Ted Savas's recent poll asking what types of books ACW readers prefer reminded me of a post I have long been meaning to write: top selling books from Civil War Bookshelf.
The roadblock has been in needing to do 11 years of analysis that would produce accurate data - so let's do something quick and easy instead. The shock value should be worth it.
The absolute best seller for the first six or seven years was Hidden in Plain View, which is about slave quilts and the underground railroad. Sales have dropped off to nothing in recent years but even now no Civil War title comes close to that in sales. The runner up in setting a high water mark is/was Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil.
By now you are mulling over military vs. social history and the book market. I have nothing to say on this, I just find it interesting.
More weirdness: If we look at third place, for the first four years of Bookshelf it was back and forth between Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla and The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders. Pretty big gap until the next tier of sales.
In sum: there is a gap between Ted's voters and the Bookshelf's sales that is very odd indeed.
A few more oddities for your enjoyment. A quick look at the Amazon reports, which only go back five years, tells me that in that period
* No Battle Cry of Freedom has ever been ordered
* Hidden in Plain View continued to outsell the next title by a factor of three to one based on a five-year view
* The leading sales titles were social, cultural, or artistic.
Keep in mind that Civil War Bookshelf is/was reasonably opinion free unlike this site, so people could not imbibe a social bias if I had one. Just for fun, here are the leaders over five years (Jan 2003- Mar 2008) in sales rank order:
(1) Hidden in Plain View
(2) Cathy Williams: From Slave to Female Buffalo Soldier
(3) AOP (all volumes)
(4) Civil War Acoustic Shadows
(5) The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War
(6) The Sigel Regiment: A History of the Twenty-Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
(7) Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C.
(8) The Little Jeff: The Jeff Davis Legion, Cavalry Army of Northern Virginia
(9) The Cleveland Grays: An Urban Military Company, 1837-1919
(10) And Keep Moving On: The Virginia Campaign, May-June 1864
BTW, number 3 was published by Da Capo and Savas-Beatie; number 6 was published by Savas; number 10 is Mark Grimsley's title (often seen under his blog heading "And Keep Marketing On").
But notice, setting aside the special case of Army of the Potomac: no battle books. No campaigns except Beatie's and Grimsley's. No Lincoln. No generals' or politicians' bios. No re-enactor stuff, no gunsmithing, no novels. Think of all the titles released and posted to the CW Bookshelf website from November 1997 until now when reading the list.
What does it mean?