I recently received an email from Brian Powell, who is attempting to market a book he’s written on various post-World War II food issues. There’s no doubt his work, entitled Not Cheaper By The Dozen, has some eye appeal with the photos he uses and it seems to be thoroughly well researched. In fact, the only aspect which might make this work even better is to include pricing information for each and every card featured. We all want to know how much our cards are worth, especially when they are thinly traded. Either way, it’s a fun subject and nothing like it has ever been done.
The editor of this website, Rich Mueller, has provided some testimonial assistance and advice and Brian has also gotten some help from Sports Collectors Digest Editor Tom Bartsch but that company's parent, F&W Publications, which publishes the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, apparently has no plans to publish it.
Instead, Not Cheaper By The Dozen is currently on the docket for McFarland Books, which among other titles, publishes scholarly detailed baseball works. Those books appeal to a small percentage of fans--even SABR (Society of American Baseball Research) members who thrive on intricate details about a small piece of baseball history. Some are actually quite good while others really delve into the minutiae of baseball.
Here is an example about Ed McKean, who was a star 19th century player but frankly even very few historians care about. His card, unless he makes the Hall of Fame, is not one which will draw interest. And do you really think many readers will care? Even if 1,000 people care about a book on old baseball cards like Red Heart Dog Food, Dan Dee
Potato Chips, Hires Root Beer, Post Cereal and Kelloggs, that is probably 950 more than people who care about Mr. McKean.
So far, though, nothing has happened and what Brian’s struggles really point out is how difficult it is to create a book in today’s publishing market. Maybe 20 years ago when Krause/F&W had approximately five times the subscribers to SCD that they have today, a tome like that could have been done but today, they have no profitable way to create and sell that book. And frankly, since the topic is so specific, there is little chance Beckett would publish that tome. Heck, if we could not get enough orders to do a Canadian baseball card book back in the 1993-94 era, what makes one think a book such as this would be published today?
Brian did also say he went through Amazon to see if he could self-publish but that option did not seem to make financial sense to him either.
You know, the more I thought about his work, I think the best way is for him to have this site (Sports Collectors Daily) publish his book in chapters where Brian keeps the copyrights but we all get to see his work. Imagine, detailed articles on a whole grouping of food issues, which you know are well edited, with good photography to boot. Brian’s work actually makes for a perfect series of web articles.
To me, his other option would be to do what Dave Hornish has done with his history of Topps. That is, to publish the book online yourself. Dave’s book is terrific and well worthy of a full day’s reading.
I know it’s hard to be in McFarland’s queue when you are sitting behind books such as that on Mr. McKean or the 1957 San Francisco Seals but this book is something new for McFarland and if you are willing to be patient and wait, your quest might open up this publishing house to more baseball card-related books. Once the first one is done, then others may follow.
It’s not easy to be in the book business these days but there are options out there. We need thoroughly researched books on baseball card topics that haven’t been done before and Brian’s book certainly fits that bill. I hope whatever road he chooses, the hobby gets a chance to learn more about those great cards from the past that we often see only in eBay listings or auction house catalogs.