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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

second edition

Kindle Edition or Hard Copy?

On August 28, 1861, approximately 500 men of the 100th Pennsylvania (Roundhead) Regiment boarded a train (a first for most of them) and rode for 50 miles to reach Pittsburgh. They arrived in the evening and took a supper break provided by a local welcoming committee.  Each man received a slice of buttered bread, a hunk of sausage, two pickles and a cup of coffee. Then they marched out to the local fair grounds, where they were sent to bed down in one of the livestock barns.  One soldier described  them in their stalls, "kicking at fleas, bed bugs, and many other awful creeping things which existed only in imagination."
 
Those are the kind of details you need to know if you are researching events during the Civil War. But they are not the details you find in most history books. A Scratch with the Rebels, first published in 2007, draws its information from newspapers and official military papers, as well as the letters, diaries, and family keepsakes of two Civil War soldiers: a Pennsylvania Yankee and a South Carolina Confederate. These two inexperienced young men joined their respective military organizations in late 1861 and spent the next several months waiting for a chance to see action. They met only once on a battlefield outside of Charleston in June, 1862. And for one of them, it was the last action he would ever see.

Next week (March 28 through April 1) we will be offering readers a double-barreled deal.  My first Civil War book has been published in two editions--an electronic version will be offered on Kindle for free and the original scholarly paper edition will be available at an 80% price reduction through my own website. Here's how they differ.

The first edition was written as a history monograph, intended primarily for an academic audience, and as such, it contained full academic apparatus--not just an index and bibliography but also appendices and full footnotes on all source materials. The traditional publisher, however, had a different audience in mind. They wanted to target people visiting Civil War museums and battlefields in Pennsylvania. With that goal in mind, they insisted that I add detailed maps and illustrations, and they redesigned the layout to create a size that would catch the eye of casual passers-by. The book ended up being over-priced but neither fish nor fowl.

Then they attempted to publish an electronic version that duplicated the printed one, only to find that the combination of multiple illustrations and hundreds of footnotes made such a plan unworkable. They struggled with it for  years before giving up and allowing the electronic publishing rights to revert to me.

At that point, I did a major re-design, creating a new and different second edition, designed specifically for digital presentation. The changes involved removing the notes and illustrations, rewriting several chapters to appeal to a more general audience, and creating a new cover illustration. That second edition, published in 2014, is the one that is now available in the Kindle store and will be free all next week .  It is also the one I suggest you read first, since the price can't be beat! Find it here.

Then, for those who want more detail, I have the second offer. Recently the original publisher decided to  get out of the book-publishing business entirely to concentrate on doing rare book rebinding. And that meant that the scholarly edition of A Scratch with the Rebels would go out of print.  Rather than let them simply scrap the remaining copies, I arranged to buy the remaining stock of around 60 books at an 80% price reduction.  Those books are now available for $5.00 plus postage and handling on my own website, for as long as supplies last. 



Everybody Deserves a Second Chance



My first Civil War book, A Scratch with the Rebels, was published traditionally by a small press in 2007. As is frequently the case with traditional presses, the editor approached my book with some pre-conceived ideas. She was looking for Civil War books that would appeal to people who were touring battle sites and visiting their museum stores in her state. With that purpose in mind, she decided to make the book slightly oversized (10" x 8") so that it would be noticeable on the shelves. That, in turn produced a rather thin book, so to increase the page count, she asked for lots and lots of illustrations. (If I mentioned a person or a place, I was to have a picture or a map to accompany it.)  And to increase the amount of white space per page, she decided to use a two-column format, which added that extra 3/4 of an inch down the middle of each page.


Now none of those decisions were bad in themselves, but together they created an impression that weakened the book. The over-size shape made the book floppy rather than substantial. The two-column format gave the impression of a middle-school social-studies textbook rather than the serious and academically rigorous study that it was. The preponderance of pictures added to the schoolbook look. The scholarly apparatus of notes and bibliography ended up in the back of the book, where endnotes were hard to locate and failed to provide the additional source information they were meant to convey. 

Add to that a problem with the binding equipment used by the company, and the result was an ugly book with a peeling cover and off-putting visual appeal. Worse, it carried a high price tag that put it out of reach of many customers. I managed to sell a couple hundred by strong-arming my friends, but the publishing company couldn't even get the book into those museum shops.

When the publisher decided to give up on their attempts to publish the book as an e-book, they returned the electronic publishing rights to me. My decision to re-work the book and publish the e-book as a second edition was the smartest move I made. I re-arranged and combined several chapters to improve the flow, changed important endnotes so that they now appear in the body of the text, and removed other purely academic notations. I also took out most of the illustrations, which had caused multiple problems in the publisher's first attempt to publish the book electronically. As a substitute for those who want to see what a particular person or location looked like, the e-book includes links to my Pinterest boards, where I have posted the pictures from the book. The only scholarly apparatus that remains is the bibliography. To strengthen the impression that this is a new and improved book, I asked my designer to come up with a more appealing cover.
 
This refurbished second edition has proved to be very popular. It has sold several copies so far this month, which isn't bad for an eight-year-old book. Why? Because I re-designed it to meet the needs of its intended audience.  Instead of trying to reach the casual tourist visitor, the new edition appeals to re-enactors and Civil War buffs, especially to groups whose ancestors were a part of this particular story. In the last six months this second edition has sold more copies than the total number of sales for the first edition over a period of seven years. 


