As the war in Iraq continues, more people are buying books on the military—both narrative histories about past wars and illustrated books on military uniforms, vehicles and weaponry. This is good news for military book distributor Casemate Publishers and Distributors LLC in Havertown, Pa., just outside Philadelphia. Founded by former Combined Books sales director David Farnsworth, who purchased the distribution arm of Combined Books in spring 2001 around the same time the publishing division was sold to the Perseus Books Group, Casemate has 31 client lines, along with its own active publishing program. "Our aim is to have the widest possible spread within the niche," Farnsworth told PW . "Anything weird and quirky, I'm interested in if it adds to the breadth. Some clients are very specialized and only do books in French; some only do one book a year; and some do 250."
On the publishing side, Casemate is less eclectic. "I'm particularly interested in doing World War II memoirs, and I'm doing my first Vietnam memoir this fall, Prodigals: A Vietnam Story [Nov.] by Richard Taylor," said Farnsworth, noting that the latter is a Military Book Club Selection. Another club pick, Richard Killblane and Jack McNeice's The Filthy Thirteen: From the Dustbowl to Hitler's Eagle's Nest, which Farnsworth characterizes as "a true story of the Dirty Dozen," sold 6,000 copies within weeks and is a bestseller at the author's local bookstore, Brace Books and More in Ponca City, Okla.
For Farnsworth, distribution is distribution, no matter the niche. "We have all the problems any distributor faces," he says, "especially dealing with the chains." Both military and general book distributors have low margins and limited channels: chains and independent booksellers, museums, libraries and online retailers. The one additional market for illustrated military titles is the hobby trade. Farnsworth himself handles the chain-store selling, driving nine and a half hours to Ann Arbor to visit Borders. He also handles foreign rights and arranges for co-editions, both of which are made easier by the fact that he started out in the military book business in the U.K.