I’ve found Eric Wittenberg’s commentary on Civil War publishers to be quite interesing. As someone who is close to completing a manuscript for publication the question of where it should be sent and why is perhaps the most important one to be answered. No one wants to see a couple of years of work ruined by some second-rate company. I don’t know much about this process apart from a few articles and book chapters that I’ve had published over the last few years. To make a long story relatively short I have already decided that my Crater manuscript will be publshed by a university press. My biggest concern is that the manuscript go through as rigorous a peer review process as possible. I want anonyous reviewers to critique my work and point out areas that need to be improved. Now, what I am about to say is perhaps going to bother some people, but I will say it anyway. It seems to me that many of these smaller publishers lack a strong peer review process. White Mane publishers is a perfect example. From my experience, unless an author exercises some kind of oversight (I am thinking specifically of Gary Ecalbarger’s excellent study of Kernstown) this publisher seems to print pretty much anything that comes across the table. If I am going to shell out $30 I want to be guaranteed that the book has gone through an intensive review process. I browsed the Civil War titles for this McFarland Press that Eric referenced in his post and the quality seemed at best mixed. I was surprised and pleased to find a book on the 48th Pennsyslvania at the Crater by John Corrigan who is a writer and journalist in Etters, Pennsylvania. While it is nice to see a book on the Crater, who the hell is John Corrigan. There is no indication that he has written anything else on the battle or anything related to the Civil War for that matter. I have no doubt that the publisher prints first-rate studies, but it is so difficult to sift through the crap, and as we all know there is alot of it out there. If I had to pick one of these publishers that apparently does a decent job it would be Savas.
I tend to read university press books. Some of you are know doubt thinking “elitist” but my concerns regarding the quality of some of these smaller publishers have been confirmed too many times. This is not to say that the university presses are not susceptible to printing books that fail to deliver; it is only to say that as a general rule I’ve had more success. I may disagree vehemently with an author, but I can at least rest assured that the book went through a sufficiently rigorous review. In the end, it is probably the case that my outlook is too narrow, but with so little time to read one must make choices. This past year has been a real breakthrough year for me in terms of my own scholarship. In the coming year I will have to do an even better job balancing my time between research and more general Civil War reading. One of my old philosophy professors once said to me that you can either read philosophy or write philosophy, but you can’t do both. Well ,that rule has already bitten the dust. I just started Steve Woodworth’s Nothing But Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 – only 650 pages!