Merriam Press Author Guidelines
"Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light."
—Joseph Pulitzer, (1847-1911) American journalist
Merriam Press provides its authors with a professional service, with years of experience in the field of publishing to each and every project. Starting in 1968, the company has grown and developed over time and has now earned its place of honor in the industry. The owner of Merriam Press brings his in-depth and expert knowledge of publishing and military history to each book project and its author. And it is precisely this unique and special quality that sets Merriam Press apart. When it comes to telling the tales of our veterans, the larger commercial publishing houses just can't compete. A publisher who takes pride in his work. Merriam Press brings rare and valuable personal stories of our nation's unsung heroes to print, professionally and accurately. Every story is important and every story gets the personal attention and care it deserves; a sense of caring and commitment to each author which is often lacking when dealing with most larger commercial publishing houses.
Knowledge, experience, caring and commitment ... the package deal at Merriam Press.
So you want to be an author?
The Merriam Press publishes original material on World War II and military history topics, including veterans memoirs, biographies, histories of battles, campaigns, units, aircraft, naval vessels, weapons, military vehicles, armored vehicles, uniforms, insignia, medals, awards, camouflage, etc.
I will consider some fiction or poetry that is military oriented. But be prepared for low sales as the majority of my customers are primarily interested in non-fiction military history. I do not publish any material that is not associated with military history.
Of course, every author believes their work is the best thing ever written and will become a best seller, the truth is that more than 80% of all books published will fail to sell well enough to make a profit for the publisher... and the number is higher when dealing with highly specialized works like those published by the Merriam Press.
All previously published Merriam Press titles are being converted into a new format so that an outside print on demand printer can produce and ship the finished product direct to our customers. This means I can concentrate on creating and selling books instead of printing/binding/shipping them, which was reaching the point where I was not able to find the time to produce enough new works to keep the business going.
The printer who handles the production and shipping of the books also maintains a web site where each publisher can set up their own store front to sell the books. However, these store fronts rarely produce a sufficient level of sales. For any sales made through that store front, the printer deducts the cost of the book's production plus a 20% commission based on the difference between the production cost and the retail price. The printer then pays the publisher their share of the sale price on a monthly basis. I do not expect many sales from that store front and every book is automatically added to the store front, so at least it is another potential source of some sales and does not cost anything for the storefront.
Why Merriam Press Charges Authors a Setup Fee
I run a one-man home-based business, now in its 41st year. Although the business today is far different from when it started, the core reason for it remains the same—publishing military (and primarily WWII) history.
In the 1980s I switched from publishing a magazine to publishing small booklets, and eventually full-length books. To do that, I had to use "print on demand" (POD) methods, where I print copies as needed to fill actual orders. Over the years the physical quality of the books improved, from photocopy/stapled booklets, to laser printer/perfect-bound books, all of which were printed and bound in-house by myself.
Due to some changes in my personal and business situations in recent years, I switched to using an outside POD service, which produces high quality traditional paperback and hardcover/dust jacketed books.
The printer handles all the printing, binding and shipping of orders. The majority of the orders for my books come through my web site, with additional sales made from storefronts on the printer's web site as well as one on Amazon's web site.
Recently I have started using Ingram, the country's largest book distributor to handle select titles that I publish, which helps get those titles listed on some, if not all, of the major online booksellers web sites and, theoretically, makes them available for sale through brick-and-mortar bookstores.
Due to these and other changes in my personal and business situations, I have had to make some changes in the way I accept new titles for publication. Most people are not aware of the fact that four out of five books published never make a profit. This is true for all publishers, even the major names.
The larger publishers will actually make more (if any) profit on selling rights to books, such as serial rights, movie rights, audio rights, book club rights, etc. A small publisher like myself does not have this capability as a general rule. The majority of the titles I publish are often too technical and/or specialized to attract interest from sources seeking rights to books.
Over the years, I have published over 100 titles that could be considered full-length books. Most are still in print and some are selling fairly well, a few having sold over a thousand copies to date, several more having sold 500 or more. While the general public always hears of the impressive print runs and sales figures of the "big" titles, these are actually few and far between. The majority of the books published rarely print more than 500 copies, at most a few thousand, even from the major publishers. Often, even that small number doesn't sell and the publisher will "remainder" or even recycle the unsold copies after six months or a year.
