Should authors concentrate on projects or major aircraft types?

Pasoleati

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This might be a suicide here but I do wonder why the extreme fetishist interest in books on projects and prototypes of insignificance while there are tremendous gaps in English-language literature of major significant aircraft? For example, there are no really good books with latest research on the e.g. Bf 109, Ju 87, He 111, any Italian and French WW2 aircraft or on any Japanese WW2 aircraft. There are no true bibles (the closest aircraft monograph bible is Spitfire the History) on F4U, SBD, F6F, F4F, SB2C, P-40 to name a few.

The question is that shouldn't the energies and resources of authors be first dedicated to produce a truly complete book on the Bf 109 rather than Bachem Natter? It is akin to a situation where a biography of Hitler or Stalin is far less detailed than a biography of an unknown NSDAP clerk or a party secretary typist in some obscure Siberian village.
 

GTX

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I think both are needed though suspect the reason comes down mainly to individual interests of authors plus market realities (gotta produce something that sells).

That said, I have been toying with the idea of doing the definitive P-40 book for sometime. It would be more of a retirement project though and thus more of a personal interest thing (and something to keep me from annoying the wife too much ;)) than a commercial project.
 

overscan

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Pasoleati said:
This might be a suicide here but I do wonder why the extreme fetishist interest in books on projects and prototypes of insignificance while there are tremendous gaps in English-language literature of major significant aircraft? For example, there are no really good books with latest research on the e.g. Bf 109, Ju 87, He 111, any Italian and French WW2 aircraft or on any Japanese WW2 aircraft. There are no true bibles (the closest aircraft monograph bible is Spitfire the History) on F4U, SBD, F6F, F4F, SB2C, P-40 to name a few.

The question is that shouldn't the energies and resources of authors be first dedicated to produce a truly complete book on the Bf 109 rather than Bachem Natter? It is akin to a situation where a biography of Hitler or Stalin is far less detailed than a biography of an unknown NSDAP clerk or a party secretary typist in some obscure Siberian village.
Aviation books are primarily written because someone is interested in the subject, rather than for financial gain. Noone gets rich writing aircraft books.

Personally I'm not really interested in operational histories, but in technical development. Asking the question on a forum for people who like unbuilt projects is probably not the best location however.


Ultimately if you want to see a definitive book on the Bf109, go write it yourself. it'll take you many years, cost you a fortune in research, probably be 1000 pages long and you'll probably struggle to find a publisher for it at the end. It'll cost a fortune to print, cost lots to buy, and sell in small numbers.
 

Schneiderman

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Yes indeed, what Paul says. What merit is there in telling potential authors what they SHOULD be writing ;)
 

overscan

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I'm not saying it wouldn't be worthwhile from a historical perspective to have such a book on the Bf109. Important plane, deserves a great book. There's no 'definitive book' on pretty much every aircraft.
 

martinbayer

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PaulMM (Overscan) said:
I'm not saying it wouldn't be worthwhile from a historical perspective to have such a book on the Bf109. Important plane, deserves a great book. There's no 'definitive book' on pretty much every aircraft.
Absolutely true - personally, I would much rather like to have a large number of perhaps not quite definitive or even somewhat precursory books on a wide variety of types and even concepts than only a few extremely exhaustive ones on just a small number of mainstream designs, especially keeping in mind that new material is still being unearthed fairly continuously, so trying to write the "ultimate" tome on any design is likely a rather futile exercise at any point in time.

Martin
 

Arjen

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GTX said:
I think both are needed though suspect the reason comes down mainly to individual interests of authors plus market realities (gotta produce something that sells).

That said, I have been toying with the idea of doing the definitive P-40 book for sometime. It would be more of a retirement project though and thus more of a personal interest thing (and something to keep me from annoying the wife too much ;)) than a commercial project.
A book on the P-40 - yes, please :)
 

Pasoleati

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PaulMM (Overscan) said:
Aviation books are primarily written because someone is interested in the subject, rather than for financial gain. Noone gets rich writing aircraft books.

Personally I'm not really interested in operational histories, but in technical development. Asking the question on a forum for people who like unbuilt projects is probably not the best location however.


