This Week’s Readings

This week’s readings covers the past two weeks. The Autumn run of society publications is starting to trickle in.

The Virginia Genealogical Society Newsletter, August 2013, Vol. 32, No. 4.
The lead article of this quarter’s VGS newsletter caught my eye right off the bat. In “What Genealogical Publications Have You Missed?” Eric G. Grundset discusses the decline of “paper announcements” of genealogical publications, such as book-length transcriptions, and the impact this has on researchers. In the third paragraph, Grundset discusses print-on-demand publishing:

Many authors using this type of service do not expect to make money on their publications, and their personal expenses behind the actual book production are fairly small. In addition, because of the lack of an actual print-run, books that are available from on-demand publishers are only sent for review if the author orders extra copies to send to the review media. Consequently, most authors do not do this because of the added costs, and genealogists do not learn through book reviews in journals or newsletters that such on-demand books are available for purchase.

I disagree with Grundset on one important point: No matter how I choose to publish books, I expect to make enough money from the project to make it worth my while. Money is not a luxury for me. And because I’m a single parent, I can’t afford to spend time, let alone money, on a project that isn’t going to make a good return on that investment. Now, the return doesn’t have to be financial, and even so, I don’t expect to get rich off of my books. But, the return has to be sufficient to cover at least the basic expenses of production. So far, so good.

Now, all that said, I’m one of those authors (compilers?) who sends print flyers to potential and returning customers, and I make a point of plowing money earned back into a book by sending out review copies. From a financial standpoint, this just makes sense. One of the best ways to gain sales is through favorable book reviews, and it’s really not that expensive. Take, for example, Slave Importation Affidavit Registers for Nine Georgia Counties, 1818 – 1847. Every two copies sold generates enough revenue (“royalties”) that I can send out three review copies and/or donate copies to three libraries without any additional cost to myself. (Donating to libraries is also an excellent way to generate income off of a book, but that’s a story for another day.) Book reviews amount to some of the best but least expensive advertising available. Any author who refuses to send out review copies, particularly on the misguided belief that reviewers should have to pay for copies like everyone else, is shooting himself in the foot.

The remainder of Grundset’s article was very interesting and, to put a fine point on his argument, he highlighted several book-length abstracts of Virginia records that are published through Lulu.com. There are lessons here for both genealogists and authors.

A Lot of Bunkum, Old Buncombe County (NC) Genealogical Society, August 2013, Vol. 34, No. 3.
This issue contains some goodies, beginning with abstracts of Buncombe County land warrants and surveys found in the General Assembly Session Records for 1832 to 1835, by A. Bruce Pruitt, PhD., who is known for his work with North Carolina land records. Several other interesting articles appear, including a list of reunions held in western North Carolina from August to October, 2013.

Old Pendleton District Newsletter, Old Pendleton District (SC) Genealogical Society, September 2013, Vol. 27, No. 7.
Marking the graves of Confederate soldiers has long been a priority for the OPDGS. This issue contains information on that project, as well as continuing installments of the burial places of known Confederate soldiers and their wives. Transcriptions of three family Bibles were also published, including the Charlotte E. Alexander Bible. I’m related to the Alexanders in this area of South Carolina, but am not familiar with this particular family. Several other interesting articles were published. The editor of this newsletter has had a hard time finding material, a situation to which I can unfortunately relate, so it’s good to see a variety of articles being published again.

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