Among this year’s bevy of World War I books, a few have a more direct connection to the military than most: they’re products of the Association of the United States Army’s book program, which acts as a matchmaker between authors and publishers of military history.
The nonprofit AUSA, founded in 1950, offers professional and personal support to service members and their families, and educates the public about the Army. It launched its book program in the early 1990s and to date has been involved in some 185 titles, says Joseph Craig, who directs the book program. His team solicits and fields proposals on military topics and connects authors with its publishing partners, which include Casemate, Naval Institute Press, and University Press of Kentucky. Craig, who previously worked as the editorial director of the history and reference division at Skyhorse, says the book program currently has a hand in about 10 titles per year.
In addition to acting “like an agent or licenser,” Craig says, the book program also plays a role in the home stretch of the publishing process, assisting with marketing efforts. On this front, the AUSA has considerable force. Army magazine, an AUSA publication sent to all members, frequently runs reviews of the program’s books. AUSA’s Institute of Land Warfare, which hosts public lectures on issues relating to defense about half a dozen times a year, regularly features book program authors as speakers.
At the annual AUSA meeting in Washington, D.C., the book program sponsors a pavilion and highlights its authors in panel discussions. The meeting drew more than 27,000 attendees last year and is expected to draw 30,000 this year, from a membership that has been growing dramatically. In early 2017, AUSA had just over 60,000 members. Its recently installed president and CEO, Gen. Carter F. Ham, has made it a priority to increase membership, and by May of this year the number had passed 125,000.
That’s a lot of potential readers for a list that includes the World War I title Thunder in the Argonne (Univ. Press of Kentucky, out now) by Douglas V. Mastriano, a military historian and retired U.S. Army colonel; Lessons in Leadership (Univ. Press of Kentucky, out now), a memoir written by John R. Deane Jr., a retired U.S. Army general who died in 2013, and edited by Jack C. Mason; and U.S. Army Special Warfare and the Secret War in Laos, 1959–74 (Casemate, Nov.) by retired Army Special Forces commander Joseph D. Celeski.
The book program works frequently with experienced authors, but it also develops writers who might otherwise have a less direct path to publication. “We have a lot of authors that come from a military background,” Craig says. “These people have great stories to tell, but are not as familiar with the publishing world. That’s where the book program can really help out.”