Ultimately if you want to see a definitive book on the Bf109, go write it yourself. it'll take you many years, cost you a fortune in research, probably be 1000 pages long and you'll probably struggle to find a publisher for it at the end. It'll cost a fortune to print, cost lots to buy, and sell in small numbers.
Paul, I don't speak German, so your idea of "write it yourself" is a bit off and frankly as an argument the "write it yourself" idea is childish.

I am also mainly interested in technical side of things with no interest in operational chronicles. And that is the main problem with many books on major types: they attempt to cover everything and that leads to superficiality in all aspects. The Spitfire The History wisely left the operational chronicling out allowing it do cover the development in detail.

Another good example of the above-mentioned problem can be found in comparing 3 books from Classic: He 162, He 111 and Ju 87. The He 162 volume is excellent and gives very detailed treatment of development and technical issues while the He 111 and Ju 87 try to cover everything and end up being quite useless for anyone not interested in operational chronicling.

Are you suggesting that a 1000-page book on Luftwaffe paper planes would sell better and be cheaper to buy than a 1000-page book on the Bf 109 assuming the latter would concentrate on technical development?
 

Pasoleati

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Schneiderman said:
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Yes indeed, what Paul says. What merit is there in telling potential authors what they SHOULD be writing ;)
What merit is there for an employer tell the employees what should they work on? Those who buy books are employers and those who write books are employees. Without buyers few books would be ever published. Your attitude is quite arrogant.
 

Arjen

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If you care so much about what books should be written, write them yourself. The one arrogant person here is you.
 

Hobbes

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No, those who write books are not employees. Not usually anyway (1). People write books because the subject interests them. Now, writers need to live just like everybody else, so full-time writers tend to pay attention to market demand. Some even work on commission and create any book you want.

In our corner of the hobby though, many writers are hobbyists with a day job. They write what they like, and accept tiny print runs in order to share their interest with others. If you ask nicely, maybe someone will consider writing your dream book, but don't count on it.

Somewhat similarly, I have extended my model building hobby by creating the occasional 3D printed part, which I've made available for sale. But the only pieces I'll make are ones that interest me. I don't take commissions. I tried that, and my hobby quickly turned into a job. That's a development I didn't want.

So, you are not in a position to demand anything. Ask nicely, and you may get someone's interest. Offer a pile of money and someone may take you up on your offer. But don't expect others to spend their free time creating your dream when they could be pursuing their own.

In closing, I'll offer a different point of view. A definitive book on the P-40 may not have been written, but there are hundreds of pages of P-40 material available (Amazon.de has at least 28 books on the P-40). The same goes for all major types. For the unbuilt projects we like, that number is usually 0. What we've collected here on the forum is in some cases the sum total of public information on a project. So a writer tackling unbuilt projects can break new ground, instead of just rehashing what's already been written and maybe filling in a few gaps. And that's a far more satisfying endeavour.



1: yes, I know there are exceptions. I'm one: I'm a technical writer, employed to write user manuals.
 

gatoraptor

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Arjen said:
If you care so much about what books should be written, write them yourself. The one arrogant person here is you.
That is a horrible attitude to have, and quite despicable. I have ideas on books I'd like to see written, but I don't have the time, money or resources to do it. There are professional writers out there whose job it is to write the books, and they are the ones who are equipped to do so. Calling someone "arrogant" who is not equipped to do so is entirely the wrong thing to say to somebody; I'd consider it an insult.

I should add that I have tremendous respect for the guys who do write the books, a number of which post on this forum. Thank you for all your hard work, because I can imagine the "blood, toil, tears and sweat" that you have to go through to produce such excellent works.
 