With POD, a title can be sold indefinitely. The first title I published as a separate publication, in 1979, while still publishing a magazine, sold out its 1,000 copy print run in 13 months. It was not reprinted, although there was evidence that another small print run might have also been successful at the time, but other developments prevented that from happening. The author of that title, the first to deal with that particular subject, has since decided not to update it for republication today, as other authors have since produced better, longer works on the same subject.
The next title released, in 1980, had a print run of 2,000 copies (of which 400 were rejected due to quality issues) and I still have a small quantity left.
That was why I switched to POD. Sitting on hundreds of copies, for years, of even that one title was just not acceptable. The next title was produced using POD, and has been revised several times as my methods of production changed and improved. It is still in print and has been one of my best selling titles and currently leads the list of my titles for actual sales, with over 1,500 copies sold to date, and it continues to sell.
As I mentioned, the majority of my titles have much lower sales figures. Some are just so specialized that no publisher could ever generate much sales for them. Indeed, those titles would never have seen the light of day had it not been for my POD operation.
While I enjoy making these works available, and there is no financial drain involved as there would be if I had hundreds of copies of each title printed up and sitting in a warehouse, there is the aspect of the time it takes me to produce the book. To go through that whole process, which can take up to a hundred hours or more per book, and then not make any profit for years, if ever, is not something I can continually afford to do.
So I have now switched to using a different method for publishing the books I will accept in the future. The author will be required to pay a small fee in advance, for the publication of their book. That fee is $600, and is non-refundable.
The $600 is due in two installments of $300 each. The first is due when the contract is signed, the second is due when the author approves the final proof. Once the final proof is approved and the payment is received and confirmed, the book will be available for printing and sale within a week (probably less).
What the author receives for this is as follows:
Your book will be made available in both paperback and hardcover/dustjacketed edition.
Some titles may not be available in hardcover.
For the most part, memoirs are printed in 6x9 format, while certain technical books are done in 8.5x11 format, usually due to the need for a larger format to handle material like maps, illustrations and large tables.
Your book will be entered into the distribution system (Ingram, Baker & Taylor, CreateSpace). This allows the book to be listed by online booksellers, and they almost always list all titles that are available through a distributor.
That does not mean that they actually stock copies of the book, only that they will list it and purchase copies as needed to fill orders (typically they call these "special orders").
An online bookseller may stock a book if sales of that title warrant doing such.
Such pricing and discounts are determined by those companies and Merriam Press has no influence over their policies.
While Merriam Press has no pre-determined limit on the length of the book nor on the amount of "additional materials," such as photographs, drawings, illustrations, maps, charts, tables, etc., the printers do have a limit of about 700 pages for B&W books.
While Merriam Press may do some editing of the material, including correcting spelling, and even occasionally grammar, Merriam Press is not a substitute for a good editor. For editing services, see below.
Since there is no limit on a book's size other than the maximum page length that the printer has, I do not cut material simply to reduce the size of a book.
Unlike many other printers and POD services, I do not charge the author anything for so-called "extras" like typesetting, layout, photo/image scans/workup, proofing, etc. The fee I charge is a one-time, full-package fee.
Proofing your book
- A manuscript should be as error-free as possible before it is submitted for review. Using a professional editor is a definite plus, and should be considered a necessity for anyone who has never written a book before. This is the stage at which corrections and changes should be made.
- The author will receive a PDF file proof of their book. The author is required to proof their book and provide corrections in an acceptable format to the publisher. Preferably, the author shouild print out the PDF file, review it and mark any corrections or changes on the printed pages and return those pages to Merriam Press. This method is the fastest way for your changes to be made to your book. After each round of corrections, another PDF proof will be sent to the author.
- Once both the author and publisher feel the book has been fully corrected and ready for publication, a paperback printed proof will be provided to the author. Additional errors or changes may be deemed necessary at this stage. Oddly enough, seeing the material in an entirely new format (printed versus digital), additional errors that were missed in previous proofs are almost always found. After correcting those errors, another paperback proof will be provided.
