27 October 2005 by Published in: Civil War books and authors No comments yet

Just to show that I’m an equal opportunity basher, I have plenty of gripes about some of the commercial presses operating out there.

There are some commercial houses out there that really have very little in the way of quality control. White Mane, as an example, is not much more than a vanity press. They have extremely indifferent editing, not much in the way of proofreading, they use really poor quality materials to manufacture their books, and they don’t seem to care about actually publishing books. What I mean when I say that is that my friend Ben F. Fordney, who has spent most of his retirement studying George Stoneman, has written a very good bio of Stoneman, the first full-length one written. White Mane had published Ben’s master’s thesis, and they had the right of first refusal for his manuscript. Ben signed a contract, and after nearly three years without them doing anything at all with it, he finally reached the limit of his patience and pulled the plug. When last I asked him, he was still looking for a publisher for it. I’ve often said that if I had to make a choice between having White Mane do one of my books or never publish another word the rest of my life, I would choose not publishing, and I mean it.

There’s another publisher in Virginia that had a great idea. This publisher would do regimental histories of every Virginia regiment, and also a series of books on the battles fought in Virginia. The regimental histories are, for the most part, useless. Why? NO detail. No endnotes or footnotes. Atrocious artwork. Indifferent editing. The average length is about 100 pages on the “history” portion of the book. The ONLY useful thing about these books is the rosters at the end. Other than that, they are, for the most part, useless. The battle histories are inconsistent. Some are quite good. Some are really bad. It all depends on the author, because the publisher exercises almost no quality control. If the author writes a good book, then a good book gets published. If the author writes a bad book–and there have been plenty of them in the series–then a bad book gets published. End of story.

Then, there are commercial presses that publish books without bothering to check whether the book has any value, or whether it is historically accurate. If you need an example of this, please see the comments on Amazon pertaining to Paul D. Walker’s book The Cavalry Battle That Saved the Union, which is just an atrocious book. With reviews like that, you would wonder what the publisher thinks.

Finally, there’s the marketing of some commercial houses. Just because they’re for-profit ventures doesn’t mean that they’re going to do a fabulous job of marketing. It’s a never-ending source of annoyance for me to visit the Barnes & Noble store less than five miles from my house and not see a single one of my titles on the shelf. Why? Because the publisher does a terrible job of marketing. I won’t name the publisher, but I have registered numerous complaints, so many, in fact, that I’ve simply given up.

Fortunately, Ted Savas seems to have a gift for marketing the books he publishes. I’m looking forward to seeing how well he does with my new book, which will be ready to go the printer shortly.

I like to think that I’m an equal opportunity ranter. 🙂

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