The Process of Researching Your Book Will Cost Much More Than You Expect, So Plan Accordingly. In this, the final post of the series, I will address something that J. D. suggested in a comment to the last post. I actually had planned on ending the series with this particular subject, so J.D. beat me to the punch. Ah, well.

J.D. is absolutely correct about the costs associated with researching and writing one of these books. Let me very blunt about this. I’m self-employed. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. It’s really as simple as that. Folks pay me in excess of $200 for my time, so it has to be worth my while to pry myself out of the office.

I also live far from places like the Library of Congress, National Archives, or even the Army history center in Carlisle, PA. We’re looking at a full day of driving each direction to get there, plus lodging costs.

The truth is that it’s cheaper for me to pay someone to do a lot of the legwork for me, which then permits me to bill hours here at the office. However, those folks expect to be paid for their time and effort, just as I do. Plus, there are aspects of the research that I do myself, and given my belief that one cannot properly write about these battles without having a solid grasp of how terrain impacted the action, I spend significant amounts of time on the ground learning the terrain. That’s not only time away from the office, it’s travel cost.

Finally, I buy a lot of books when doing my research. I prefer to have the books and not photocopies, so it means that I can spend significant sums to gather research material. Fortunately, a lot of the regimental histories are now available by reprint, or even better, can be downloaded from sites like Google’s book search site, which saves cost. Even for the downloads, you still have paper and toner costs associated with obtaining the materials, not to mention the time spent doing the searching.

There’s simply no way around it: typically, I spend more on doing the research for my books than I ever make in royalties. If you want proof positive that what I do is a labor of love and not necessarily done for a profit motive, that last statement should be all you need.

My advice to you is to keep in mind that you’re going to spend a lot of money researching your book, and that it’s probably going to be more than you think. Plan accordingly.

Tomorrow, I will do a quick wrap-up of this series, which I hope has been helpful to you.

Scridb filter


  1. Thu 08th May 2008 at 9:43 am

    Great series of posts. All of which has served to remind me, again, of my poor career choice. I should have stuck to playing pool and driving fast cars….

  2. Bill
    Thu 08th May 2008 at 10:41 am

    Eric – This series of posts has been great – thank you for taking the time to share your experiences.

    I would only add to Post # 7 that even though would like you to believe you’re ‘saving money’ by being a Prime Member, in reality you’re spending way more on books, etc. than you ever thought possible (and I’m still a middle-aged, part-time, history grad student who still has only dreams of writing and publishing).

    Well, I need to get back to my “day job” now …………

  3. Thu 15th May 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Amen on the research expenses.

    I have been researching my book for almost 10 years and have been all over the country for weeks at a time. Like Erik, I like to purchase books rather than copy them so I will never make a profit. I am writing it all off as research expenses so the tax break helps a little. It will have to hit the Best Seller’s list if I hope to break even.

Comments are closed.

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