Schneiderman

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Employers? Employees? What a curious analysis of the relationship. If that is what you truly believe it is no wonder you are so disatisfied with the lack of books on the subjects you list.
 

robertino

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why not
Secret projects are always more interesting than mass production
eg 109 has a "little one million" book and about Natter or Arado 555 pairs of articles

Hitler, Stalin, Tito, Mussolini are always more interesting than Hans, Boris, Jovica, Andrea, ;D ;D

I am currently writing a book "luft-panzer 46" (work title) :-X
 

overscan

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gatoraptor said:
Arjen said:
If you care so much about what books should be written, write them yourself. The one arrogant person here is you.
That is a horrible attitude to have, and quite despicable. I have ideas on books I'd like to see written, but I don't have the time, money or resources to do it. There are professional writers out there whose job it is to write the books, and they are the ones who are equipped to do so. Calling someone "arrogant" who is not equipped to do so is entirely the wrong thing to say to somebody; I'd consider it an insult.

I should add that I have tremendous respect for the guys who do write the books, a number of which post on this forum. Thank you for all your hard work, because I can imagine the "blood, toil, tears and sweat" that you have to go through to produce such excellent works.
There's a fundamental misunderstanding of how aviation book publishing and writing works today. Tony Buttler makes a living as a writer, but most of the aviation writers I know don't. Its a hobby, a passion, and rarely even pays the writer back the costs incurred to research it, let alone make them money to live on. Therefore, to a large degree, the books that get published are on topics that someone decided to research for their own interest. Publishers aren't deciding "we can make lots of money by publishing a book on American Airlifter Projects, lets commission someone to write it". Someone with an interest in a topic approaches the publisher and says "I've been researching this book for 5 years, are you interested in publishing it?".

Therefore, you can't just expect 'the definitive book on the Ju-87' to be published because you'd like to read it, or even because there's a gap in the market for it. Someone who loves the Ju-87 needs to say "I really want to write the definitive book on the Ju-87", and put in the years of effort needed to write it.

If that one person is you, then great, get started. There's plenty of knowledgeable people here who can help. That's how I wrote my book. I wondered 'is there any more to know about the P.1121?" and after more than 7 years of research and about a year of writing / photo editing / graphic layout, it was done.
 

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That is indeed the way to approach the issue, it is largely about networking and building relationships with fellow enthusiasts and people who work or have access to the numerous archives and libraries to supplement your own research. The standard response that 'I do not have the time/money/resources to do it myself' is too easy, if you have the will you will find a way. It will still take time, of course, but then all hobbies do.
 

Arjen

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gatoraptor said:
Arjen said:
[in reply to Pasoleati]If you care so much about what books should be written, write them yourself. The one arrogant person here is you.
That is a horrible attitude to have, and quite despicable. I have ideas on books I'd like to see written, but I don't have the time, money or resources to do it. There are professional writers out there whose job it is to write the books, and they are the ones who are equipped to do so. Calling someone "arrogant" who is not equipped to do so is entirely the wrong thing to say to somebody; I'd consider it an insult.
My emphasis. Most of the aviation books I have bought over the years were written by people whose bills were paid by their day job. There are professional writers out there, most of the fiction I have bought is by writers who live off the proceeds of their books. I imagine some of those writers are very mindful of what sells and what won't, and adapt their writings accordingly. However, if you want to write a smash hit, or just a potboiler to pay your rent, writing about aviation is way out in left field.

So why write about aviation at all? Because most of the writers that do, have something they want to share. I do not write books, but my brother has written one - it's not about aviation - sorry, guys. It took him ten years to research and write, while holding - there's that thing again - a day job. He chose the subject because he had a contribution to make to his field of knowledge, and it earned him a doctorate at the ripe age of 62. Plus the satisfaction of a job well done.

I would like a book about the 109 that spells out how Willy Messerschmitt designed it for ease of production, the process that led to the DB 600 and what kind of machinations happened during the competition that led to the 109's selection as *the* new German fighter. I haven't found it yet, I don't have the money to have a 'professional' write it for me, or the gumption to write it myself. In the meantime, I pick up gems like The Sycamore Seeds.

Aside from that 109 book, I would also like my mortgage to evaporate and trappist beer that will not give me a hangover if drunk by the barrel. A man can dream.
 

