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American Secret Projects: Bombers revision

uk 75

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Reading that Tony B is hard at work on revising this book is very good news.
May I put in a plea that he draws on the excellent threads on this site especially on the evolution of the B1 through AMSA.
It is a sad fact that books cannot compete with sites like this one for the quantity of info especially images available.
oh and can he avoid devoting whole pages to one photograph.
 

uk 75

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CJ It should be said that your tomes are models of how to use and display info. Perhaps you could give Phil the Layout a few pointers on pleasing the punters.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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My P.1121 Project Tech was certainly excessively dense from a "good layout" perspective, but I felt like any space unfilled was a missed opportunity for another drawing, given the intrinsic unlikelihood of another publication on the subject.

I rather like the layout of the latest Project Tech, seems like Chris also rather stuffed this one.
 

uk 75

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"excessively dense" describes my idea of a good reference book. Hope Tony B will move in that direction. Layouts are fine for art books.
 

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UK, I thought I'd add a bit more "first hand" experience with the publishing world to help clarify, as Chris and Paul have most ably done.

First, you have to dramatically separate all the data you can find from what is going into the book. For one example, in the book that author Nicholas Veronico and I are working on on the B-32 (it will be THE most complete story of this aircraft ever done) I found a source that had over 250 original detail photos of the Model A-18 turret that was one of MANY considered for the aircraft. At most we will probably be able to use four or five because of space limitations and the need to cover as many as possible of what my up to 15 turrets and turret designs that were actively examined or designed for the Dominator. I have gathered over 25MB of data, photos and drawings that have to be read, edited, cleaned up, redrawn, appropriated sized and placed in order have book probably 300 - 350 pages long that tells a complete story that is as lavishly illustrated as possible without leaving out anything we think is important/critical to telling the story - WITHOUT filling space with dozens of pages of copies out of manuals. Basically, our goal is make this your "one stop shopping center" on the B-32 for enthusiasts, historians, etc. now and in the future - that does assume, of course, that you don't want to spend your OWN time (figure three years minimum, probably closer to five) and money tracking down archives, museums, private sources, etc. all over the world to identify data and make trips (or hire someone) to copy it ALL so you can go through it and spend your time taking a 36-page report into one page for the book without missing anything important.

THEN, assuming you have a publisher who is actually interested in the project, you need to produce a manuscript, ideally in the format that your publisher will use. Your publisher will be thinking in terms of what size format "he" will use (A4? A6? Two column? Three? One?), what size fonts you will need to use for both the text and the captions for photos, drawings, etc. Will it have any color in it and, if so, will it be sprinkled through the book (more expensive for printing) or clustered in one section? And if it is clustered in one section how does that impact the readability of the book if that wonderful color photo you were putting on page 57 to go with the data ends up in a cluster on page 125? Personally, I really HATE having to jump back and forth in a book because the new caption written by the publisher refers me back to the thorough explanation contained earlier in the book. Then the publisher must consider the size and weight of the book and how much it will cost to ship a case or twelve overseas in the slowest possible canoe available to their major markets - and what that will add to the cost of the book to the end user. Want to try and guess how much the layout, printing and shipping costs add up to? And believe me, unless you are doing self-publishing, as an author you will see only the most minute portion of the gross proceeds received by the publisher. We're not writing Agatha Christie here...this is HISTORY and you can't just make it up (in spite of what you see in virtually every aviation forum). By the way, how many Spitfires CAN fit on the head of a pin???

So no matter how much more you'd love to see in any book - and believe me, the author's as well - there are many, many, many other factors that go into its creation so that you can hold it in your hands and declare it "Cool stuff, but I wish they'd put in more information."

Finally, if you'd like all I've collected on the B-32 (or future projects), just cut me a cashier's check for about $50,000.00 to cover all my time and expenses and you can have a near-orgasmic immersion in first-hand history.

I'm very interested in feedback from my fellow authors. Did I miss anything? TMI?

Submitted respectfully,

AlanG
 

uk 75

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AlanG
I really appreciate you taking the time to lay out the many pitfalls of publishing the kind of books that we devour without giving such things a second thought.. You are right to do so and I will re-read a couple of times as it answers several questions I and others here probably have.
But in return can I describe my pet peeve more clearly. If I buy a book devoted like yours to a single aircraft type then a gorgeous full page colour shot like the attached (googled at random) is reasonable. But if I buy a book trying to cover hundreds of different projects and such one pagers appear at regular intervals I feel cheated of other more useful images, drawings or even text.
 

