In addition to his steady NPS gig as Historian at Appomattox Court House NHP, Patrick Schroeder is owner of Schroeder Publications, which puts out quality Civil War books on an ecclectic range of topics. Patrick took some time from his very busy schedule to answer a few questions in this first (for Bull Runnings) two part interview. In Part I, we focus on Schroeder Publications in general. Part II will focus more narrowly on the recent release of what is without a doubt the most anticipated regimental history of the past couple of decades, the late Brian C. Phohanka’s history of the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry (Duryee’s Zouaves), Vortex of Hell.
To order any Schroeder Publications title, go to their website and click on the “Schroeder Books” tab. You’ll find the covers of all the books, and can click on the covers for descriptions of the books.
BR: For any of our readers out there who may only know you from the spine of your books, who is Patrick Schroeder?
PS: I can claim being both a Southerner and a Northerner. I was born in Virginia when my father was in the army, but was raised in Utica, NY, until I was 13. My father transferred with GE to Waynesboro, Virginia. I attended Stuarts Draft High School in Augusta County and went to Shepherd College (now Shepherd University) specifically for their degree in Historical Park Administration, which they no longer offer. I obtained my Master’s Degree in Civil War history at Virginia Tech, where Dr. James I. “Bud” Robertson chaired my thesis. My family and I now live in Lynchburg, VA. When not involved in history pursuits or entertaining the kids, I’m typically at an ice rink reffing or playing hockey.
BR: How did you catch the Civil War bug?
PS: I actually grew up on the Revolutionary War in central New York, where the Oriskany Battlefield and Fort Stanwix were close by, and not too far distant was Saratoga and Fort Ticonderoga, as well as Baron Von Steuben’s and General Herkimer’s homes. My parents liked history and we travelled a good deal when I was young and we visited many historical sites during our family vacations. We attended many National Park programs, and I always would be in front and answer all of the Ranger’s questions to the group. My interest changed to Civil War when we moved to Waynesboro, Virginia, when I was thirteen and saw the re-enactment at New Market Battlefield.
BR: Why did you decide to get into publishing Civil War titles?
PS: While working as a seasonal at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park I did a college project focusing on Myths about Lee’s Surrender and eventually developed it into my first little book Thirty Myths About Lee’s Surrender (1993), which sold at the park and various places in Appomattox. People suggested that I see if other historical sites, shops, and bookstores, would want to carry it, and many places did. After writing More Myths About Lee’s Surrender and publishing a reprint of The Fighting Quakers with additional materials, others approached me with projects. The Historian at Appomattox asked me to reprint Five Points in the Record of North Carolina in the Great War 1861-65 and Brian Pohanka asked me to print a book called A Duryee Zouave, the recollections of Thomas Southwick which previously had only been printed for the family, but is an excellent account, perhaps my favorite. I added photos to the North Carolina book and put a more marketable cover on the book and titled it Tarheels and kept the former title as the subtitle. I had done a good deal of leg work getting the Myth books out and now had more than 100 places carrying our titles. When I finished my 500+ page book “We Came To Fight”: The History of the 5th New York Veteran Volunteer Infantry, Duryee’s Zouaves 1863-1865 (that started as my master’s thesis) and spoke to several publishers about taking it on. I found out that they really would not do anything more for my book, and probably less, than I was already doing. So, we published it and marketed it on our own.
BR: What makes your books stand out – what does Schroeder Publications have to offer to both writers and readers that is not already provided by other publishers?
PS: Honestly, I’m not sure. We’re not limited to a certain Civil War genre, our books cover a wide range of areas and topics in the Civil War realm—cemeteries, battles, letters, Zouaves, African-Americans, regimental histories, photo studies, biographies, and memorials. People really like our books on animals in the Civil War. Mike Zucherro’s book, Loyal Hearts: Histories of Civil War Canines is our best seller. Civil War Animal Heroes: Mascots, Pets and War Horses by Charles Worman is very popular as well.