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PaulMM (Overscan) said:
There's a fundamental misunderstanding of how aviation book publishing and writing works today. Tony Buttler makes a living as a writer, but most of the aviation writers I know don't. Its a hobby, a passion, and rarely even pays the writer back the costs incurred to research it, let alone make them money to live on. Therefore, to a large degree, the books that get published are on topics that someone decided to research for their own interest. Publishers aren't deciding "we can make lots of money by publishing a book on American Airlifter Projects, lets commission someone to write it". Someone with an interest in a topic approaches the publisher and says "I've been researching this book for 5 years, are you interested in publishing it?".
Well put Paul.
 

overscan

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Pasoleati said:
The question is that shouldn't the energies and resources of authors be first dedicated to produce a truly complete book on the Bf 109 rather than Bachem Natter? It is akin to a situation where a biography of Hitler or Stalin is far less detailed than a biography of an unknown NSDAP clerk or a party secretary typist in some obscure Siberian village.
I thought about this a bit (I've studied history) and surely a new biography on that 'unknown NSDAP clerk' is potentially more interesting than the 50th biography of Hitler, even if this one claims to be the "most authoritative?"
 

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PaulMM (Overscan) said:
surely a new biography on that 'unknown NSDAP clerk' is potentially more interesting than the 50th biography of Hitler, even if this one claims to be the "most authoritative?"
Famous people often have no more secrets or surprises. Someone you've never heard of is nothing *but* new information.
 

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PaulMM (Overscan) said:
Pasoleati said:
The question is that shouldn't the energies and resources of authors be first dedicated to produce a truly complete book on the Bf 109 rather than Bachem Natter? It is akin to a situation where a biography of Hitler or Stalin is far less detailed than a biography of an unknown NSDAP clerk or a party secretary typist in some obscure Siberian village.
I thought about this a bit (I've studied history) and surely a new biography on that 'unknown NSDAP clerk' is potentially more interesting than the 50th biography of Hitler, even if this one claims to be the "most authoritative?"
Someone may well correct me on this, but in my view it's actually much easier to write a truly complete book on the Bachem Natter than the Bf 109. And this state of affairs has nothing to do with the personal preferences or working practices of authors.
Records relating to the early development of all the major in-service Luftwaffe types are unfortunately very thin on the ground - very little from the German aircraft manufacturers during the 1930s appears to have survived. It's unclear whether the Allies binned all the earlier material as irrelevant, if it was destroyed in air raids (all the German aircraft manufacturers were hit multiple times) or if it was destroyed by the Germans themselves at some point. Whatever the case, most of it would seem to be gone for good.
So those ambitions to know exactly how Willy Messerschmitt designed the 109 - whether it was designed in parallel to the 108, before it, or after it - and the process that led to the DB 600 may forever be thwarted. If you were an author writing about the 109, how willing would you be to say 'no one, including me, actually knows anything much about the precise detail of its original design and development'? Not an easy thing to admit if you're writing a 'definitive' history. Otherwise you're just repeating what other authors have said, which may or may not be correct.
Most of those German aircraft manufacturer records that survived in captivity were evidently returned to the German companies to which they had originally belonged, or their successors, in about 1960. In Blohm & Voss's case, this meant the records arrived in Hamburg just in time to be completely destroyed by the North Sea Flood of 1962. Junkers never got any records back and the Americans don't seem to have had them. No one knows what happened to them. Some Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf material went back and still exists at Airbus - although Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf themselves both underwent the usual aviation company process of mergers and acquisitions which usually results in large bonfires of 'unwanted' files.
The Russians got everything from Heinkel, Siebel and Henschel. Presumably, and I'm guessing here, Erich Bachem got everything from Bachem Werke and kept it safe, including the all-important photo albums and records. Also, the Allies were fascinated by the Natter and gather as much information as they could about it. Not so the 109, which was pretty well known by that point. I'm not saying that producing a definitive history of anything is 'easy'. But you can't make something definitive if the information required to do so no longer exists.
Maybe the 109 and Natter aren't the best examples to use in this thread!
 

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Authors should be researching and opening up new streams of information and sharing the fruits of their research if they can.