Once the paperback has been thoroughly proofed and the author and publisher agree that it is ready for publication, the author will receive five copies of the paperback edition of their book in its final printed and bound form.
If the author requests any changes to be made to the book after seeing the printed editions, once those changes have been made, another set of printed and bound copies will be supplied and these will be charged to the author at the actual cost that the printer charges the Merriam Press. Thus, it is imperative that ALL changes, corrections, additions, etc., be made before the book is okayed for publication.
Once the book has been entered into the distribution system, any further changes may incur extra fees from the distributor and these will be billed to the author.
It is imperative that all proof copies be carefully examined and it is highly recommend you pass the copies around to other people, especially those who know little or nothing about the subject of the book. Those are the types of people who will spot the simplest of problems that the author will typically not easily spot.
Hardover edition: For those titles that are produced in hardcover as well as paperback, because the same files are used for the hardcover book as the paperback, all corrections must be made to the paperback edition before the hardcover edition can be created. A single hardcover copy will be provided to the author only after the paperback has been thoroughly checked and proofed. Should any problems be found in the hardcover edition, that are not due to the fault of the publisher and/or printer, the author will be charged for any additional hardcover copies required after making changes.
Upon publication the author can purchase additional copies, of any quantity, at any time, at a discount off the retail price. The actual discounts vary depending on the edition (paperback or hardcover). The author can sell as well as give these copies away. For copies of an author's book sold by the Merriam Press, through it's own web site, or any Merriam Press storefronts, such as those on the printer's web sites, by mail, phone or fax, or in person, as well as copies Merriam Press sells directly to dealers and booksellers (some do not or will not use a distributor), and distributors, the author will receive 10% of the amount Merriam Press receives for each copy sold.
Reports of sales are generally made monthly, by a Excel or Word document file sent as an email attachment.
Payments to authors can be made efficiently if the author has a Paypal account. This simplifies my accounting process and reduces the time as well as the costs that would be involved using any other method of payment. Payments are made when royalties have reached at least $25.00.
Having a Paypal account is a requirement for any author outside the United States. Foreign authors must have a Paypal account to be paid their royalties.
While having a Paypal account is not a requirement for authors in the U.S., it is highly recommended. Without a Paypal account, payments will have to be made by check which will require more time and effort as well as expense on my part.
I have been a registered business user of Paypal since 2000 and have never had any problems with their service, having used it for both business and personal money payments, for orders I have placed with a wide variety of businesses as well as receiving payments from customers and others.
Your book will also be listed in my printed catalog.
The author is responsible for copyrighting their work, in their country. That gives them full rights to the material contained in the book.
An author may seek another publisher at any time and upon written notice of no less than 60 days, can sign with another publisher
The author will receive two disks with all copies of their book's files that were used to create the printed edition of the book. These are for safekeeping by the author and should, for any reason, the Merriam Press cease to exist, the author will have the capability to seek another publisher or even produce their own POD edition for sale.
To produce such a reprint edition or use material from the Merriam Press edition that was not supplied or prepared by the author, the new publisher will be required to pay a fee for the rights to the material, which will vary depending on the type and amount of material being used.
In such cases, whenever possible, the new publisher will be provided with all of the original computer files that were used to prepare the Merriam Press edition.
It is preferred that your work be available as a simple text document with as little formatting as possible and sent either as an email attachment or on a CD or DVD disk.
Some authors go so far as to produce the manuscript in a desktop publishing program. Such is counterproductive and will cause problems in creating a book. I do not use desktop publishing programs and will not be able to open files created in such programs. A basic word processing text document is all that is needed and preferred.
For photos and other illustrative material, the originals should be supplied, as I prefer to scan the originals so I can better prepare them for the best reproduction for the book. These do not have to be sent with the initial manuscript, although photocopies or small quick scans should be sent to help me when reviewing the manuscript to determine whether or not I will want to publish the book. All originals will be returned after they have been scanned.
