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HISTORY BOOK PUBLISHING PITFALLS 
Hello Mr. Justice,

Saw your website and decided to send you an email.

It's possible we have crossed paths at the West Texas Historical Assoc. meetings?

Like yourself, I am also very interested in West Texas history.
Currently I am serving on the Board of Directors for WTHA, and teach US History part-time at Dallas Baptist University. At this years WTHA, 2007 meeting (Abilene) I planned to attend your session, however, I also had a paper to present during the same hour.

I have done quite a bit of research over the years in Jack/Young/ and Palo Pinto Counties, where my family settled during the frontier period. For some time I have wanted to publish my research. I have considered submitting my work to a regional University press, however I think the flexibility of self-publishing might be a better route.

I noticed you have published several books, (I have a copy of your
Revolution on the Rio Grande). If you don't mind I have a few publishing questions for you.

I noticed you operate under the name of RimRock Press, a label that
promotes your work. I assume you contract the printing of your books independently and under the label of RimRock control the marketing and distribution?

The reason I ask I have observed your site as a close model of what I would like to launch to promote my own research. I have secured the domain name of BRAZOSBOOKS.COM, which I plan to use as the main website to promote my work. I plan to find a source, which will print the books with my "Brazos Books" name, and I will then assume all marketing, sales, and management. I have heard LuLu.com is a possible source to accomplish this? So is this the arrangement you also use?

Any advice would be appreciated. I really like your website, you have obviously spent quite a bit of time creating it.

Best Regards,

Wes J. Sheffield

Wes,
Rimrock Press is my publishing company that I use to produce and market my books. I chose this approach some years ago after becoming frustrated with the attitudes and policies of commercial and university presses. I have used both and not had a positive experience with either. Generally commercial presses are simply not interested in publishing regional histories. And while University presses do publish most of our history books, they frequently have their own agendas and tend to only go to press with works done by writers associated with the university. No matter how fine your work, it's not what you know but rather who you know in these circles. Another problem is the fact that these publishers want your work and your copyright but don't want to pay for it. The same applies to historical associations who publish in their journals. After spending years researching and writing my books I feel my time is worth something more than the usual $1 per copy sold by these outfits.

Having said this, the world of self-publishing is not something most people will want to undertake. For one thing, there is absolutely no money to be made publishing history books. You will have to spend your money going to press and it will take years for you to see any return on your investment. There are numerous book manufactures who offer publishing services but few have much interest in doing regional histories. I use Bookmasters and have been well satisfied with their services. See http://www.bookmasters.com/.

Finally, once you have managed to produce a press ready book, you will be responsible for the marketing of your book and the world of book distributing is a snake pit. None of the big book stores such as Barnes and Noble or Borders or any of the others will buy books directly from the publishers. You must go through one of their "approved" distributors. These distributors are a very tight knit group and will do their best to squeeze you out of business before you even start. They will not take you books without heavy discounts and not even consider a publisher with only a few book offerings. Bookmasters will market your books for a monthly fee. The only market you will find for your history books, other than single copy internet sales, are local book stores who many times will only take your books on consignment and then not pay you. In short, if you want to make money writing books probably the best advice I can give is write trashy romance novels, not history books. Gj





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