ECWS: Support Independent Publishing

As many readers know, it’s been a quiet year for the Emerging Civil War book series. We previewed a pair of upcoming titles yesterday, but for now, they join a pretty good list of titles that are currently backed up because of COVID. Like airplanes circling O’Hare in bad weather, the books are in a holding pattern until things clear up a bit.

We asked our faithful, fabulous publisher, Theodore Savas of Savas Beatie, if he wanted to update readers on where things stood. His first reaction was, “Absolutely.” His second reaction was, “Support independent publishing!” (He may have even tacked on a few extra exclamation points there, so impassioned was his plea.)

Here’s what Ted has to share:

I want what follows to come across like an informational conversation, and not a bitch or complaint fest. So please accept it for its intent.

Like all publishers (large and small) we remain mostly in a holding pattern. Maintaining liquidity and flexibility is key.

That said, the publishing world is experiencing what we are now calling “The Lost Year.” We can print many titles now or very soon, but most copies would mostly sit in a warehouse and age out when the calendar turns to 2021. Those we are printing now have book club deals attached, or large non-returnable Amazon orders, and/or large author or some other bulk-sale buys behind them.

Major non-book trade accounts like Eastern National and Event Networks (which combined run 98% of the visitor centers of our universe) have alerted us that they will NOT be placing orders through the balance of the year as they sell through what they have and “take stock” of how they will move forward. This on the heels of four months of $0.00 orders. (We had also contracted with them to publish two expensive reprints–The Maps of Antietam and The Maps of Chickamauga–but only after the books were printed did they inform us they could not see the deal through. We will have to pay the printer’s bill with the main outlets for them not ordering.)

Yes, it is all a collective gut punch.

Thankfully, most Barnes and Nobles outlets (and some other bookstores) are open and that helps, but B&N is on the verge of bankruptcy. It is tipping now. Borders is gone. B&N next? Then what? Amazon?

This is what we call the “book trade” side of the fence. This helps move books. By the time the publisher and author see revenue from these sources, however, major hands in the pie have stripped away about 70% of it. Yes, you read that right. Every cost from rent to royalties, printing, editing, salaries, etc. comes out of the balance. Amazon can lose money on the book side (and still does) while making up for it in cloud computing revenue, for example. We can’t.

We at Savas Beatie have been working exceptionally hard on the social media front (many of you have noticed), Zoom meetings, and other creative endeavors. Website revenue has increased significantly. Thank you. This is very important, and it helps a lot. However, it is also only a fraction of what is needed to sustain operations. So this side must grow.

Large numbers of book lovers are finally beginning to realize that if they do not support independent publishing directly from the source, there will be time in the not-too-distant-future when there will be no one left to print what you love. Scary? It should be.

I am not trying to be immodest when I say that this keeps me up at night in the best of times wondering, “Who is going to pick up what we do if I retire?” I know SB has carved out an important niche in the military book world. What happens if all these virus-related activities continue well into next year and decisions outside our control make it impossible to stay in business?

I speak with many publishing-related folks (owners, agents, directors, distributors, etc.) who put on a happy face in public, but tell the truth in private. “A few more months like this, Ted . . . maybe we will make it. Well into next year with significantly reduced revenue? Not likely.”

Thankfully, I believe Savas Beatie will survive and we have evolved in several ways that we think will make us STRONGER when all this passes. But we have to pass through the storm we all thought would be over by Labor Day. In every trial there is opportunity for those who grasp it. We think we have, to the best of our ability.

Let me be frank: If you are buying a mattress or car or furniture or dishes–save every single dollar you can. If you are buying a craft-niche product you love like a specialty book or a craft brew at the corner micro-brewery–and you can afford to do so–buy from the sourceBuy from a local independent store. Buy from our website. “Buy small.”

Thanks for your patience—and your support. It means more than you know, and working with so many amazing customers and authors and editors is a real joy I would not have missed for anything (except a beach vacation with Ann Margaret when we were both 25).

— Ted

For those of you who are keeping score, here’s the list of ECW titles that are currently circling O’Hare:

  • Grant’s Left Hook: The Bermuda Hundred Campaign by Sean Michael Chick
  • A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans by Mark Bielski
  • Unlike Anything That Ever Floated: The Monitor, Virginia, and the Battle of Hampton Roads by Dwight Hughes
  • The Carnage was Fearful: The Battle of Cedar Mountain by Mike Block
  • On to Richmond: Richmond in the Civil War by Doug Crenshaw and Bert Dunkerly
  • Dreams of Victory: P. G. T. Beauregard in the Civil War by Sean Michael Chick
  • Strike Them a Blow: Battle Along the North Anna River (2nd edition) by Chris Mackowski

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6 Responses to ECWS: Support Independent Publishing

  1. Scott Shusuter says:

    Thanks for this honest assessment. I stopped buying Savas Beatie books from Amazon several years ago. I now only buy direct from the publisher.

    Hang in there!

    • Thank you, Scott. When I realized some years ago what I was really participating in at Amazon, I stopped buying there also (I read widely in ancient history and WWII as well) and now go directly to the publisher, or a small independent bookstore.

      I use Amazon as a sort of cataloging system for what is out there, but Bezos doesn’t need my help destroying small businesses. He is doing that well enough on his own.

  2. Larry De Maar says:

    This is great! Thank you to Emerging Civil War and Savas-Beatie for this great series. Look forward to the upcoming books. I really like the format to these books and actually my favorite is the quill pen titles. Good tip to buy direct, I like the signed bookplates and great service.

  3. Alton Bunn says:

    Thank you for the frank discussion on the situation. I’ll make a better effort to buy direct in the future. If my local franchise is any example then I’m not surprised Barnes and Noble is near bankruptcy.

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