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Eric Wittenberg

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The most that I have ever made in a year from all of my historical work combined--royalties, selling books, getting paid for speaking or leading tours, etc., was in 2013, when I made about $9000. To accomplish that, I was on the road every weekend but one from mid-April to the last week in July, and by the time we went to the Outer Banks for 10 days at the end of July of that year, I was so exhausted that I could barely function.

I'm often asked why I don't quit lawyering and write full time. My typical response, which is completely accurate, is to say, "Because my wife insists on living indoors and not in a cardboard box under an overpass, and because she insists on having money to buy dog food."

Sad, but true....
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Columbus, OH
Yes, self-publishing requires a lot more work than people often imagine. But even traditionally published authors are expected to put a lot more personal effort into marketing than they did in years past, with the rise of online sales and decline of bookstores. Publishers, including the academic ones, can and do factor an author's social media presence and prowess into decisions about picking up a manuscript and then expect the authors to take the lead on a lot of things that company PR used to do.
I spend an awful lot of time traveling to speak to Roundtables and the like and in promoting my own books in the hope of selling a few here and there. Just this month, I have three trips to speak to Roundtable, including two overnights. Now, the last one is making it possible for us to attend a friend's wedding that we wouldn't otherwise have been able to attend, but it does get tiresome.
 

redbob

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Feb 18, 2013
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Hoover, Alabama
I've had a speaker at a CWRT Meeting me that he often sells more books at speaking engagements than his does any other way and he was also quick to add that you didn't want to quit your day job just to be an author.
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Unfortunately, history is not a big seller in the U.S., unless its make-believe. If we are talking about ACW writings, most are just re-hashing someone else's material. Seems like almost every year, there is yet another definitive book on Lincoln. Its no different from the one from the year before, but its definitive.
While the re-hashing of the writings of others is a problem, I have always made a point of choosing topics that others don't spend time on. Many of my books are the first monograph to address their subject, and in some instances, are the only one. As an example, my most recent published work is the only monograph dedicated to the events at Chickamauga on September 18, 1863 yet published. My current project--I will finish the 8th of 11 chapters tonight--will be the only monograph dedicated to the severe, bloody cavalry fighting that took place between May 26-June 1, 1864.

Last year, I came out with the only scholarly monograph ever published on the February 11, 1865 Battle of Aiken, South Carolina.

I have one coming out next year (written with a friend who is a federal judge) that is the first modern book-length treatment of the political and legal events that led to the creation of the State of West Virginia. Other than a wretched little volume of less than 100 pages that some guy developed for a course he was teaching, there has not been a monograph dedicated to these events since 1963, and before that, since 1905, and nobody has ever taken the approach that we have adopted, which is to combine both the history and the legal analysis.

My friend Dave Powell and I have written the first and only detailed scholarly monograph on the Tullahoma Campaign of 1863 that will be out next year.

My point is that not all of us do that. Some of us actually avoid it like the plague.
 
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MarylandLine

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Generally a civil war title is considered successful if it sells 1500-2000 books. Tom Broadfoot of Broadfoot Publishing has told me that there are only about 500 serious collectors of civil war books. Every year a couple die off and few new people enter the hobby.

As Eric W stated his best year was $9000, and I bet Eric used those funds to buy more books for research. Eric is a great author and tour guide so we are blessed we have people like Eric who do this as a labor of love. $9000 doesn’t cover his dog food and vet bills for his beloved canines 😁
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Columbus, OH
Generally a civil war title is considered successful if it sells 1500-2000 books. Tom Broadfoot of Broadfoot Publishing has told me that there are only about 500 serious collectors of civil war books. Every year a couple die off and few new people enter the hobby.

As Eric W stated his best year was $9000, and I bet Eric used those funds to buy more books for research. Eric is a great author and tour guide so we are blessed we have people like Eric who do this as a labor of love. $9000 doesn’t cover his dog food and vet bills for his beloved canines 😁
Exactly right, Mark. And thanks for the kind words.

To give some real numbers...

My two biggest sellers are Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg, which has sold about 8500 copies between hardcover and softcover since 2006 and The Devil's to Pay: John Buford at Gettysburg, which has sold roughly 5000 copies between hardcover and softcover since 2014.

Those figures include copies that I have purchased to re-sell. I've probably sold close to 600 copies of Plenty of Blame myself over the years, and probably about 500 copies of Buford at Gettysburg.
 
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MarylandLine

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5000 books is an amazing feat and probably is a testament to the amount of speaking engagements you do. Since those are both Savas Beatie titles, does Ted take credit for your success? 😂
 

Dead Parrott

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Jul 30, 2019
Messages
135
From my own experience:

Not much at all.

It's almost always a labor of love, an extension of your profession\obsession. And while satisfying, the remuneration makes it clear you're not doing it for the $$$.
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Columbus, OH
From my own experience:

Not much at all.

It's almost always a labor of love, an extension of your profession\obsession. And while satisfying, the remuneration makes it clear you're not doing it for the $$$.
Exactly. The truth is that I'm happy if I break even on one of these projects and thrilled when I actually make a little bit of a profit.
 

