An Interview With Tom Broadfoot of Broadfoot Publishing

by Brett Schulte on March 24, 2009 · 4 comments

Tom Broadfoot, owner of Broadfoot Publishing, was kind enough to answer a few questions recently about his Civil War publishing company and the new South Carolina Regimental-Roster Set series of books.

BRS: Thank you for agreeing to an interview Tom.  I really appreciate it.  Broadfoot Publishing is well-known by Civil War buffs as a quality source for good books, including the Official Records, Supplement to the Official Records, Confederate Veteran, and others.  Would you mind giving TOCWOC readers a little bit of background on your company?

TB: We opened in 1969 dealing primarily in out-of-print and rare material, books and maps, relating to North Carolina, the South and the West.  Later we specialized in Civil War books.  In the 70s we evolved into publishing along with opening our store and offering genealogical research.

BRS: Although I’ve never been myself, I have heard nothing but good things about Broadfoot’s retail store in Wendell, North Carolina.  What kind of books do you offer there, and how will book buyers benefit by making the trip rather than ordering online?

TB: In Wendell we offer around 15,000 to 20,000 books at 1/2 price and less. The stock changes frequently and those that shop at the store, including many dealers, have been coming back for years.  Most first time customers say, “I wish I’d known about your store years ago.  It would have saved me many dollars.”  If you’re buying a quantity of books it beats online purchasing as you see exactly what you’re getting, you have one transaction for multiple titles and there is no shipping, carry your purchase with you or we’ll ship free (on purchases over $200).  Buy where the dealers buy at the prices they pay.

BRS: TOCWOC readers might be interested to know that Broadfoot Publishing also specializes in buying entire Civil War book collections.   Tom, could you briefly go over how and why Broadfoot does this?

TB:.  We’ve bought over 500 collections in the past 40 years, paying a percentage of retail with valuable books catalogued.  We’re primarily interested in collections of out-of-print and rare books, although we will purchase large collections of recent books, no listing needed as we come to you, pack and transport the books.  We also purchase inventories of Civil War bookshops and dealers.

BRS: Before I get too far off the main subject, we are here today to talk about Broadfoot Publishing’s new reference set, The South Carolina Regimental Roster-Set.  I guess the first question a lot of people are going to ask is, “Why South Carolina?”

TB: June Wells, an ardent Confederate lady of Charleston, talked me into it.  June could talk me, and probably anyone else, into anything.

BRS: The first four books to come out in the series are:

♦ Krick, Robert K. The 14th South Carolina Infantry Regiment, of the Gregg- McGowan Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia

♦ Sturkey, O. Lee. A History of the Hampton Legion Infantry

♦ Wadsworth, Mike. A History of the 13th South Carolina Infantry

♦ Wyckoff, Mac. A History of the 3rd South Carolina Infantry Regiment: Lee’s Reliables

Could you take a moment to describe how these units were chosen?  Did the authors just have their manuscripts finished first or was it a conscious decision to go with these specific units/authors?

Camp Pope Publishing

TB: Sturkey and Wyckoff had works ready to go; we had compiled rosters for the 13th and 14th and persuaded Krick and Wadsworth to write sketches of these units.

BRS: My first impression upon receiving the first four books in the series was that they bear a striking exterior resemblance to H.E. Howard’s Virginia Regimental Histories series.  Was this intentional?

TB:.  Yes H. E.’s work was monumental, well thought out, well received and enabled many new authors to be in print.  He encouraged us, helped us and told us to copy his series in any way we wished.  We did.  Cudos to

H. E.; one fine and generous fellow

BRS: Sticking with the Howard series of Virginia regimental histories theme for a bit, that series was unfortunately known for a bit of let’s say, “uneven quality”.   What criteria do you have in place for the books to make sure each remains up to Broadfoot’s usual high standards?

TB: In series of this size, Howard’s 100 plus volumes and the South Carolina Series 50 volumes, with books by different authors, the quantity and quality will vary, no way to even it all out.  However, we do have guidelines in place to ensure that the rosters include complete transcripts of the Service Record for each soldier and the appeal and use of the series is probably 75% roster.  We also have guidelines for the histories.

BRS: Your authors for the first set of four books look to be an impressive bunch.  Everyone knows for instance that Bob Krick, author of Lee’s Colonels, is an expert on the Army of Northern Virginia.  Mac Wyckoff, owner of the Civil War in South Carolina web site, is also an obvious choice to do regimental histories of South Carolina units.  Former naval officer and retired attorney O. Lee Sturkey has been studying the Hampton Legion for over 25 years, as his impressive set of endnotes so clearly shows, and the author had multiple ancestors in the unit.  Mike Wadsworth is the proprietor of First Corps Books (no web site) in Columbia, South Carolina, and knows quite a bit about rare books.  What are your thoughts on this inaugural set of authors in the series?

