14 September 2006 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 19 comments

My first book was published in 1998. It’s titled Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, and was published by Thomas Publications of Gettysburg. The book won the Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award given each year by the Robert E. Lee Civil War Roundtable of New Jersey as 1998’s best new work interpreting the Battle of Gettysburg.

The book covers Farnsworth’s Charge, Merritt’s fight on South Cavalry Field, and the Battle of Fairfield. It’s short, only about 150 pages, but it’s the first time that anyone ever really tackled these issues in depth. It features excellent maps by John Heiser and lots of photos, including a bunch of modern-day views. The book sells for the very reasonable price of $12.95, as it’s softcover.

Here’s where it came from: I had done an article on South Cavalry Field that was published in Gettysburg Magazine, and one on Fairfield that appeared in America’s Civil War, and I actually was researching Farnsworth’s Charge for another article. My friend Rick Sauers suggested that I should do a book project instead, so I did.

Since I wrote this book, additional sources have surfaced that I would have liked to have been able to include. However, I stand by my conclusions and my analysis, and I think that the book has aged reasonably well. And therein lies the crux of my dilemma.

The book has sold steadily but not spectacularly. To date, it has sold something like 4300 copies–not bad–and there are less than 200 copies left in the inventory at Thomas Publications. Dean Thomas, the publisher, has already told me that when they’re gone, he doesn’t intend to reprint the book and that he will revert my publishing rights to me.

At the same time, J. D. and I plan to write a three-volume history of cavalry operations during the Gettysburg Campaign where I will be able to update the thing and include the additional material, etc. At the same time, it will be a comprehensive study and not a volume devoted to a particular topic.

So, I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. Do I seek out another publisher to keep Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions in print? Or do I let it go out of print and just wait for the multi-volume study to come out? Since it has always sold well, I’m inclined to find another publisher, but that raises yet another dilemma: who?

I welcome input from you, friends. What do you think I ought to do?

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Jim Epperson
    Thu 14th Sep 2006 at 9:11 pm

    I’d vote for doing a second edition. Couldn’t you do it at Ironclad?

  2. Sam Elliott
    Thu 14th Sep 2006 at 9:16 pm

    2nd Edition. After all, there are some who might not want to plow through another 3 volumes on Gettysburg. Me, for one.

  3. Rob Wick
    Thu 14th Sep 2006 at 9:54 pm

    Well I’ll buck the trend so far and recommend letting it go with the thought of updating, etc., in the multi-volume history. While I realize that as author you don’t see anything from used book sales, with the revolution in finding just about any book on the net it will never go away.

  4. Stephen Graham
    Fri 15th Sep 2006 at 12:52 am

    I’d also vote for waiting for the three-volume history, particularly if reprinting would take your time away from other books. I think the topics would be better served by being placed within the full context of the cavalry operations.

  5. Paul Whitmore
    Fri 15th Sep 2006 at 1:10 am

    What Stephen Said

  6. Art Bergeron
    Fri 15th Sep 2006 at 8:39 am

    My recommendation would also be to let it go.

  7. Fri 15th Sep 2006 at 9:33 am

    My first book went out of print after ten years and maybe 600 sales. The publisher reverted the rights to me. I found another publisher (Alabama) willing to do a paperback edition, but more importantly, an edition in which I could correct some last minute typos, a few mine and a few that the original press slipped in after my last edit. It was not a difficult process; I essentially spoke to a few publishers to see if any were interested. Personally I like having it still in print, even though its never been a world-beater.

  8. Fri 15th Sep 2006 at 9:39 am

    I should probably recuse myself from this, since I’m co-authoring the multi-volume history… ๐Ÿ™‚

    But I would let GFCA stand – if you updated and re-released it, I fear it would end up being a condensed version of what we will have in the larger work, and as Stephen said, you can’t give GFCA the context that the larger work will have. We’d always like to go back and revise or add to previous writings, but I think the book stands as is. It’s a classic, actually. It’s on many Gettysburg book “must have” lists. I’m just afraid that an update of it will just turn it into a baby version of the multi-volume history, and the situation will end up being one where folks recommend “getting that first edition” instead of the revised one – otherwise just buy the multi-volume history.

    Put it this way – there are no mistakes in it – it’s not like David Martin going back and having to fix his July 1 book, the first edition of which was full of errors and boo-boos. If folks want the true story of Farnsworth, Fairfield, and Merrit on July 3, GFCA is the stories all in one place.

    Anyway, I know that you’re looking for opinions other than mine, which is the way it should be, but those are my thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚

    J.D.