Those are the important points regarding the Merriam Press method of book publishing. I always hate to turn down a good book because I cannot afford to tackle a title that, while good, might not sell well enough to make it worthwhile for the time and expense I will have to invest in its production. No publisher or author has a crystal ball they can peer into to determine if that book will be a big seller—if only such were possible, I would not have to resort to this method of publishing.
Although there are a number of other printers, POD services and even so-called "publishers" who are really nothing more than a POD service, none that I know of offer the type of service and terms I offer my authors with this method.
Some of the POD services have been poorly run, producing virtually worthless books that simply are not selling. Their production of books is virtually nothing more than taking whatever material the author sends them and just dropping it into a basic template. I have seen some POD services literally scan and print typewritten and even handwritten material and call it a "book". That is laughable and in some cases borders on criminal in my opinion.
Merriam Press does not produce such "crap" books. I design and layout every title personally, doing all of the work, and welcome input from the author. I have a strong background in art, having originally considered a career as an artist. But the military history bug was stronger and that turned into what has become the business of Merriam Press. My expertise in graphics design, much of it self-taught by producing hundreds of magazine issues and books over a period of almost 50 years (including for a number of other magazine and book publishers, winning a few awards in the process), using everything from manual to electric and electronic typewriters and a phototypesetting machine to computers, and all manner of printing methods, from mimeo, to offset, photocopy and laser printer.
I do not design materials to win awards. Typically, such designs look terrific, but a chore to actually read. I design my books first and foremost to be easy to read and then to look good. Accomplishing that double requirement was more difficult before switching to an outside POD service as I was limited by the equipment and methods I had available at the time for printing and binding.
I do not accept every work that comes along, unlike some POD "publishers" that are being severely criticized for publishing literally everything that comes their way, as they make their money from selling the author their services, which often run into thousands of dollars.
To obtain a review sample of the Merriam Press standard contract for original Monographs and Memoirs, send an e-mail with “Sample Contract” in the Subject line.
Not everyone can afford to pay to have their book published. For those that truly cannot afford to pay the Merriam Press fee, it still might be possible to publish your book. In special cases, we will forego the upfront fee.
The catch is that the author will have to pay for any expenses incurred in the production of the book, and that normally is for printed proof copies. Most proofing is done using PDF files, and these are sent free to authors (the author then has to print the file and make correctiosn on the printout and return the printout to Merriam Press for thge changes to be made).
Later, printed and bound paperback proofs are supplied to the author. Under this method of publishing, the author will be required to pay what Merriam Press has to pay the printer for these proof copies (the cost of printing and shipping, generally under $10.00 for a paperback copy to a U.S. address).
The author will receive one free paperback and, if published in hardcover, one free hardcover. Additional copies will be available to the author at the regular author discounts.
Should there be any special additional services required by the author, they will be billed to the author.
Not every author who applies for this hardship service will be given this assistance. It will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Donations of material are always welcome.
You can help preserve historical material for future generations and make it more readily available to everyone at a very reasonable price.
The Merriam Press will produce new editions of such works, acknowledging the generous donation of the contributor in the new edition.
The contributor will receive a copy of the new edition when published.
In particular, material such as old documents, manuals, booklets, books, etc., that are now out of print and difficult to obtain are sought for reprinting.
If you follow common sense, and keep it simple, you can’t go wrong in producing an acceptable manuscript for the Merriam Press.
Manuscripts must be submitted in a word processing format. They can be submitted on a CD or DVD disk or a thumb drive, as well as an email attachment (email attachments must be less than 10 MB).Manuscripts available only as hard copy cannot be accepted - they must be supplied in a digital format.
Although I use Microsoft Word, I can accept files in almost any recognized current (and some older) word processor formats. If you use Word, please save it in that format; if you don’t have Word, but your word processor can save in a Word format, please do so.
If you are using non-PC computers, the best method is to save the text file as plain text and send it as an email attachment.
Do not get fancy or clever with formatting, styles, fonts, graphics, etc. That is my job. Just provide the basic manuscript text, as simple and straight-forward as possible. This makes my job much easier and speeds up production of your work. Removing the formatting from an author's formatted manuscript only increases the time it will take me to produce your work.
