I finally got around to reading Dimitri’s recent post on 2006 Civil War sales; unfortunately, I have to say that I don’t understand a word of it. Most of the links are of absolutely useless to understanding specific claims. I failed miserably in trying to navigate the Ingram site which is where Dimitri seems to have found the relevant slaes figures What exactly does it mean to say that “the sales debut of ‘new thinking’ titles is soft”? What books fall into this category? Do they straddle popular as opposed to academic publishing houses? According to Dimitri, “New Lincoln books were a washout,” including D. K. Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals which sold “especially poorly.” I am willing to admit to not understanding the publishing world, but if I remember correctly this book was on the NYT’s bestseller list for weeks. Is that fact not based somehow on sales? We also learn that the “springtime” of Grant books has passed and that it will be a long time before we see another study from a major publishing house. I am sure Dimitri was pleased to learn that McPherson’s Battle Cry “continues steady state with altogether insignificant sales variation year on year.” He goes on to speculate that sales of the book can be explained in large part by their use in college courses. William C. Davis and Gary Gallagher should be happy to learn that their recent releases are “suffering normal sales decay rates on modest debuts across a wide number of titles.” Savas Beatie, on the other hand, is doing just fine.
My biggest problem is that Dimitri’s “observations” seem to be based on some fact of the matter as to what counts as normal or positive sales figures. Perhaps there is some kind of standard, but none is provided in this post. Exactly what are these conclusions regarding specific titles and authors being compared with? How exactly are sales measured and how does this translate into an analysis of “success”?I don’t know how to even begin to make sense of any of this.
Finally, isn’t it interesting that Dimitri’s “observations” fall into line with his sometimes irrational disdain for the authors mentioned. Coincidence?