26 March 2007 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 covers Farnsworth’s Charge, Merritt’s fight on South Cavalry Field, and the Battle of Fairfield, all actions that took place on day three of the Battle of Gettysburg. Old friend Rick Sauers talked me into doing it as a book. I had written an article on Merritt’s fight that was published in Gettysburg Magazine and one on Fairfield that was published in America’s Civil War, and my original intent was to complete the trilogy with an article on Farnsworth’s Charge.

Rick talked me into compiling it all together and publishing it as a book. It’s short–only about 150 pages, including index, etc.–and just a little bit disjointed because of how it came together. There’s one chapter of nothing but verbatim quotes pertaining to Elon Farnsworth’s death that’s quite interesting, but breaks up the flow of the book a bit. It probably should have been an appendix and not a primary chapter. It features John Heiser’s fine maps and a good assortment of photos. It’s definitely not my best work; my writing has improved dramatically over the years (practice makes perfect). However, it was very well received, and it won me the Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award as 1998’s best new work interpreting the Battle of Gettysburg.

In retrospect, I should have included the Battle of Hunterstown when I wrote this book, as it is also one of Gettysburg’s forgotten cavalry actions. Fortunately, J. D. and I have made that particular omission right in Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg. Thus, I would probably leave it out of any re-write of the original book, even though including it would definitely be in keeping with the theme of the work.

Over the years, it’s been a steady but unspectacular seller. It has sold about 4000 copies over these eight years, and it’s just about out of print. There are less than 200 copies left in inventory at Thomas, and I hear that Thomas is having significant financial problems. My last royalty payment is significantly late, and so are the payments of some other Thomas authors. Frankly, I’ve always been a bit disappointed in the marketing effort of Thomas. Thomas is not affiliated with a major distributor, so the availability of Thomas titles is limited, and you won’t find them in the big chain bookstores unless someone places a special order. This means that circulation is much more limited than it would be with a publisher who works through a distributor.

Several months ago, I sent a letter to Dean Thomas asking whether he intends to reprint the book, and he says no, he doesn’t intend to do so. That means it’s going to go out of print very shortly, although Dean is willing to revert my publication rights to me now. This creates a dilemma for me.

Do I seek a new publisher for it as originally written? Or do I do a complete rewrite of it that adds some of the new material that has surfaced in the years since the book was published, add a walking/driving tour, and tighten up the prose? Or do I bag the whole thing altogether, let it go out of print, and save the rework for the three-volume history of the cavalry in the Gettysburg Campaign that J. D. and I are planning?

I’ve had one conversation with Ted Savas about doing a new edition, and Ted expressed some interest in a pretty complete re-work of it. Ted understandably has concerns about demand for an eight year old book, even if it is completely overhauled from top to bottom. I am going to put together some ideas for him about what I would change in it this week, and we will see what he says.

In the meantime, I thought I would poll you–my regular readers–and see what you think about the idea. What say you? Which of the three options should I pursue?

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Steve Basic
    Mon 26th Mar 2007 at 11:02 pm

    Eric,

    If me, I would let it stand alone as a separate work, and save the new stuff for the 3 volume history. I tend to believe that folks who are interested in the subject already have the first book, and will be willing to see the new stuff you both have dug up on the subject when the 3 volume set hits the stores.

    Steve

  2. Bill Satterlee
    Tue 27th Mar 2007 at 2:13 am

    My opinion is to let it go and use your time and energy to provide more new work. You seem to have work planned in areas not yet covered or that were done inadequately to keep you busy. I enjoyed the first book and it got me hooked on cavalry actions but I would rather see the new stuff than a remake of that presently on my shelf.

    When you get everything written that you want you can go back and rewrite the origional in your old age.

  3. David
    Tue 27th Mar 2007 at 6:44 am

    Eric-

    I would give serious consideration to a new edition. If you truly have new stuff and a way to integrate it into the book, I would do that. You could take as a model Robert Tanner’s book on the 1862 Valley Campaign. His second edition, which is worth the price of admission, is essentially a new book.