Lessons learned
 
 
#1. Know who your readers are and meet their needs.
#2. If you can make a book better, do it.
#3. Don't be afraid to admit your mistakes.

 

Bright Idea: A Second Edition

My first Civil War book, A Scratch with the Rebels, was published traditionally by a small press in 2007. As is frequently the case with traditional presses, the editor approached my book with some pre-conceived ideas. She was looking for Civil War books that would appeal to people who were touring battle sites and visiting their museum stores. With that purpose in mind, she decided to make the book slightly oversized (10" x 8") so that it would be noticeable on the shelves. That, in turn produced a rather thin book, so to increase the page count, she asked for lots and lots of illustrations. If I mentioned a person or a place, I was to have a picture or a map to accompany it. And to increase the amount of white space per page, she decided to use a two-column format, which added that extra 3/4 of an inch down the middle of each page.

Now none of those decisions were bad in themselves, but together they created an impression that weakened the book. The over-size shape made the book floppy rather than substantial. The two-column format gave the impression of a middle-school social-studies textbook rather than the serious and academically rigorous study that it was. The preponderance of pictures added to the schoolbook look. The scholarly apparatus of notes and bibliography ended up in the back of the book, where endnotes were hard to locate and failed to provide the additional source information they were meant to convey. Add to that a problem with the binding equipment used by the company, and the result was an ugly book with a peeling cover and off-putting visual appeal. Worse, it carried a high price tag that put it out of reach of many customers. I managed to sell a couple hundred by strong-arming my friends, but the publishing company couldn't even get the book into those museum shops.

When the publisher decided to give up on their attempts to publish an e-book, they were willing to return electronic publishing rights to me. My decision to re-work the book and publish the e-book as a second edition was the smartest move I made. I re-arranged and combined several chapters to improve the flow, changed important endnotes so that they appeared in the body of the text, and removed other academic notations. I also took out most of the illustrations, which had caused multiple problems in the publisher's first attempt to publish the book electronically. As a substitute for those who wanted to see what a particular person or location looked like, the e-book included links to my Pinterest boards, where I had posted the pictures from the book. The only scholarly apparatus that remained was the bibliography. To strengthen the impression that this was a new and improved book, I asked my designer to come up with a more appealing cover.

This refurbished second edition proved to be very popular. Why? Because I re-designed it to meet the needs of its intended audience.  Instead of trying to reach the casual tourist visitor, the new edition appealed to reenactors and Civil War buffs, especially to groups whose ancestors were a part of this particular story. In the last six months this second edition has sold more copies than the total number of sales for the first edition over a period of seven years. Lessons learned:


#1. Know who your readers are and meet their needs.
#2. If you can make a book better, do it.
#3. Don't be afraid to admit your mistakes.

Important News for Civil War Buffs

I will have a "new" book coming out in a couple of weeks.  Back in 2007, I wrote and published a straight historical monograph about The Battle of Secessionville and the impact it had on the Civil War. You can read about that book on my website at: 
Now I am pleased to announce the coming of a Second Edition.  If you missed this book, or failed to get it because the paper version was too expensive, or found the Kindle edition hard to work with, here's your chance!

The opportunity to create the second edition of A Scratch with the Rebels arose in 2014, when the original publisher of the work decided to remove all electronic editions of their books from publication on Kindle and Nook.  In that event, the electronic rights reverted to me, and I decided to revise and reissue the book in all available electronic formats. This edition contains all of the material from the original volume, but the reader will find several changes, particularly in formatting.

I have removed all endnotes, since they do not translate well to e-book formats.  Wherever possible I have incorporated the important information in the endnotes into the main body of the text.  For those who have a need for full academic documentation, such as specific page numbers, I refer you to the paperbound first edition, which is still available on Amazon
[http://www.amazon.com/Scratch-Rebels-Pennsylvania-Roundhead Carolina/dp/097937720X]
or from the publisher, Mechling Books [1124 Oneida Valley Road – Rte. 38, Chicora PA 16025-3820].

The pictures contained in the paper edition are also missing from this format.  Enlarged and clearer prints will be available shortly in three slideshows on my website.:
 Pictures of some of the leading figures in the story can be found at http://www.katzenhausbooks.com/People-Nellie-Knew.html. Familiar scenes can be found at http://www.katzenhausbooks.com/People-Nellie-Knew.html.
A selection of maps will be coming shortly.
The new e-book  will have a new cover, loosely based on the original but updated and modernized.

The text itself has undergone some necessary revisions to correct or clarify content.  Readers will find passages broken into shorter paragraphs for easier reading and to make clearer the separation of original quotes from the author’s commentary.

I also split two of the lengthiest chapters to allow some needed reorganization of material. The original Chapter 5: “Grinding the Seed Corn,” now concentrates on the Confederate side of the story, while the Union story forms a new Chapter 6: “ A Task Worthy of our Greatest Efforts.” The original Chapter 6: “This Cursed Soil of South Carolina” is now Chapter 8 and is more narrowly focused on military matters. A new Chapter 7: “Gideon’s Band” looks at the problems of slavery, which had an enormous effect on how the military handled the occupation of coastal South Carolina.

The book should be available in all electronic forms by the end of February.  Stay tuned for updates.