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overscan (PaulMM)

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Some writers are writing a broader story which includes reference to actual aircraft within a history of development. I'm happy with this approach. Ideally, as many images as possible should be previously unpublished but there are questions of availability and licensing to consider.
 

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UK,

Thanks for your response - and Paul's, too.

There can be two major reasons for a large color image replacing more, smaller images - one being author-driven and the other publisher-driven.

For author-driven entries (and here I'm talking about REAL RESEARCHERS and not the all-too-typical "gatherers" who do little real research and instead get their material from other poorly-researched books), it may well be that one large color photo will reveal all the points the author is trying to illustrate within the text. The same is true with large black-and-white photos.

With publisher-driven entries, it can be a desire on the publisher to have "more color" because of the belief it helps to sell books. In this case you must remember that almost none of the publishers have any idea what is being written about, nor do they necessarily care. They are in the business of putting out books that sell, and if a big color photo will help do that then in a photo goes.

Admittedly, the above is ridiculously simplified, but I think it captures the spirit of the process.

Hope this helps.

AlanG
 

aim9xray

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Another point might be that the single page photo may be a fig leaf covering an awkward problem in book design/layout.

As an author, it is very simple to circumvent this problem: don't supply any portrait format photos! (although I must say that I would not gainsay Alan's decision to include that full page image of the B-32 in a vertical climb!)
 

uk 75

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Thanks for taking the time to talk me through the process of publishing books. Despite my rather brat like appetites I am seriously grateful for all the books in my library (latest being the wonderful General Staff and the helicopter) and they are all well thumbed.
.
 

Dagger

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UK, I thought I'd add a bit more "first hand" experience with the publishing world to help clarify, as Chris and Paul have most ably done.
...........
...........
I'm very interested in feedback from my fellow authors. Did I miss anything? TMI?

Submitted respectfully,

AlanG
I am not an author and don't work in the publishing or printing business but will give you my opinion anyway.
Your description of the whole process is very interesting but lacks an important point: how do you and/or the publisher determine how many copies are to be printed? Based on what intended audience?

In my opinion a complete standard work on a particular aircraft should have at least 450 pages A4 size, not 300, and certainly not even less than that. The B-32 is not a well known popular aircraft so it will mainly be bought by real aviation enthusiasts, not by teenagers with a limited budget and limited attention span. Real enthusiasts would rather pay 50 % more for a standard work of 450 pages than one of 300 pages. I would, if I were interested in the B-32.

I hate it when I have to buy multiple books on the same aircraft to get a complete as possible impression, as I then finally end up with lots of duplication and each book adding little extra, except cost. For example: I have many books on the Lockheed Blackbird family, but not one of those books I would call a complete standard work. The same problem I have with several other aircraft.

If your book is to be limited to 300 - 350 pages and you have a lot of interesting material left you could publish an additional book with the unused photos and drawings. For example: I have the beautiful book Hypersonic, The Story of the North American X-15 by Dennis Jenkins and Tony Landis. That book is "only" 264 pages long, so they also published a separate X-15 Photo Scrapbook of 108 pages with only photos and drawings with captions, which I also have. Others have published an additional photobook too. It's just a thought as it would be a shame if unused material would end up in boxes never to be seen again.

One last remark: some books have photos and drawings printed over the gutter. That's really unacceptable so please don't do that. Photos can usually be printed smaller, big drawings (like cutaways) should be a foldout at the back of the book.

Is the B-32 book going to be your first? Or did you already publish other books? If so, which?
I'm asking because the abbreviation AlanG does not ring a bell with me.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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UK, I thought I'd add a bit more "first hand" experience with the publishing world to help clarify, as Chris and Paul have most ably done.
...........
...........
I'm very interested in feedback from my fellow authors. Did I miss anything? TMI?

Submitted respectfully,

AlanG
I am not an author and don't work in the publishing or printing business but will give you my opinion anyway.
Your description of the whole process is very interesting but lacks an important point: how do you and/or the publisher determine how many copies are to be printed? Based on what intended audience?

In my opinion a complete standard work on a particular aircraft should have at least 450 pages A4 size, not 300, and certainly not even less than that. The B-32 is not a well known popular aircraft so it will mainly be bought by real aviation enthusiasts, not by teenagers with a limited budget and limited attention span. Real enthusiasts would rather pay 50 % more for a standard work of 450 pages than one of 300 pages. I would, if I were interested in the B-32.