  9. ptrostle
    Fri 15th Sep 2006 at 10:43 am

    Eric,

    Without having a good grasp of the costs involved, my gut says let it go.

    Regards,

    Phil

  10. Dave Powell
    Fri 15th Sep 2006 at 4:44 pm

    Eric,

    I think you should match it with a suitable Western theater cavalry book, say on Forrest and Wheeler in 1863, and do a boxed set.:)

  11. Fri 15th Sep 2006 at 4:59 pm

    Reprint the book and update it if you have the time…

  12. Valerie Protopapas
    Fri 15th Sep 2006 at 6:58 pm

    Publishing has changed with the advent of personal publishing and other options not previously available to authors. Then, too, you write for a very narrow field of interest but one which seems to gain more and more adherents as the years go by.

    I know very little about such things, but once the rights revert to you, you have several options open to you. However, I will say this as an eclectic purchaser of books of interest. DO NOT LET IT JUST BECOME PART OF SOME LARGER BOOK OR GROUP OF BOOKS. I have bought a lot of very esoteric works on various persons, commands and theaters because I was attempting to gain as much information as possible about my main interest and not simply use what others have written about the man. Frankly, I am ‘turned off’ by large books which only contain a very small amount of information pertaining to my field of research. First, of course, the larger book was usually commensurately expensive, far more so than a smaller work more limited and focussed on my interest would have been.

    Secondly, space has become a matter of concern; indeed, it is now CRITICAL. Three large books usually take up more space than twice that number of smaller books and that’s to be considered when all I want from the LARGE book is a few chapters or something that was once contained in a much smaller work. Furthermore, it is a real pain digging through the larger books to find the information I want and, with carpel tunnel in both hands, schlepping large books is a REAL pain!

    I would not let your ‘baby’ go and become nothing more than someone else’s appendix or a few chapters. If you wish to permit certain parts of the work to go into a larger, more comprehensive study, by all means do so. But if I were you, I would see what I could do to ‘update/correct’ the book and have it reprinted even in paperback.

    But than, as I have been informed before, what do I know? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Lanny Thomas Tanton
    Sat 16th Sep 2006 at 1:18 am

    Eric,

    Here is a different slant you may wish to consider.

    Have you thought about (1) letting GFCA go out of print, (2) write and publish your three volume work, (3) release a second edition (revised and enlarged) of GFCA which is from the three volume work?

    Such an arrangement will allow for (1) a complete revision of GFCA with enough time between the first and second edition to create a market for it, (2) GFCA can be purchased by those wishing only for that aspect of the battle, and (3) it serves as an advertisement for purchasing the larger three volume work.

    Modern Library did something like this when they published under separate covers Shelby Foote’s Gettysburg and Vicksburg accounts.

    Best wishes always,
    Lanny Thomas Tanton

  14. Sat 16th Sep 2006 at 12:05 pm

    Eric and JD, I’m home from the hospital, still dealing with kidney stones and an infection that requires some heavy meds and several unpleasant treatments. Anyway… I felt really bad when I came home yesterday (result of shock treatments) and what did I find on my front porch, but my review copy of Stuart’s Ride. It was a VERY welcome surprise and I look forward to reading and reviewing the work. Its arrival could not have come at a better time. I thank you.

  15. Sat 16th Sep 2006 at 7:56 pm

    Excellent, Mike! And I hope you feel better very soon. Never had the problem, but a friend had, and I can sympathize.

    Sit back, get comfy, and ride with Jeb ๐Ÿ™‚

    J.D.

  16. Sat 16th Sep 2006 at 9:20 pm

    Mike,

    I’m glad to hear you’re home, and hopefully, you’re feeling a bit better. Hang in there.

    And enjoy the book.

    Eric

  17. Sat 16th Sep 2006 at 9:21 pm

    Thanks, guys. I really appreciate the input. I’m leaning toward trying to find another publisher, as I think that the book should remain in print.

    Dave Powell, that suggestion didn’t go over well with Susan. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Eric

  18. Dave Powell
    Sun 17th Sep 2006 at 7:09 am

    LOL. I hope you find a good publishing home for it. It is a nice work, and deserves to be in print.

    Dave

  19. Joshua Blair
    Sun 17th Sep 2006 at 1:56 pm

    This book is too good to go out of print. I hope you do a second edition. Perhaps you could add a driving/walking tour like you did for your Battle of Trevilian Station book. I know you already have a East Cavalry Field tour but what about Fairfield?

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