Commentary

It’s Been a Pretty Good Year

By Nancy Spannaus

Feb. 16, 2020—My book, Hamilton Versus Wall Street: The Core Principles of the American System, was published on Feb. 15, 2019. As I look back, it’s been a pretty good year.

As those of you who read this blog know, I intended this book to be a unique intervention into the current spate of popularity of Alexander Hamilton – a spate that appears likely to continue, given the plans for the play to be turned into a Disney film and to return to the stage in Washington, D.C. I was determined to educate and engage sections of the American public, and as many political and academic circles as possible, on Hamilton’s concept of the American System of political economy, and how it was responsible for turning our nation into the industrial envy of the world.

Speaking at Rust Library to a good crowd on Feb. 15.

Given that I had self-published the book, and therefore had no distribution network, my task appeared daunting indeed. As many self-published authors will tell you, writing a book is a snap compared to marketing it. Once the book appears, the author’s work has just begun.

With that in mind, I consider this first year a success. The gross total of books I know that I sold (final figures won’t be available for months) is 490. A friend who spent decades in the publishing industry told me that that’s a pretty good result for a self-published book. But equally important is the fact that my activity, and the activity I and others have generated over the course of the year, has set the basis for considerable expansion of circulation over the years ahead.

I’ll review that activity here, and then give you an idea of how you can help.

Reviews

I was privileged to begin my promotional activity with a positive blurb on the book’s back cover by Professor Emeritus Richard Sylla, the noted author of Hamilton, The Illustrated Biography. In many respects, that was the most important review.

Probably the next most important was the review by Kirkus, the prestigious book review company whose judgment is very important to libraries, publishers, and bookstores. That review’s concluding statement — “A thoughtful, well-written argument for Alexander Hamilton’s financial system as a guard against tyranny” – provided a huge boost in the potential for circulation in institutions where books are circulated and sold.

On the shelf at the Bryn Mawr College bookstore

The third significant category consisted of reviews published abroad, specifically in Italy, thanks to my son Andrew Spannaus. Hamilton Versus Wall Street was reviewed favorably in both AspeniaOnline, the digital journal of the Aspen Institute Italia, and the Italian daily Avvenire, a publication of the Italian Bishops Conference.

Then there was the review published just last month by the online Journal of the American Revolution, which included a strong recommendation to read my precis of Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures, and gave the book significant publicity.

On top of those, of course, were the reviews – both written and delivered directly to me – by people who read the book. While some of these were personal friends, many others were not. You can see some of those reviews on Amazon, but there were many others who told me the book was “enjoyable,” “readable,” and “convincing,” and that they learned a tremendous amount. That meant a lot, especially in today’s world where simply the idea of reading about economics provokes many people to run the other way.

Events

Over the course of the year, I had 15 public appearances as an author. Seven of these were book signings, usually at a bookstore. Seven more featured presentations about the book and occurred at libraries (five) or a university or senior center. I am indebted to my husband for helping me organize the speeches, through his broad network of contacts in history societies and libraries in this region.

At Day Two of BookExpo 2019.

Then there was the major event, the four-day Book Expo/Book Con in New York City, which I was able to attend thanks to the generous contributions of friends and supporters through Go-Fund-Me. That event, which occurred in late May/early June, served primarily to provide some publicity – including the filming of a short video, a book signing, and an opportunity to circulate promotional material at the huge Javits Center affair.

My participation in various events of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society, of which I am a member, has also led to useful contacts and publicity among Hamilton scholars, a group of people I’m particularly interested in reaching.

I have three future appearances planned so far, one of them a very important May 13 luncheon presentation at the Treasury Historical Association at the U.S. Treasury Building in Washington, D.C.  Plans are for that to be filmed as well.

Libraries

At present, I’m aware of four library systems which are carrying my book: Columbia University School of Business; Frederick County; Gettysburg College; and Loudoun County.

Where the Future Lies

I am firmly convinced that it is the people who read who will determine our nation’s future for the good. Thus, I consider the broadest possible circulation of Hamilton Versus Wall Street (and the body of primary sources on which it is based) to be crucial to our common welfare.

Having learned a good deal about “how things work” in book circulation and publicity over the past year, I am committed to intensifying my efforts to get speaking engagements, library and bookstore placements, and other publicity. But I could clearly use some help.

I believe I mentioned in one of my posts, that one reader wrote to me to say she had purchased four books and was planning to distribute them where they would do the most good. And she intended to do more.  What if more readers would do that?  We could get books placed in school and university libraries all over the country, in popular bookstores, in historical institutions.

Speaking at the Byrd Center next to the big screen.

Then there are other possible events.  The ones I have had so far have been in my local area—Northern Virginia, the West Virginia Panhandle, and central Maryland.  But I’m willing to travel further for a good event, or series of events.  And very populous areas, such as the near-in suburbs of Washington, D.C., remain untouched. So do universities and colleges, of which there are dozens in this area alone. While I have donated tens of books over the course of the year, I do not have the resources to donate on a broad scale.  For that I have to rely on friends and supporters of the work I am trying to do.

The review and mass media arenas also are wide open. Reviews can also be published in newspapers, with relevant information as to how to order.  And while there are 11 good reviews on Amazon, that’s far from what is possible.

Overall, I am encouraged, and I hope you are too.  Enough so to help me keep spreading the word (and the book) so that Hamilton’s ideas can begin to make a difference in a world that so desperately needs them. And don’t hesitate to get in touch with your ideas and developments.

 

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