If the program you are using can produce italics, use that for emphasis, foreign words and phrases, names of naval vessels, etc. Do not to use underlining at all. Many people use bold incorrectly for emphasis—please use italics for emphasis. Do not use ALL CAPS.
Do not use small caps or any font that uses small capital letter versions in place of lower case letters. This would require massive amounts of work to fix.
Use Word's footnote feature to add footnotes. I prefer footnotes to endnotes. Word's endnote feature can be problematic when formatting the book.
Basically, no matter how you prepare the manuscript and provide it to me, try to keep the physical appearance as simple as possible.
There is no need to double space any manuscript.
Editing Your Book
The Merriam Press does not do major editing of any books. As noted above, every book should be edited by a professional, and I am not a professional editor. My skills are in the area of creating the physical product, the design, layout, typesetting, etc.
Hiring an editor will not be cheap. Without a good editor, however, your book may never see the light of day and even if it does get published, it will not be received well and that will hurt sales.
Promoting Your Book After Publication
First-time authors generally do not realize that they are responsible for promoting their book. A publisher, even a large commercial one like Random House, can only do so much for an author's book when it comes to promoting (and the Merriam Press is certainly no Random House).
After all, a publisher has dozens if not hundreds of titles they publish and even with the help of the authors, it can be difficult to generate sales for a title. But without the author's promotional efforts, a book is destined to be a poor seller.
All of the books that I have published over the years that have done well usually did so because of the promotional efforts of the author. And it doesn't take much to get some good promotion for your book.
Local newspapers may want to do an interview with a "new local author."
Local book stores may be interested in having a book signing (some may require the author to supply the books—they are only supplying some space in the hopes that it will bring in customers who will also buy other books they sell).
And if you have lived in more than one place, especially if you are not living in your hometown, the newspapers and bookstores in those places might be interested as well.
Obviously, family and friends are a logical source of sales. You might feel obligated to give away some copies to select people, but don't feel you need to give every distant cousin and their kin a copy of your book gratis (of course, you'll probably find most won't want to buy it and are expecting a free copy). You might consider giving free copies to anyone who helped you with the book, even if it was just to read a draft and offer suggestions.
For veterans, promoting your book to your fellow veterans is another logical step. Many belong to various veterans organizations that will be happy to run a brief notice or even a full review of the book.
Some authors, especially veterans, have done readings at libraries and local clubs of various kinds (not just military- or veteran-related). Even veterans homes might be good for some local publicity.
If you subscribe to or read any magazines, journals or other publications or belong to any organizations that produce a publication that have run notices or reviews of similar books, contact them to see if they would be willing to do the same with your book (don't just send a free copy, contact them first—with so many books being published, they might not be interested or be able to find the space to properly review your book). Generally, those for whom your book has some relevance would be more logical—it wouldn't make sense to send a book on German Army uniforms to a publication that covers American warships.
Be creative, come up with other ways to promote your book, even if only in your local area. Several of my authors have been successful at generating good publicity for their book locally, nationally and even internationally without spending a lot of time and money.
I do provide review copies to selected magazines and journals I am aware of that I feel would be a good fit for a particular title.
Okay, so you've got a story and some materials for a good book—but maybe you'd like to have someone else polish it up. Here are some people that have contacted me and offer such services, usually for a fee or a piece of the action. Unless otherwise stated, the inclusion of a person or company in this section is not an endorsement of their work.
Terrific Reference Tools
OWL, the Online Writing Lab, gives you a way to look up the whys and wherefores of grammar.
Need a fact checker? Refdesk.com has all the facts--or links to them--you'll ever need.
Visiting LibrarySpot is like walking in to the local library and walking into the reference room.
Let's say you've got 15 barrels of oil and need to know how many gallons that is. Digital Dutch Unit Converter can tell you it's 630. The site covers just about everything anyone could need to convert... you've just got to see for yourself.
One thing that Digital Dutch doesn't handle, though, is money. You'll need to go to XE for your currency conversions.