I hate it when I have to buy multiple books on the same aircraft to get a complete as possible impression, as I then finally end up with lots of duplication and each book adding little extra, except cost. For example: I have many books on the Lockheed Blackbird family, but not one of those books I would call a complete standard work. The same problem I have with several other aircraft.

If your book is to be limited to 300 - 350 pages and you have a lot of interesting material left you could publish an additional book with the unused photos and drawings. For example: I have the beautiful book Hypersonic, The Story of the North American X-15 by Dennis Jenkins and Tony Landis. That book is "only" 264 pages long, so they also published a separate X-15 Photo Scrapbook of 108 pages with only photos and drawings with captions, which I also have. Others have published an additional photobook too. It's just a thought as it would be a shame if unused material would end up in boxes never to be seen again.

One last remark: some books have photos and drawings printed over the gutter. That's really unacceptable so please don't do that. Photos can usually be printed smaller, big drawings (like cutaways) should be a foldout at the back of the book.

Is the B-32 book going to be your first? Or did you already publish other books? If so, which?
I'm asking because the abbreviation AlanG does not ring a bell with me.
Alan Griffith -
Consolidated Mess: The Illustrated Guide to Nose-turreted B-24 Production Variants in USAAF Combat Service
American Secret Projects - Fighters, Bombers and Attack Aircraft 1937-1945

Regarding book length, its not the size that matters but the quality of the research in my opinion, and bear in mind that one author's opinion of what's interesting will differ from another's. There is also never going to be a "complete standard work" possible on many aircraft.
 
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Dagger

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Regarding book length, its not the size that matters but the quality of the research .....
If an author has done years of research and has much more interesting material than he can fit in 300 pages then a 450 page book will be better for the real aviation enthusiast. In that case size does matter as the quality of the research is the same in both cases. It could also be a 300 page book followed by a 150 page photo scrapbook with additional photos and drawings, with captions, that were not required for the first book but are also of interest to enthusiasts. That applies to any book from any author. That's my opinion as a reader.
...... bear in mind that one author's opinion of what's interesting will differ from another's.
Maybe that's the main problem.
It should not only be about the author's opinion (and that of the publisher). The author should also focus on the reader, who after all is supposed to buy the book. Like any other commercial product the book is supposed to serve the paying customer. The author is free to produce whatever he likes, but if the customer is disappointed, he is free to criticize or even ignore the book, no matter how many manhours the author put in. The client is king, or should be.

I am still curious how it is estimated how many copies of a new book are to be printed. I notice in the past years that many new books are sold out quickly, so apparently some publishers are clueless about the potential demand.
 

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You can't second guess what every reader wants.
Don't forget that authors read books too! We don't create books in a vacuum.
I have read some good books and some bad, I like to think I have taken the good points from authors' styles and intent that I like into my own work but someone else would have a totally different interpretation.

In my view the illustrations should complement the text, add extra information if possible, a good photo should catch the eye and make you look at it. For me a good caption should say something interesting if possible, but I'm not a fan of 200 word captions. Captions should never be used as footnotes.
 

ninjrk

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Regarding book length, its not the size that matters but the quality of the research .....
If an author has done years of research and has much more interesting material than he can fit in 300 pages then a 450 page book will be better for the real aviation enthusiast. In that case size does matter as the quality of the research is the same in both cases. It could also be a 300 page book followed by a 150 page photo scrapbook with additional photos and drawings, with captions, that were not required for the first book but are also of interest to enthusiasts. That applies to any book from any author. That's my opinion as a reader.
...... bear in mind that one author's opinion of what's interesting will differ from another's.
Maybe that's the main problem.
It should not only be about the author's opinion (and that of the publisher). The author should also focus on the reader, who after all is supposed to buy the book. Like any other commercial product the book is supposed to serve the paying customer. The author is free to produce whatever he likes, but if the customer is disappointed, he is free to criticize or even ignore the book, no matter how many manhours the author put in. The client is king, or should be.