I’ve seen Civil War books printed where the publisher has no idea about the subject and just printed the material as is. I read through the manuscripts and am able to make corrections, ask questions, or even add something to the work. We love using large and numerous photos in our books, something that is shied away from by larger main-stream publishers.
BR: Can you describe how you go about attracting manuscripts and authors, or how you decide to republish an out of print work?
PS: We do not solicit manuscripts as more than enough come in on their own, which we take as a nice compliment. We only publish one or two titles a year and have a backlog of titles to publish, so we have to be selective. We’d like to print them all, but time, a limited staff, finances and the marketability of some titles, just does not make it feasible. This year, we pushed hard and were able to release three new books. “My Country Needs Me” The Story of Corporal Johnston Hastings Skelly Jr.: 87th Pennsylvania Infantry, A Son of Gettysburg and Confidant of Jennie Wade by Enrica D’Alessandro; then Nicholas Redding’s A History and Guide to Civil War Shepherdstown: Victory and Defeat in West Virginia’s Oldest Town; and lastly Brian Pohanka’s long awaited Vortex of Hell: History of the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry, Duryee’s Zouaves 1861-1865. We receive a considerable number of submissions by mail and e-mail, but often it is someone that talks to us in person. Sometimes it is a friend with an idea. These days, a title needs to have a definite selling market. So whether it is a new title, a reprint, or the printing of an out of print book, the market and demand has to be there. This year we also reprinted (new to Schroeder Publications) Brian Bennett’s book The Beau Ideal of a Soldier and Gentleman: The Life of Col. Patrick Henry O’Rorke From Ireland to Gettysburg; another reprint , this time in soft cover, is Four Years in the First New York Light Artillery: The Papers of David F. Ritchie, edited by Norman L. Ritchie; and Thomas McGrath’s Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign September 19-20, 1862 was brought out in soft cover.
BR: Can you describe your production process, from manuscript acceptance, through editing, to publication, promotion, distribution and sales?
PS: After accepting a manuscript , I will read and edit the manuscript for historical accuracy, grammar and style. I often do this when the manuscript is first submitted. My wife, Maria, or I will work on the layout, and typically, Maria will design a cover. We use several printers depending on the size of the book. Both are excellent to work with. We submit books for review to various papers and magazines. Then we work on getting the books out to our sources. We don’t do too much advertising, but concentrate more on getting the books out to certain historical sites and venues. It usually takes six months to a year to get a book selling well. We are also attending re-enactments and shows to push the book during the 150th Anniversary.
BR: What’s in the Schroeder Publications pipeline?
PS: The next book we plan to release is Cooper Wingert’s Emergency Men: The 26th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia and the Gettysburg Campaign. Cooper is a young fellow, still in high school, but already has two good books to his credit. When he submitted it, I was very impressed with the research he had done and his writing style, and I’m a fan of good regimental histories. This seemed like a good title to accept as I was always intrigued by the 26th Pennsylvania Militia monument at Gettysburg on Chambersburg Street of the young boy not wearing a jacket but sporting boots and a rifle at port arms. I never knew the whole story about that unit, but now I do and others will soon too. We will have it out in March or April, well in time for the 150th events at Gettysburg. By taking on other peoples’ projects to publish, my works have been sitting for years. I do hope to get out a collection of letters by various 20th Maine soldiers before the Gettysburg Anniversary as well, and the transcribed letters and diary of Axel Leatz—a Swedish officer who served in the 5th New York Veteran Volunteer Infantry, Duryee’s Zouaves, 1863-1865. The letters and diary were all in Swedish, so I had to recruit some Swedish friends to help on this one—it is a very unique perspective. There are several other titles on our list, and I’d like to do a second book on the Pennsylvania Bucktails with Ronn Palm – he has so many great photos of those soldiers. Researching what happened to each one is fun; the writing of their stories is a bit harder.
Part II coming soon…