07 February 2007 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 15 comments

The work I do serves two purposes. First, and foremost, it scratches my teaching itch. It’s how I fulfill my need to write, which is something of a compulsion.

It’s also intended to be something of a money-making venture. Now, I fully understand that my work is never, ever going to make any bestseller list. At the same time, doing the research, acquiring illustrations, and paying cartographers costs money. Sometimes, it costs a LOT of money. The upshot, therefore, is that I have to at least be able to break even in order for me to be able to justify the expenditure to Susan. In a perfect world, I even get to make some profit. Hopefully, I will be able to collect some decent money from the sales of the Stuart’s Ride book, which has sold very well.

I’m trying to figure out the best way to spur sales of my other titles. I’ve been talking to some web developer types about how to do just that. We’re slowly but surely coming up with some ideas about how to do this. It’s clear that I am going to have to spend some money to make some money, and I am not opposed to doing so if it appears that there will be a worthwhile rate of return for doing so.

Ultimately, there will be some changes coming to this particular web site. However, this blog will continue to exist no matter what and no matter what changes do occur. Please stay tuned.

In the interim, if anyone has any ideas about how best to drive sales of books, I will be more than happy to hear them. And thanks for your time and for continuing to indulge my rantings.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Rob Wick
    Wed 07th Feb 2007 at 11:28 pm

    Eric,

    Just wanted to let you know that at least in my Barnes and Noble, the Stuart’s ride book is my best selling Civil War title. I had to bring in four more last week. It’s been very easy to hand sell.

    Best
    Rob

  2. Thu 08th Feb 2007 at 10:04 am

    Rob,

    That’s really nice to know–thanks for passing that along. I wish that was the case with all of my books. 🙂

    Eric

  3. Dave Kelly
    Thu 08th Feb 2007 at 10:06 am

    You know I wasn’t kidding the other day when I mentioned that Amazon.com had laid their hands upon thee. A useful benediction, since they decided your books could sell and actually put up all your available titles. Before Stuart’s Ride you couldn’t find squat there. That’s going to get you a lot more exposure than boiler plate on the blog.

    Wanna sell books, get a painting of Lee frenching Jackson, with NB Forrest lurking in the background with revolver in teeth, shooting reins (er, wait: reverse that…) Oh and use GETTYSBURG in the title; no matter what the subject is.

  4. Valerie Protopapas
    Thu 08th Feb 2007 at 2:34 pm

    I would suggest a mailing to any and all CWRTs letting the folks know what you have written (as well as what has yet to be published). Not everyone knows about these things, especially older members who don’t surf the net, so to speak. I put out information on your Stuart book to the Stuart-Mosby Society. I know that there is a Mosby Heritage Museum in Warrenton that might be interested in marketing it or at least letting folks know that it exists since it touches on Mosby.

    As for the Dahlgren book (even though it isn’t published yet), you might make use of the controversy over Dr. Long’s article albeit your book is much more than a recount of the raid. Many people want to know about the MAN so that they can have a better opportunity to make a judgment about the RAID. Let’s face it, people tend to act in accordance with their character and not so often ‘out’ of character, so to speak. Knowing Ulrich Dahlgren must to some extent assist those who are trying to come to grips with what actually happened and who know what and when.

    Advertisements in the various CW publications can’t hurt – people are always on the lookout for a GOOD new book (or old one for that matter). You cannot imagine how many times I’ve heard people say, ‘I didn’t know there was a book out on THAT! (Said it myself more than once, actually!)

    Libraries should be contacted – especially those in areas in which the ACW is an important part of that area’s culture; Virginia, certainly! And DC, Pennsylvania, Ohio – and other areas that are especially affected by your subject matter.

    I don’t think that it’s a matter of disinterest so much as ignorance. The more people who are interested KNOW about something, the more likely they are to get around to buying or at least borrowing it from the local library. Oh, and you might consider audiobooks for those who use them. I do a lot of cleaning with a book plugged into my ear. It’s the only thing that makes cleaning the refrig or the cat boxes bearable! 😀

  5. Michael Aubrecht
    Thu 08th Feb 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Eric, with ZERO credit being directed back at me, I was informed by our local Borders manager a couple weeks ago that the titles that are reviewed in The Free Lance-Star (by myself, or the other CW guy Dane Hargrove) fly off the shelves. I noticed this when all the copies of your Stuart book, and Richard’s Stonewall book disappeared the week following the T&C going to press. Therefore, I would say get these titles reviewed in as many newspapers as you can.