Brooke C. Stoddard, former Editor of Military Heritage Magazine, former writer/editor of Time-Life Books World War II Series, and editor of memoirs of Col. James W. Callahan, Jr. Will ghostwrite or edit military memoirs for a fee. 815 King Street, Suite 204, Alexandria, VA 22314; firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Houlihan is also an editor, in addition to his map creation skills (see below). Tom has edited several titles published by Merriam Press.
If you need maps for a book or article you are writing, then look no further than Tom Houlihan’s web site, Maps at War, here.
Everything you need to know about what Tom needs to do maps for your project are on that page. Tom is looking to turn this into a profitable part-time (maybe eventually full-time) business. He has done some maps for four other published books from the Aberjona Press. His pricing is based on an estimate of time, effort, and cost for the project. But if you want some quality maps for your project, then contact Tom.
Tom did a map (in color) for an article in the first issue of the “World War II Archives” that I produce as PDF files on a DVD disk. Superb quality, very professional, and highly recommended.
Tom has also done maps for several books published by the Merriam Press.
Don Drew originally started photo retouching while working as a photographer back in the 1970s and 80s when retouching/restoration could entail long hours over a magnifier with a tiny brush. He never considered making a separate business of it simply because very few people were willing to pay enough to make it worth his while. Now, with technology, full restoration service is possible at a much more affordable price. For more detaiils visit his web site here.
Foreign Language Translations
One customer wanted to know if one of the books I publish (in this particular case a reprint) was available in Dutch. None of the books that were first published by the Merriam Press have been translated into any foreign language (and if they are, they have been done illegally).
As far as I know none of the reprints published by the Merriam Press of older books are available in any foreign language. I am certainly willing to enter into discussions with any foreign publisher who wants to purchase the rights to publish any of the original Merriam Press books in another language.
Information and Resources for Authors and Publishers
Some of the following items are taken from an email newsletter, Dan Poynter's "Publishing Poynter's Newsletter." And some of the information will surprise you. A subscription is free, you can unsubscribe anytime, and he doesn't market his subscription list to anyone nor bombard you with additional unwanted emails. Go to Dan's web site here.
All of my already published authors should heed the advice given here as much as possible. No one can sell your book the way you can, because you know it better than anyone else.
Military Writers Society of America (MWSA)
They are an association of more than eight hundred authors, poets, and artists, drawn together by the common bond of military service. Most of their members are active duty military, retirees, or military veterans. A few are lifelong civilians who have chosen to honor the military through their writings or their art. Their only core principle is a love of the men and women who defend this nation, and a deeply personal understanding of their sacrifice and dedication. Go to their home page here. They have many useful features for member authors available on their web site, including a book store where you can list your book (or movie or CD), and they also will review books. They also have their own resources for writers.
Word of Mouth is Top Seller of Books
According to The Independent, "Publishers can spend a fortune promoting their hottest literary discoveries. Bookshops can deploy all their marketing ingenuity to produce imaginative displays. But when the book-buying public comes to choose a new read, it is word of mouth that counts." Next comes author loyalty.
If You Haven't Heard About PRWEB...
you should check it out on the net. You can write a publicity release and have it sent out without charge, or you can increase the distribution by making small donations. It is a great service and very effective. See:
With their growing popularity, Reading Groups (or Book Groups) are a great tool for building word of mouth—possibly the most powerful and influential marketing tool around. Reading groups range from casual get-togethers in a member's home to virtual reading groups via internet chat rooms. Whatever the venue, the readers are avid and hungry for new titles to read and discuss. Many publishers have established their own reading group source websites highlighting featured selections and offering excerpts, author interviews, and suggested discussion points. Check out www.bookmovement.com, a site devoted to fostering the growth of book clubs.
List Your Book on the Para Publishing Web Site...
along with your URL here. There is no charge.
Writing, Publishing and the Law
Marketing, Promoting and Distributing Your Books
Magazines, newsletters and other places to send review copies and news releases and more can be found here.
Recommended Book Writing and Publishing Suppliers
See Dan Poynter's Supplier List. Find editors, proofreaders, ghostwriters, book promoters and much more here.
What Not to Say to An Agent or Publisher
- Never say that your book is unique, that there is no other book like yours.
- Never say "I am writing a memoir."
- Never say "Everyone should read my book."