ACW publishing in 2006: first impressions

These conclusions may be tested or examined in later posts, but in going through the numbers supplied by the wholesaler Ingram here is what I found. The context overall is reduced demand for ACW titles.

Observation: The sales debut of "new thinking" titles is soft, after which a fairly normal sales decay rate sets in - prohibiting these titles from achieving a viable mid-list status.
Comment: These titles may need to debut in economical softcover editions and then switch over to electronic or other formats to persist in midlist. Publishers, please know when you are handling new thinking and add some "viral marketing" approaches.

Observation: New Lincoln books were a washout. I refer to trade titles which failed on the trade scale of operations. This includes Goodwin's Rivals, Wills' Gettysburg reflections, and even John Brown, Abolitionist.
Comment: Team of Rivals sold especially poorly. Shipped and displayed everywhere, my numbers tell me it was returned to the publisher in large lots. I don't know whether to read cause and effect into this. Was DKG the victim of her own reputation, or a reduced level of interest in Abe, or did people not care for the book? Her weak leadership mirrored larger weaknesses in the genre, including an abnormal sales collapse in Tripp's gay Lincoln effort. (Some of my control data for historical nonfictions, e.g. the late S. Ambrose's sales, followed the same path.)

Observation: Gingrich and Forstchen's alternative Civil War novels have crashed into a sales cellar out of which they seem unlikely to climb back into midlist status.
Comment: They debuted with huge numbers under a science fiction marque and then went into an steep, accelerated sales decay pattern year-on-year. This is nothing like the situation with the Shaaras, whose sales are decaying in slow motion. If this pattern represents sci-fi niche normalcy, then we were dealing all along with sci-fi readers, not ACW nor even nonfiction readers.

Observation: McPherson's (non-illustrated) Battle Cry continues steady state with altogether insignificant sales variation year on year.
Comment: The year-on-year variations I see in other rock-solid mid- and backlist titles far exceed the variations in Battle Cry sales data. You'll give me a "DUH" for saying this, but I now feel comfortable suggesting that Battle Cry figures are overwhelmingly textbook sales-driven via assigned reading. The lack of significant variation says "no" to the possibility of a textbook-based core number plus commercial sales and "yes" to entirely textbook sales-based.

Observation: The springtime of U.S. Grant publishing has passed directly into winter.
Comment: It may be a long time before another Grant book comes out in a major publisher's catalog.

Observation: The prolific W. C. Davis and G. Gallagher are suffering normal sales decay rates on modest debuts across a wide number of titles.
Comment: Neither "old thinking" author is going to see viable midlist status for any of his work despite high name recognition. You can view these two as the victims of an AWOL readership or blame them as the cause for same.

Observation: Savas Beatie (in the case of the few titles of theirs I track) is doing better than many major houses and surely better than most academic presses .
Comment: This is a backhanded complement given the state of ACW sales. Sitting a thousand miles away from their accounting department, though, it looks like Civil War publishing, in the right hands, could be a viable enterprise.