    Unlike the academic-like analysis that is published in the Civil War magazines (which I love and applaud), our thousand-word reviews tend to be focused toward a broader, more “blue-collar” audience, and we like to appeal to the casual reader or fringe-enthusiast. “We” meaning the CW community are going to buy the books regardless… its “John Q. Notabuff” that may need to be sold to. In other words – market to the masses my friend. You’ve already got us.

    BTW: My review of Eric’s “Rush’s Lancers” will be running in the next week or so. Stay tuned… and then go out and buy it. 🙂

  6. Scott
    Thu 08th Feb 2007 at 8:37 pm

    Cartographers!!! $$$$$

    I’m purchasing some software myself – its cheaper!

    Scott

  7. Thu 08th Feb 2007 at 8:38 pm

    Michael, you’re quite right – our Stuart book really spiked again right after your review! It created quite a stir in sales.

    Valerie – that’s one of the things we did upon release of the Stuart book… mailings to CWRTs. We think that really helped. We needed a second edition one week after release (literally) when the first sold out, and the third hardback edition, only four months after release, is just being ordered.

    We’re really humbled and tickled by the sales.

    J.D.

  8. Thu 08th Feb 2007 at 8:46 pm

    Scott,
    Cartography software–that’s one thing I would love to see some knowledgable person write about…i.e. what’s out there, what it costs, the pros and cons of each, etc.

    Drew

  9. Valerie Protopapas
    Fri 09th Feb 2007 at 10:35 am

    The ‘glitz’ of the subject helps sales. Stuart, like Lee, Jackson, Mosby, Forrest et al. on the Confederate side, usually get a great deal of interest. Secondary figures like Turner Ashby, Jubal Early etc. get less of a response, but there is still interest among the initiated, especially if the individual was involved in some well known incident. Of course, blood & guts usually provokes interest – the likes of Quantrill, Bloody Bill Anderson, Champ Ferguson, the Lawrence raid, the James boys etc. have their own audience looking for something new on the subject. On the Union side, books on Chamberlain, Grant, Custer etc. can usually get good numbers especially if there is something ‘new’ in the telling.

    That’s why I think your book on Dahlgren will do very well. He had two things going for him, a controversy at the time of his death and a controversy today. And, too, he was a young man who, unlike many, had an entrance into the highest levels of government because of his father. That makes him an ‘insider’ to a certain extent.

    Tragedies play well too as do, of course, controversies. Dahlgren’s short life can be seen in both of those lights. He had everything to live for but died in the commission of what might be viewed either as a brave attempt to bring the war to an early (and thus less bloody) conclusion or, in the alternative, a vicious dishonorable act contrary to the accepted rules of warfare. Again, I know that the raid is not the focus of the book, but it certainly must be considered its culmination. In a way, it’s like Lincoln. Whenever anyone thinks of Lincoln, their first thoughts are usually about the assassination even though there was a lot more to Lincoln’s life than the last few hours in which he was not even an active participant!

    Perhaps books that are less focused on a single person or event – such as your upcoming on Rush’s Lancers – would do even better if any advertisement included those particular points at which the subject intersected a ‘famous incident’. For instance, as you mentioned, the Lancers ALMOST caught up with J.E.B. Stuart in his ‘ride around McClellan’. In other words, they came within a few moments of being as, if not MORE famous than Stuart: “The command that caught an impudent General in his audacious raid!” and so forth.

    Except for the very scholarly, most people buy books because something within those books piques an interest. People may BUY an encyclopedia, but they don’t usually read them in bed! Ergo, to foster sales, people have to see something in the book other than the mere ‘nuts and bolts’ of history – some story that garners passion and interest. At least this is why I buy a book.

  10. Rob Wick
    Fri 09th Feb 2007 at 12:45 pm

    Eric,
    As one who sells books for a living, it’s all in the promotion. Word of mouth will get you a few sales, but unless you have a publisher who is willing to get behind you and crank up the publicity machine, it’s going to be hard to get books out the door. With publishers not very willing to do that, it all comes down to the author. We have a book that was published by a local author and printed by iUniverse but has been our best local seller because of two things 1)It’s better than most of the crap cranked out by vanity publishers and 2)he’s had zillions of signings and spoke before every group that would have him.

