Another so quickly?

As an author and public speaker at many events, I get a lot of questions obviously.  Besides questions dealing with the content and scope of the work in my books, articles, study, etc., I get a lot of inquiries about the logistics of publishing.  Folks are very interested in the process of gathering sources, writing a book, putting it all together, and getting it published.  Before my first article or book, I was very curious about the process as well, and it’s a subject I always enjoy discussing and assisting others with.

Recently, I’ve gotten inquiries about how I and Eric (along with our co-author Mike Nugent) were able to complete our latest book – One Continuous Fight - so soon after the release of Plenty of Blame to Go Around at the end of 2006.  This new book is nearly 600 pages long, and has a bibliography of sources some 40 pages long.  In some emails and conversations, folks have wondered whether I “have a job” and if Eric and I just “write all the time.” :)

You know you’ve made it in this industry when your last name has become a verb.  For instance, historian Edward Longacre (a long-time cavalry buddy of mine) was a very prolific writer when he was writing Civil War history – he has since moved on to World War II subjects.  Well, more than one person has commented that Eric and I seem to be “Longacreing” regarding our writing.  In other words, seemingly coming out with a new book every year.  Not that the connotation is negative, just that some have wondered how we can put together two such large and wide-scoped books “so quickly.”  And here we are beginning a similar study on Jubal Early’s 1864 Raid.  (Ed – in case you’re reading this, Ed Bearss’ name has been a verb for decades so consider yourself in very good company!)

The truth is this, and it’s what I tell everyone who inquires about the process of putting together such works within such a time frame:  Eric, Mike and I actually wrote about half of One Continuous Fight (OCF) several years before Eric and I took up the Plenty of Blame (POB) project.  We began OCF in about the year 2000 as I recall.  Eric and I are two owners of Ironclad Publishing, and we originally intended to publish OCF by our company.  The entire book would not have been half as long as it is now.  At the time we finished the manuscript (finished then as far as we were concerned), however, we had several other books that Ironclad needed to publish.  There were about 4 other books ahead of ours in the pipeline, so the manuscript sat around for several years, and in the meantime Eric and I decided to begin POB.

We spent about 2 years putting POB together, and the final manuscript was submitted to Savas Beatie LLC in November 2005.  While the book was in production in early 2006, Eric, Mike and I took up OCF once again, with the idea of offering it to Savas instead.  There were several reason for offering the book to Savas instead of publishing it by our own company – first, we are gathering large amounts of research material on an ongoing basis, and the material gathered on the retreat from Gettysburg since we had “finished” the manuscript meant that we would expand the book at least two-fold.  In essence, we could see the book ending up quite a bit larger than the smaller, soft-cover books we put out at Ironclad in our Discovering Civil War America series.  This series by Ironclad consists of books that are deeply researched, very scholarly, and highly acclaimed to be sure, but we knew we couldn’t handle a nearly 600-page book very well – and we wanted to make sure we would do the subject full justice.  Savas had done a beautiful job with POB (as with all of their books) and we came to the decision that Savas was the right place for it. 

Secondly, we saw the OCF book as the perfect companion to POB, so continuity of publisher and appearance was a high concern.  Savas has designed the cover, layout, and format of OCF to mirror POB, so they make a perfect “bookend” pair of the campaign.  Whereas POB details Stuart’s cavalry’s ride prior to Gettysburg, OCF details the fighting and decision-making during the retreat.  Fortunately, when I pitched the OCF book idea to managing partner Ted Savas, he accepted it sight unseen – knowing what we had done with POB.  Once he got a look at the manuscript as we neared the end of the process, he too recognized that we were able to do for the subject of the retreat what we had brought to the table concerning Stuart’s ride, and Eric, Mike and I knew we’d made the right decision.

So, the completion of the two books is not a case of writing one right after the other.  Hopefully this explains how we were able to complete such another large work so soon after Plenty of Blame.  As explained, a good part of One Continuous Fight was actually completed a few years prior to the start of work on POB, and we were able to complete OCF within a year of submitting the POB manuscript to the publisher.

Eric and I are well into the process of gathering material on our new project on Early’s 1864 raid, and we expect to begin putting “pen to paper” very soon.  With good fortune we’ll just about wrap the book up sometime late this fall, and perhaps the book will appear in the spring or summer of 2009.

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Published in: on February 21, 2008 at 1:23 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. [...] D. has a post on his blog tonight responding to concerns about how we can turn out a quality book so soon after [...]

  2. JD -

    I really enjoyed your comments regarding the questions you get about the publishing process. For my part, I’ve been trying to take some of the mystery out of the process with my “School of the Writer” series on my blog.

    I also know – as you do – that writing for publication can be a bit of a “hurry up and wait” process, and the best cure for that is to have another project in the works.

    It’s also interesting how the background research done for magazine articles or CWRT talks can provide a good foundation for longer works. My Lincoln’s Labels book was many years in the making…while it only took me a year to put the final manuscript together, that’s only because I had done several years of research and writing in advance.

    I really admire your and Eric’s dedication to research and writing and can only hope I’ll continue to find subjects that interest me and hopefully interest readers as well.

    All My Best,

    Jim Schmidt

  3. Thanks so much, Jim. It’s funny – I just got the comment today that it “must take years” to write such a book, hence the curiousity how we could do this one so soon after the previous book. I explained that we indeed have years into it – all the material has been gathered for decades and we know the areas and actions inside out. Completing the manuscript was the fruit of all those years. Yes, had we only taken the issue up recently from scratch, I dare say we would be working on it until John McCain’s term as President is over :)

    J.D.

  4. Since as you point out, OCF is something we’ve literally been working on for years, I have to laugh at the notion that it came about “so quickly” on the heels of POB! We originally thought our initial version might hit the shelves about the same time as Kent Brown’s retreat book in 2005. At that point we already had several years invested in it and now have several more.

    Kind of reminds me of some musicians who play in dives and night clubs for years and end up being called “overnight sensations” when one of their songs finally hits the charts!

    Mike (yes I have a “real” job too!)


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