I am still curious how it is estimated how many copies of a new book are to be printed. I notice in the past years that many new books are sold out quickly, so apparently some publishers are clueless about the potential demand.
I've only published on the scientific technical side so my experiences may be different (currently working on a revised surgical textbook, oy). This may seem counterintuitive but functionally the reader isn't the author's customer, it's the publisher. The readers aren't paying the author, they are paying the publisher who then passes some of that money along to the author. If it's a good publisher, they have done much research on the customer base, where the sweet spot is for amount of content (for every reader who wishes there was 100 more pages there is at least one reader who won't buy the book because it is an intimidating textbook looking monster) and illustrations, and so forth. The publisher then uses all of that data to give the author a fairly well defined framework to use that, in the publisher's estimation at least, will make the most money (units sold times cover price plus miscellaneous discounts to larger realtors like amazon and what percentage will go through them and so forth). Unless you are so popular an author that your name will move so many books they don't want you to go to a competitor you don't have much negotiating room. If any. Honestly, you also want to make the most money you can for your efforts so you kinda don't want to fight with them since if they are right any deviation from that framework will make them (and thus you) less money. From a print run standpoint I think there is the tendency to underestimate but their formula isn't designed to maximize profits on only one book, it's to maximize profits across all of them. If you sell out of two books in your catalog and lose some profits on those two BUT your formula means that the other 98 books in your release catalog don't have half their print run sitting unsold in your warehouse you have netted far more profits overall and you win and get to stay in business. There is also the psychological impact of books selling out, it triggers people like me to not wait in the hopes the price will come down, I'm buying the reference work now before it's only available for $400 on eBay!

Put it this way. I would pay $200 for an authoritative 500-800 page reference work on the French ARL 44 tank and related 1944-1947 French tank development. I will never have that opportunity because the 25 of those that they might be able to sell would never recoup the production costs. Which sucks but there you go!
 

ninjrk

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I should add of course the author wants to make the reader happy. However, if they can't get the book published because it doesn't meet the publisher's requirements then they have no readers to please.
 

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Books on modern military themes are heavily influenced by the times they are published.
Most volumes in the 60s were either reference books like the Putnams Aircraft Manufacturers series or the various Ian Allen and Observers books.
The 70s saw the arrival of the big glossy Salamander books like the US and Soviet War Machine or Rockets and Missiles. These have been replaced in the Internet age by various online digests.
Interest in unbuilt projects was fired by the famous Project Cancelled book and a related article in the RAF Annual Review.
Today we have an unparalleled combination of greatb online sites and some serious detailed books. Sadly the Internet is fragile as the demise of the amazing Flight online archive shows.
 

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Books on modern military themes are heavily influenced by the times they are published.
Most volumes in the 60s were either reference books like the Putnams Aircraft Manufacturers series or the various Ian Allen and Observers books.
The 70s saw the arrival of the big glossy Salamander books like the US and Soviet War Machine or Rockets and Missiles. These have been replaced in the Internet age by various online digests.
Interest in unbuilt projects was fired by the famous Project Cancelled book and a related article in the RAF Annual Review.
Today we have an unparalleled combination of greatb online sites and some serious detailed books. Sadly the Internet is fragile as the demise of the amazing Flight online archive shows.
Had many Salamander books. In high school (early/mid 80s) I'd hit the local Waldenbooks in the mall about once a week to see what was new.
 

JohnR

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I have loads of Salamander books, they give good information at a reasonable price. My friends got fed up of losing me in Manchester, Liverpool, Chester and the rest because I'd spotted a book shop and veered of for a look to see what books they had and very often it was a Salamander publication.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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You can't second guess what every reader wants.
Don't forget that authors read books too! We don't create books in a vacuum.
I have read some good books and some bad, I like to think I have taken the good points from authors' styles and intent that I like into my own work but someone else would have a totally different interpretation.

In my view the illustrations should complement the text, add extra information if possible, a good photo should catch the eye and make you look at it. For me a good caption should say something interesting if possible, but I'm not a fan of 200 word captions. Captions should never be used as footnotes.
Captions should tell you something interesting not in the main text about the illustration. Too many books have captions like "A drawing of XYZ". Not very informative.
 

sferrin

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I have loads of Salamander books, they give good information at a reasonable price. My friends got fed up of losing me in Manchester, Liverpool, Chester and the rest because I'd spotted a book shop and veered of for a look to see what books they had and very often it was a Salamander publication.
I still remember the first time I ever saw one. When I was in elementary school the Bookmobile would stop at a church on my way home from school every other week. It didn't have many space or military books (mostly because I always had them checked out LOL) but one day there was a first edition Soviet War Machine. Up until then I'd mostly read old C.B Colby books and others from the 60s. It was like I'd died and gone to heaven.
 

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For one example, in the book that author Nicholas Veronico and I are working on on the B-32 (it will be THE most complete story of this aircraft ever done)

AlanG
The most important point is what is the ETA of this work? Summer 2022 for example? Or is it still at the , "It's done when it's done," point?

Ken
 
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