    Take as another example the difference between Mike Kauffman’s “American Brutus” and Swanson’s festering pile of turds (to borrow your words about another scribbler). Both books were published by major houses (Kauffman was Random House and Swanson was HarperCollins), but Harper put the bucks into publicity and promotions and took Swanson to the best seller list. While I doubt anyone would disagree that Kauffman’s work was much better, we don’t even have it on our shelves (which I plan to rectify soon) although we have 20 copies of “Manhunt”.

    Another factor is a knowledgeable salesman. The people I’ve sold your books to weren’t looking for a history of Stuart’s ride (or a book on Little Phil or the battle of Monroe’s Crossroads). It was more along the lines of “my father, grandfather, brother, husband, etc., is a Civil War nut and his birthday is coming up. What’s new?” When I tell them about your book and how it’s well respected (and that I know the author!) I’ve never had one person tell me they weren’t interested. If you have someone who knows what is current in the field, that will make a big difference.

    I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t know already, but sadly even a superstore only has so much room on the shelves. We will always stock more of what the buyer thinks will sell instead of the book that cuts out all the crap and tells the story as it actually happened.

    Best
    Rob

  11. Don
    Fri 09th Feb 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Eric,
    Although pretty new to blogging, I wouldn’t underestimate the power of your readers getting the word out about your books on their blogs. I think it would definitely help to have links to your books in the blog entries/ reviews, but this brought a different question to mind. Does a book that sells on Amazon net you any money, or are those books already considered ‘in circulation’ for lack of a better phrase?
    What about the various NPS bookstores? I saw (and purchased) my copy Plenty of Blame to Go Around at Gettysburg since I happened to be visiting. The tie-in for that particular book there is rather obvious, but what about other popular parks? Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville both have pretty good stores, and most of the ones that I’ve seen contain more subjects than that particular battle.
    Civil War periodicals, of course, but what about groups other than the CWRT’s? The U.S. Cavalry Association (www.uscavalry.org), for example, might be interested in stocking a few copies of each in their “Sutler’s Store”. I’m not sure how much visitation they receive monthly/ annually, but most of those people would very likely be interested in your writing.
    I’m not sure exactly how to contact them, but the military may provide you several options as well. First would be the military libraries at places like Fort Leavenworth and Fort Knox. Second would be the bookstores at both of those places, the one at Fort Knox unsurprisingly focuses on the history of cavalry and armor forces in the US and elsewhere. Field grade officers receive their professional education at Leavenworth, and all new young tank and cavalry officers are trained at Fort Knox. I would think they would be a very receptive audience. Third would be people in the Army at large, perhaps taking out an ad in the Army Times. The Army recently expanded the number of units designated as cavalry, which has led to more interest in cavalry history and traditions. While this is most prevalent (an unkind person might at times say manic) in the three remaining cavalry regiments, there is a great deal of interest in other cavalry units as well. Unfortunately the museums of the two remaining regiments from the Civil War are currently in transit due to unit moves, as I know they both had bookstores.

  12. Rob Wick
    Fri 09th Feb 2007 at 2:56 pm

    What I forgot to add to the last paragraph of my post was to make friends with the community relations manager of all the chain bookstores in your area. Most CRMs are begging to have local authors promote their books (although I know of your bad experience with my company’s CRM there). If the store doesn’t have a CRM, make friends with the manager. It is in the interest of his financial security to sell as many books as possible.

    Best
    Rob

  13. Fri 09th Feb 2007 at 3:49 pm

    Rob,

    Great stuff. Eric and I are VERY fortunate in that we have a great publicity machine in Ted Savas and Sarah at Savas-Beatie LLC. Ted definitely promotes his books, and he’s always thinking. He pushes his authors to do everything possible and is constantly throwing out ideas. Ted only wants authors who will “work” their books, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to do so.

    J.D.

  14. Fri 09th Feb 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Don,

    More great ideas, which we will follow up on. As for Amazon, we do get paid on those, yes – but they’re calculated by the distributor, and of course are with lower retail prices. In any case, money has to come back to the publisher before money goes to authors.

    J.D.

  15. Sat 10th Feb 2007 at 10:44 am

    There are some very good ideas here, and I really appreciate the input from everyone. Thank you for taking the time to weigh in.

    Eric

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