When I set out to write The Admiralty and the Helicopter everyone said, "helicopter books don't sell" and "mainstream publishers won't touch it". But I set out regardless and Chris kindly gave me the opportunity to write it. Interestingly, around the same time the number of helicopter books did increase slightly but still a poor percentage of the overall.
I had never seen many of the details of British naval helicopter development in print anywhere, nothing about dipping sonar trials or how MATCH was developed, what thinking went behind RN operations or the early design history behind the EH101. I didn't have the space to tell a "definitive" story but its a story that tells you the best nuggets from that research, the things you haven't read elsewhere and that I feel should be better known. Nobody can know everything, I know there is more stuff out there to be unearthed, and much that is lost forever.

As to the meat of this topic, projects Vs major types, I would go with projects. You cannot understand any design process unless you understand the projects, the discarded efforts to reach the final goal and the influences that fed into the design team and the bureaucratic structure surrounding them. A lot of effort went into these projects, arguably the design teams around the world probably spent more time on things that didn't get built than those that did.

Also, publishers only contract for what they think will sell. A book on the Bf 109 is still more likely to get published than a "definitive" history of the Blackburn Botha or the hundreds of other lesser known operational types that often only get mentioned in books dealing with manufacturer's products. Type histories tend to belong more to the modeller market today, there is a surprising depth of coverage of types but of course those books tend to be visual-oriented and picture heavy to serve as modelling guidebooks. Generally, I feel that books dealing with manufacturers, or designers or groups of aircraft are generally more valuable to provide a context. It's a mix and match. I'd rather have 250 books on my shelf covering a range of sources than 20 "definitive" histories that claim to cover everything. Variety is the spice of life.
 

Schneiderman

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Hood said:
Authors should be researching and opening up new streams of information and sharing the fruits of their research if they can.
That is certainly what we would all appreciate but I think the use of the word 'should' is inappropriate. Support and encouragement is a better way to go.
Authors are free to carry out whatever research they choose and then to incorporate as much or as little of this as they wish in their work. If they see greater reward in doing vey little and just recycling old material then they and their publishers can certainly do so, and unfortunately a fair percentage of new books are of that type. Hopefully the sales figures and reviews would show this to be a poor approach and not one to be repeated.
 

Caravellarella

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PaulMM (Overscan) said:
Pasoleati said:
The question is that shouldn't the energies and resources of authors be first dedicated to produce a truly complete book on the Bf 109 rather than Bachem Natter? It is akin to a situation where a biography of Hitler or Stalin is far less detailed than a biography of an unknown NSDAP clerk or a party secretary typist in some obscure Siberian village.
I thought about this a bit (I've studied history) and surely a new biography on that 'unknown NSDAP clerk' is potentially more interesting than the 50th biography of Hitler, even if this one claims to be the "most authoritative?"
In truth, only a tiny percentage of the most successful authors make a decent living from writing; most other authors require some other source of income (I work in publishing royalties).

Terry (Caravellarella)
 

hesham

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Hi all,

I think the author must concentrate on both,but with different per cent,meaning he must
make a contrast between them,Built aircraft 70 % and Project 30 %,that's suitable average.
 

Pasoleati

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There seems to be a not incopns8iderable number of people who interpret my comments like the Devil reads the Bible. E.g. my comment "employee and employer" was poohpoohed, yet let me ask this way: An author plans to write a say 3-part treatise on project XYZ. He self-publishes the first volume and sells 10 copies. Ask yourselves, how much incentive the author has after that to publish 2 more volumes? Compare then that to a situation where the same book would sell 1000 copies. No matter how enthusiastic an author is, I would be inclined to believe that even the most enthusiastic one is likely to give up if the reception saleswise is very poor. Henceworth it is quite pertinent to state that the buyers are the emplyers (=they pay for the product) and the authors are employees (=they get compensated for their work).

Newsdeskdan: Which German archives have you researched in? I have been told that the Deutsches Museum archives (BA-MA being far less important) is the place to go for aircraft manufacturer records.

Someone mentioned the Blackburn Botha. I would certainly buy a big book on it provided the book included pleanty of original design documents and correspondence, minutes, test reports. Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust has published several books that have plenty of such documents, letters etc. and that makes the books excellent. Contentswise, the best tank monographgs I have ever read are P. M. Knight's books on British tanks. Knight writes for tank enthusiasts (people who are interested in tanks per se), not modellers or simmers.
 
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