John Winn

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Mar 13, 2014
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While the re-hashing of the writings of others is a problem, I have always made a point of choosing topics that others don't spend time on. Many of my books are the first monograph to address their subject, and in some instances, are the only one. As an example, my most recent published work is the only monograph dedicated to the events at Chickamauga on September 18, 1863 yet published. My current project--I will finish the 8th of 11 chapters tonight--will be the only monograph dedicated to the severe, bloody cavalry fighting that took place between May 26-June 1, 1864.

Last year, I came out with the only scholarly monograph ever published on the February 11, 1865 Battle of Aiken, South Carolina.

I have one coming out next year (written with a friend who is a federal judge) that is the first modern book-length treatment of the political and legal events that led to the creation of the State of West Virginia. Other than a wretched little volume of less than 100 pages that some guy developed for a course he was teaching, there has not been a monograph dedicated to these events since 1963, and before that, since 1905, and nobody has ever taken the approach that we have adopted, which is to combine both the history and the legal analysis.

My friend Dave Powell and I have written the first and only detailed scholarly monograph on the Tullahoma Campaign of 1863 that will be out next year.

My point is that not all of us do that. Some of us actually avoid it like the plague.
I am most interested in your West Virginia work. I do hope you'll let us know when it's published. I've always been interested in how that happened and from what I've read it does seem that it wasn't exactly legal in every regard.

The most thorough analysis I've come across is:

Randall, James G. (1926) Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln (D. Appleton and Company) pp 433-476

I'm certainly glad that you (and others like you) are willing to follow your passion to do something that doesn't pay but that benefits many.

Your fans,

JW & BJ
 

Mr King

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Jun 21, 2008
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692
I want to say this, after the war, when General Lee was offered money to write a biography of himself, he declined and told them to use the money to help the poor and those in need.
 

Zella

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I spend an awful lot of time traveling to speak to Roundtables and the like and in promoting my own books in the hope of selling a few here and there. Just this month, I have three trips to speak to Roundtable, including two overnights. Now, the last one is making it possible for us to attend a friend's wedding that we wouldn't otherwise have been able to attend, but it does get tiresome.
Yes, that doesn't surprise me. My experience comes from being on the other side--working for a small niche publisher (not history) and as a freelance editor occasionally advising authors on their marketing plans for submission proposals--but it's an industry-wide issue. I know a lot of authors think all the hard work is done once the manuscript is written, but that's only the beginning! :frown:
 

Pat Young

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So, I will offer a different perspective. For about a decade, I blogged for a couple of sites. All my paid work was writing about immigration related topics. At times I made 20,000 per year or more from this. My Civil War posts earned about 5,000-8,000 per year during the Sesquicentennial. That was down to about 2000 last year for The Immigrants Civil War.

What I like about blogging is that I don’t have to go through the long process of getting a book published.

My online writing will be folded into my new job next year, so I will no longer be able to figure out what part of my overall pay is going to it. I am glad that my new employer thought enough of my writing to include it in my work.

I have started The Reconstruction Era Blog, but I receive no money for it. It is purely a pleasure project.
 

Pat Young

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I also like the number of readers for online writing. Most of my posts only get a thousand or two thousand readers, but some got 30,000 to 100,000. A post on No Irish Need Apply signs got over 130,000 readers in its first year!

I was told that if I turned my series into a university press book, I would be lucky to sell a thousand copies!

I admire @Eric Wittenberg for his great research and fine writing. Really recommend his work to everyone. I was shocked when he told me how many books he has had published. Amazing. I hope that folks buy them to encourage him to continue writing.

By the way, his Minty/Wilder book is a great take on a well-known Battle.
 
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Eric Wittenberg

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Messages
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Location
Columbus, OH
I also like the number of readers for online writing. Most of my posts only get a thousand or two thousand readers, but some got 30,000 to 1000,000. A post on No Irish Need Apply signs got over 130,000 readers in its first year!

I was told that if I turned my series into a university press book, I would be lucky to sell a thousand copies!

I admire @Eric Wittenberg for his great research and fine writing. Really recommend his work to everyone. I was shocked when he told me how many books he has had published. Amazing. I hope that folks buy them to encourage him to continue writing.

By the way, his Minty/Wilder book is a great take on a well-known Battle.
Thank you for the kind words, Pat. I work hard at getting it right.
 

Belfoured

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Belfoured

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I also like the number of readers for online writing. Most of my posts only get a thousand or two thousand readers, but some got 30,000 to 1000,000. A post on No Irish Need Apply signs got over 130,000 readers in its first year!

I was told that if I turned my series into a university press book, I would be lucky to sell a thousand copies!

I admire @Eric Wittenberg for his great research and fine writing. Really recommend his work to everyone. I was shocked when he told me how many books he has had published. Amazing. I hope that folks buy them to encourage him to continue writing.

By the way, his Minty/Wilder book is a great take on a well-known Battle.
Seconded. And in addition to consistently turning out top flight books, he has a demanding day job as an attorney.
 
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