    David

  4. Kevin S. Coy
    Tue 27th Mar 2007 at 7:01 am

    Eric,

    This is a wonderful book. I could hear the hoofbeats when I first read it. Great, great, little book. But I would let it stand. The info found in the book is not incorrect. So devote your time and energy to your new work. And I will treasure my personalized copy of “Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions”

    Kevin S. Coy

  5. Don
    Tue 27th Mar 2007 at 8:42 am

    Eric,
    Looks like I should have checked your blog before replying to your comments on mine this morning. 8^)
    I think an updated new edition would be a good idea. Not that I want to wait any longer for the three volume set, but it may help you process the new information by working on it in an update here first.
    Also, as you said, it is a steady seller. It needs to stay on the shelves, so letting it die isn’t a good option. It’s small enough to not be intimidating to the average tourist, yet catchy enough to snag their interest all over Gettysburg. Don’t let it die.

  6. Paul Taylor
    Tue 27th Mar 2007 at 9:11 am

    Eric,

    To use your words, “bag the whole thing altogether, let it go out of print, and save the rework for the three-volume history of the cavalry in the Gettysburg Campaign.”

    Paul

  7. chuck
    Tue 27th Mar 2007 at 11:24 am

    Eric,

    My suggestion is to concentrate on your present works. I’m still waiting for your book on the Gettysburg Retreat that you and J.D. were working on! While I realize that it is tempting to make a previous work “better”, sometimes the original is just fine, as in this case, and a revision will take up valuable time from the other topics you are working on.
    Chuck

  8. Brooks Simpson
    Tue 27th Mar 2007 at 12:08 pm

    I’d rework and republish. That will not be as nearly time-consuming as you may think, and the volume fills a niche for readers not interested in the larger work. You should appreciate your devoted fans, of course, but the audience for the book includes a lot of people who are not so intensely interested in a detailed account.

  9. James McCorry
    Tue 27th Mar 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Revise and republish it. A hardcover edition would also be best. Tie up the loose ends. I have a copy already and its stands on its own merits. Who knows how long the 3 volume ser on Gettysburg may take to complete. Any update on the Ulric Dahlgren publication? Thanks again. James

  10. Russell Bonds
    Tue 27th Mar 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Eric:

    You may be sorry you asked for readers’ opinions–sounds like they are splitting about 50-50!! My two cents is that you should update and republish it. There will always be a market for Gettysburg books, particularly an award-winner like yours. A revised and updated version, complete with blurbs from glowing reviews and citations of awards on the cover should do very well; and I think it would be a shame to have the book out of print.

    Russ

  11. ptrostle
    Tue 27th Mar 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Simply put – what Paul Taylor said.

  12. Rick Allen
    Tue 27th Mar 2007 at 6:15 pm

    Eric, I’d rewrite and republish. You wouldnt have to make everything revised and although it would certainly be time consuming, it being your very first book, I dont think a face lift or a bit of revision is all that bad……bring the baby up to date and put some polish on it.

    Ideally speaking of course.

    Rick

  13. Tue 27th Mar 2007 at 8:05 pm

    Three volume history of the cavalry at Gettysburg!

  14. Harold Pearman
    Wed 28th Mar 2007 at 7:41 pm

    I say go for the 3-volume history of cavalry during the Gettysburg
    campaign.

  15. Vinnie Burns
    Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 7:16 am

    Eric,
    There are too many books already out of print. I would suggest the update and republish.

  16. Michael Aubrecht
    Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Whatever option, I’d be more than happy to review it over at the FLS. I’m planning on doing a couple columns this year w/ 3 books (instead of my standard 1). I usually go 1200 words, and would give 400 to each book. I haven’t picked any of these “groupings” yet. Let me know when you have a decision and we can fit it into the rotation as an older book may work well in this “shared” format. I just starting drafting your buddy’s “Stealing The General” review and have plenty of time to plan for this.

  17. Steve H
    Sat 31st Mar 2007 at 8:19 am

    Focus on the 3 volume set gets my vote

Add comment

*

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress

Warning: substr() expects parameter 3 to be long, string given in /home/netscrib/public_html/civilwarcavalry/wp-content/themes/wittenberg/footer.php on line 54