Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History (AoD) was published on September 30 and is available for purchase through Amazon.com. AoD is a scholarly book – in fact, it’s a work of cliodynamics. This means that there are lots of equations, 25 data tables, and 74 (!) figures. I invested a lot of effort to make the text as clear as possible, given this heavily quantitative content. My editor, Simon Reynolds, made it even more readable. Nevertheless, and unlike Ultrasociety, it’s not a popular book. This is why I am not simultaneously publishing it on Kindle. When it comes to displaying math and graphics, e-books still trail behind good old tech of printing on paper.
Many conclusions in AoD will be new to most social scientists, and the implications of these conclusions are not always welcome. This is the reason why AoD is so dense with supporting data and models – I need to build a case that will be convincing to other scientists.
Many years ago I realized that scientific rigor and popular appeal cannot be combined in one publication, and since I wanted to do both, I simply needed to write two very different kinds of books. My plan is to do the same with AoD – translate its main message into a shorter, punchier, and more vivid publication (a brochure or a thin book). And I will not do it alone, but team up with someone who is good at writing for the public. So stay tuned.
Now a few words about my additional experiences with independent publishing, incurred during the production of AoD. As readers of this blog know, I started my own imprint, Beresta Books, a year and a half ago. I began by republishing Quantitative Analysis of Movement, my very first book published in 1998, whose rights reverted to me when its original publisher dropped it. Then came Ultrasociety, with which I went through the complete publication route: from writing it to making both paper and e-book versions available for purchase.
AoD offered some additional challenges, the main of which was developing an index. I didn’t bother with an index for Ultrasociety, because it’s a popular, rather than an academic book. Even more important is that it’s available in both print and electronic version (in fact, if you buy the paperback, for an nominal additional amount you can have the e-book). A searchable text, in my opinion, is much better than an index.
With AoD, for reasons I explained above, I am not publishing an e-book version, so including a good index was a priority. I first hired an indexer, but unfortunately, she did not come through. When the deadline passed, she wrote to me saying that her computer crashed and all the work she did on the index disappeared. Perhaps. Another explanation is that AoD is a complex book, crossing many scientific disciplines, so constructing a good index for it is quite a challenge.
I then found another indexer. This one came through, although he needed extra two days to complete the job. Still, this is understandable, given the scale of the job, and the quality of the resulting index (which was very good).
This was a good learning experience. I went through a similar process with visual designers during the production of Ultrasociety (what I did then was hire three of them and pay them for initial concepts for the front cover, and then going with the one I liked best). I now have a team of reliable professionals, with whom I have worked before, for all aspects of book production. This is worth a lot.
In principle, anybody these days can start their own imprint. But in practice, I understand that many of my colleagues will not want to invest money, and especially time, into building their own publishing company. For this reason, in 2017 I am planning to make Beresta available to some select colleagues—in other words, make transition from publishing just my own books to a small publishing house that produces books in areas of my interest and expertise. I have already had inquiries from two colleagues about the possibility of doing so. The truth is, dealing with traditional publishers (and here I talk about university presses, which are typically not as greedy as commercial publishers) is a lot of hassle. Often you have to deal with—and satisfy—reviewers who don’t understand what your book is about. You have no, or little control over cover design, and sometimes even over the book title. And you have to wait a year, sometimes years, for the book to come out after you are done writing it. In contrast, the whole production of AoD took months. Additionally, the publication was delayed, first, by my travels in SE Asia, when my Mac died on me in Java, and then by the first indexer failing to deliver. Thus, it is quite realistic to have a book published in months, not years. In my case, this was an important consideration, since I wanted AoD to be published before the elections—the current political situation being a perfect illustration of our own Age of Discord.