I’ve tried to be as transparent as possible with sharing my experience in seeing a book manuscript through to publication. Some of you have been with me since 2007, when I first announced that I might have the opportunity to publish what was then only a Master’s Thesis. As I got closer to publication I wondered about sales. I knew going in that the book would likely appeal to a fairly narrow audience. The Crater is not the most popular Civil War battle and the study of historical memory is perhaps an acquired taste. My decision to sign with one of the smaller academic presses also tempered my optimism, which is not to say that I in any way regret going with the University Press of Kentucky or that I am disappointed with their work thus far. Far from it.
On occasion, however, I did allow myself to speculate as to how a strong social media presence might translate into book sales. Since I have no frame of reference it was always difficult to arrive at a number, but I thought that my ability to promote the book through my blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed might provide a model for other authors of academic titles who hope to reach a wider audience. OK, so I thought that somewhere around 1,000 books sold by Jan. 1 was not out of the realm of possibility.
At this point, I am disappointed to admit that this apparently has not happened. My publisher informed me that since the book was released in early July 2012 it has sold 621 copies.
Now, it could be the case that this is a pretty good showing for a book such as mine. As I said, I have no frame of reference. And I should note that overall I couldn’t be more pleased with how the book has been received by many of you as well as by both magazine and journal reviewers. That I was able to contribute anything at all to a body of scholarship that has taught me much and provided me with countless of hours of enjoyment is sufficient.
The experience has left me with much to think about as I consider future projects. I see the book format as one tool in my arsenal through which to share my love of history with the general public. We will have to see whether I have another one in me. I certainly hope so. Working with an academic publisher forced me to respond to my peers, who assisted me in improving both the narrative and various interpretive elements. It is an invaluable aspect of the writing process and having the stamp of approval from such a publisher hopefully gives me a certain legitimacy as I move further.
That said, I can’t help but wonder whether I might be able to take the experience of working with a traditional publisher and apply it to another approach that might result in greater reach – perhaps self-publishing? I am willing to consider all options. After all, I don’t need to publish for tenure or promotion. As an author I want to produce a product that has integrity and see it in the hands of as many people as possible. What’s the point of suffering through the process of researching and writing if no one is going to read it?
In the meantime, I recently got the go-ahead from the publisher to sell my book directly. I’ve been buying books with my author’s discount to sell at speaking events. I am still in the process of setting up a PayPal account, but once it’s you will be able to buy the book for $25 + shipping.
Thanks again to all of you who have bought the book.