric

  8. Valerie Protopapas
    Wed 26th Apr 2006 at 7:05 pm

    Interestingly enough, books about the Lincoln assassination are still being written, printed, purchased and even filmed. It may be that as time goes on, people are beginning to believe that the matter is not quite as ‘cut and dried’ as they supposed. Of course, conspiracy theories abound and have abounded in the matter for years – nor is that any different from other assassinations and ‘historical dramas’ – after all, how did King Tut die?

    Of course, as far as American Presidents are concerned, it appears that Lincoln and Kennedy are the biggest sources of print and speculation. Garfield and McKinley seem to have been victims of bad luck rather than deep-dyed plots. In the same vein, there has been some interest in covert operations, North and South, particularly as they affect Lincoln and books have been written (and reprinted) on those subjects.

    It may be time for CW authors to get away from endless discussions and disections of the minutia of well known and well documented battles and large strategic movements of forces and center their activities on individuals and smaller, less well known incidents that may have had much larger consequences than first appear to be the case. My own interest is in Confederate partisan commander John Singleton Mosby who operated in Northern Virginia whose activities – though apparently tiny in scope – had very real consequences in that theater. Indeed, some very responsible authors have linked ‘the invisible Mosby’ (as one author characterized him) with Lincoln’s murder. In the same way, Mr. Wittenburg’s latest endeavor – a biography of Col. Ulrich Dahlgren (whose last ‘small theater of action’ might also have influenced matters leading to Lincoln’s death) should also find an interested audience, myself being one.

    To my mind, most of the books about large troop movements, strategies, battles etc. have been written and with considerable expertise – unless some unique memoir is found in some attic somewhere which reveals that Lee was drunk at Gettysburg or Burnside was in the pay of Jefferson Davis when he undertook ‘the mud march’. To my mind, now is the time to tempt those interested in the period with in-depth analysis as well as contemporary anecdotes, myths, legends and accounts of persons of interest in the war, especially those in the ‘lower echelon’ whose lives have been overshadowed by giants such as Lee and Grant. I am fortunate in that the subject of my interest has been well represented in print although I would dearly love to see more contemporary accounts republished – such as the newspaper editorials and letters to Presidents Lincoln and Johnson of Horace Greeley calling for Mosby’s hanging at the end of the war. God knows I have tried to locate copies of even one editorial. The newspapers still exist, but the editorials….. Although contemporary accounts are usually quite erroneous – sometimes egregiously so – they do represent ‘the tenor of the times’, that is, the way that people thought AT THE TIME which I feel is often underplayed in many accounts of the events taking place.

    Interest in the CW is NOT declining, but there is only so much that can be made of Gettysburgh. Like any great painting or tapestry, it is the surrounding details that make the matter a thing of interest. An account of WWII that covered only the great battles and failed to bring to light that which was being played out both on and off the battlefield would lack interest except to scholars of military history. The thing that holds people’s minds and keeps their interest is not strategy and tactics (or at least not exclusively) but that human drama that makes us care what happened and why.

    V. P.

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