Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Magazine articles as book promotion

One of Eric's recent posts on Rantings of a Civil War Historian resonated with me. With commendable honesty, he speaks of writing a magazine article for the specific purpose of promoting his most recent book (the Stuart's Raid book "Plenty of Blame Go Around" that he co-authored with J.D. Petruzzi). First off, I want to be clear I am not singling out Eric with what I am about to say below because he makes an important distinction that excludes him from other 'offenders'..for lack of a better word.

Without harping on any particular magazine, I've noticed a discouraging trend in the publication of so many articles that merely summarize a book an author has recently (or even worse not so recently) published. Alternatively, a portion of a book may be converted into an article, but does not add detail from what was previously found in the book it's based on or utilize new information that has come to light since the book's publication.

I realize this complaint is a little bit unfair, because large numbers of subscribers don't read legions of books. I certainly don't mind finding these articles every once in awhile (there are many monographs I have no desire to read in book form but would gladly see summarized at article length--to keep up with the current literature if nothing else), but it's the frequency that bothers me. In the main, I pay for subscriptions to read original material articles about subjects that do not lend themselves to book-length study.

Now, getting back to Eric's post. His upcoming article is an example of what I would view as an 'acceptable' book promotion. Quoting from his post, Eric's article "will be an even more detailed treatment (my emphasis) of the charge of the 1st Delaware Cavalry, also known as Corbit’s Charge, at Westminster, MD than what appears in the book." Eric goes on to say:

"After the book was completely finished, I found a couple of additional sources, including an extremely detailed account by a trooper of one of Corbit’s men, who managed to avoid capture that proably would not have been used in the book, had we known of it then. The emphasis in the book is on Stuart’s Ride, and hence on the Confederates, and this account is very much a Union account. The nice thing about the article, therefore, is that it permitted us to add to the chapter in our book."

With significant original content, this kind of article promotes the book yet adds value for the reader who either has or hasn't already read the book. Everybody wins.

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