17 January 2006 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 10 comments

I had previously announced here that my book on the Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads would be out by the end of January. That will, sadly, be impossible.

At the suggestion of a friend, I decided to give a new cartographer his shot at the big time by having him do the maps series for this book (there are close to 30 of them). He got the maps done, but neither Ted Savas nor I had examined them in detail to determine their suitability for publication. I was focused on the accuracy of the maps, not on their format. Ted simply hadn’t looked at them. When he finally got the book completely laid out and went to put the maps in, he noticed that they had a lot of problems: wrong file format, erratic sizes, too busy, and many of them too small to show detail.

We went back to the cartographer to re-do them, and it’s now been about 75 days. We have about 2/3 of them from him re-done–and the new maps are fabulous, really first rate–but we’re still missing a bunch of them. The book obviously cannot go to the printer until we have them all. The book was supposed to be out at the end of October. Then at the end of January. Now, it’s likely to be the end of February, meaning that my co-authored work with J. D. Petruzzi on Stuart’s ride during the Gettysburg Campaign, which will be out at the end of June, in time for the anniversary of the events chronicled in the book, will be out a scant four months after Monroe’s Crossroads, instead of more than six months later, like we had planned. Interestingly, Ted’s already got a big chunk of the Stuart book laid out and it’s only the middle of January.

Aside from the embarrassment of having announced a release date that is no longer possible, I am extremely worried that the very close publication dates of the two books will somehow hurt the sales of one or both. I also fear that I will be criticized for releasing two books SO quickly. Of course, the Monroe’s Crossroads book has been in the works since the fall of 2001, and the Stuart’s Ride book represents about a decade of research. Never mind those things. Instead, it will be “that Wittenberg guy pumps this stuff out–like some other prominent cavalry historian we don’t respect,” and I fear that I will be guilty by association. It’s a no-win situation.

Needless to say, I am frustrated almost beyond words’ ability to describe. When I spoke to the cartographer today, it took all of my will power not to go ballistic on him. I know he’s doing the best he can, and the guy’s had some health problems, so I know it’s my fault for not being more understanding of his situation. That, unfortunately, doesn’t do much to limit my frustration and impatience with something that should have been completed months ago.

I will keep everyone posted as to the progress of things once I have more to report on this situation.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. kelly1863
    Wed 18th Jan 2006 at 9:48 am

    Sounds like you’re a victim of elements of production out of your control. Wouldn’t lose sleep over it. Stuff happens.

    As a book reader I tend to buy based on interest in subject matter first; and author second. A Jeb Stuart book sells itself. You can market that any olde time ;). The Monroe Crossroads book is just tough to attract an audience, as the action is unfamiliar to the vast majority of readers. This book will subsist and gain readership as a masterwork of military history, assuming that you and your publisher are being so fastidious in including all the things which make such a work a statement of craft.

    I finally picked up Kent Browns book on Lee retreat from Gettysburg. Frankly I think it is not all that well written. However, it is otherwise structured, researched, and illustrated wonderfully. The craft compensates for its weaknesses. An offpoint analogy. Just a perspective on the critical consumer side of receptivity issues.

    Don’t worry. Be Happy….

  2. Wed 18th Jan 2006 at 10:19 am

    Dave,

    Thanks. That helps. 🙂

    As for Kent’s book, I saw and read your review on Amazon. The book obviously has flaws, as you have pointed out, but it’s a masterwork in covering the logistics. It left a lot to be desired regarding the tactics, and that’s where we hope our book fills gaps.

    Eric

  3. Dave Kelly
    Wed 18th Jan 2006 at 11:48 am

    Glad to apply some midwiffery for your pregnency of twins (LOL).

    “masterwork covering logistics”??? Nah. Lots of good bits and pieces. Wish he’d hammered home a few of his assertions with some cumulative argument I didn’t see.

    Would have been nice to remind the avarage reader that an army of 80,000 with 30,000 horses needed 200,000 Ilbs of human food and 600,000 Ilbs of animal fodder EVERY DAY. His quotes of what was being foraged look puny compared to the requirement. (Of course that is one of his points; the struggle to eat every day was as persistent as the tactical mandate to fight. Both armies were cheating; operating on short rations and starving men and animals in the name of mission.)

    I rantgress…. ;).

  4. Brian Santiso
    Wed 18th Jan 2006 at 11:54 am

    Serious book buyers will look at the quality of the book…the maps…the notes etc. ( the same way you described how you pick a book) I also like to read the introduction to get a feel for the author and if you put your comment in the Stuart book about taking ten years to research it then that’s a huge selling point for me. To me it means that you’ve had many years to think through your ideas. I agree with kelly, your book on Monroe Crossroads might be a hard sell because it’s not a “mainstream” civil war topic. However, many who read and like your Stuart book will probably look to see what else you’ve written. Might be an unexpected bonus to have two quality books out at once.

  5. Wed 18th Jan 2006 at 12:07 pm

    Brian,

    Excellent point. I hope you’re right. 🙂

    I got three more maps from the cartographer this morning. Two were fine, and have been sent on to Ted Savas. The other had a typo. So, we’re making some progress, slowly but surely.

    Eric

  6. Russell Bonds
    Thu 19th Jan 2006 at 2:03 pm

    Eric:

    I agree with Dave and Brian. I know the delay is tremendously frustrating, but the important thing is for you to be happy with the finished product. The Monroe Crossroads book will fill a yawning gap in definitive fashion and shouldn’t step on the Stuart book at all in my view. As for the close release dates, I don’t see any harm there–like Brian, I buy ’em one at a time, based on their merit, and I don’t assume that anyone is cranking them out in Grisham-like fashion.

    Best of luck,
    Russ

  7. Thu 19th Jan 2006 at 6:03 pm

    Eric,
    what software do the book cartographers use (at least the ones that make the kind of maps we like)?

    Drew

  8. Thu 19th Jan 2006 at 11:50 pm

    Thanks, Russ. That helps.

    Drew, I genuinely have no idea. Sorry, bro.

    Eric

  9. Paul Taylor
    Sun 22nd Jan 2006 at 9:00 pm

    Eric,

    I wouldn’t worry about the release of one book hurting sales of another. The avid Civil War student as well as libraries with significant Civil War collections will simply by both. General readers who must choose will probably go for the Stuart book because of the Gettysburg connection. Like Dave Kelly pointed out, the Monroe book is just too obscure for many casual readers. For others like me however, that obscurity is what generates the initial appeal! As for the “critics,” well, they are what they are. Any work should stand or fall on its own merits, and not on the prolificacy of its creator. Remember that the Beatles released 8 albums in their last 3 1/2 years. I don’t recall anyone chastising them for “pumping it out!” 🙂

    Paul

  10. Sun 22nd Jan 2006 at 9:01 pm

    Paul,

    Thanks–I appreciate the support. I think you guys are correct, and I think that it’s probably going to be okay.

    Eric

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