TB: They’re a good bunch and easy to work with.

BRS: The main information page for your new series of books mentions that you hope to eventually publish 50 volumes in the set.  A quick look at Mac Wyckoff’s South Carolina in the Civil War web page indicates there are approximately 50 or so infantry regiments, battalions, and the Hampton and Holcombe Legions.  Will this set only consist of infantry units?  If not, do you plan to have some books in the series cover more than one unit in order to make room for the cavalry and artillery units as well?

TB: This set will include all units, Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery.  Units not warranting a complete book, due to brevity of service or smaller size, will be included in books containing more than one unit.

BRS: I thought it was very interesting that Broadfoot Publishing is doing this series “on demand”, so to speak.  Your web site mentions that Broadfoot “hopes” to publish all 50 volumes:

* Hope – If we get enough orders, we will print this series, if not, we won’t. Your
call. It would be fitting to have a record of the South Carolina regiments and
soldiers in the Civil War to join North Carolina and Virginia which have recorded
the histories of their regiments and soldiers; The Virginia Regimental Series and
North Carolina Troops.

I am curious how many copies of each volume need to be sold prior to seeing future volumes.  I fully understand if you would prefer not to answer this one with exact numbers, but I was hoping for a rough estimate.

TB: No problem, I think “exactly”; exactly, in this case, being an average of 300 orders per book.  We’re about half way there so we need another 150 orders.

BRS: Being an on-again, off-again wargamer, I have seen some gaming companies come up with a system to gauge interest prior to spending the money required to actually print a game.  GMT Games and their “P500” system is one such example.  Considering the tough economic times, have you ever considered a similar strategy as a book publisher?

TB:.Often I’d like to reprint Proceedings of the Confederate Congress but have only 25 people who are interested and need 100 to print.

BRS: These four books, despite being in the same series, were really rather unique entities, each with their own “flavor”.  I was pleasantly surprised by this.  What type of guidelines do the authors in this series work under?  In other words, how much of the appearance of the book is up to the author, and how much is set in advance by Broadfoot?

TB: Bob Krick compiled a set of guidelines for the histories and we have guidelines for the rosters.  Sturkey, who has been in the trenches for 25 years, was way ahead of the game, as was Wyckoff’s, whose 3rd Infantry was an extensively updated revision of an earlier book.  Krick and Wadsworth wrote brief sketches which served as introductions and augmented the rosters which we compiled.

BRS: I was a little surprised that Bob Krick’s book on the 14th South Carolina Infantry was not annotated.  Do you expect most of the remaining titles in the series to contain notes, or is it up to each individual author?

TB: It’s up to each individual author.  Unfortunately we don’t have 25 years nor 50 authors with 25 free years to produce 50 Sturkey’s.

BRS: Speaking of that author, at the other end of the annotation spectrum is Lee Sturkey.  His end notes run from page 525 to page 860, over 300 pages!  I spent over a day just looking through Mr. Sturkey’s notes.  At a time when it seems like book publishers everywhere are trying to find every way possible to cut corners and save money, I was extremely pleasantly surprised to find that Broadfoot allowed the author the extra pages required for his extensive endnotes.

TB: I told our authors, “You write it, we’ll publish it.”

BRS: The next three unit histories in the series,

Baxley, Neil. 11th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry 418 pages – $40

Clary, James B. 15th South Carolina Infantry 602 pages – $45

Davis, Sam. 3rd South Carolina Battalion – 554 pages – $40,

are scheduled to be released soon.  What is the current status of these volumes?

They *should* be out in April.  “Should”; when we get them right with any and all information included we’ll print them.  In the case of the first 4 titles we received about 400 pages of new information late in the game and held up printing so it could be included.  Today’s books should last 300-400 years and long ago we decided not to get our britches in a bundle over when a book was released, but to concentrate on including as much information as possible.  However, the second 3 are about wrapped and April *should* be good.

BRS: Thanks for taking the time to shed some light on your exciting new series of South Carolina regimental histories and rosters Tom.  I appreciate it!

TB: Appreciation mutual.  Thanks.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Theodore P. Savas March 24, 2009 at 7:39 am

Tom Broadfoot is a good man. He was one of the few who helped us when Dave Woodbury and I began publishing in the early 1990s. (He gave us part of a table at teh Fairfax book show and we had a grand total of one issue of Civil War Regiments at the time.)

Tom and I spent time fishing and talking about publishing, books, people, and the business in general. When he traveled to California in 1996, he even babysat my kids so my wife and I could go out on a date. The story he wrote about it in a newsletter was hilarious. My daughter, then 5, still remembers it.

I owe Tom a lot, and so do many other people.

Brett, thanks for the interview.

tps

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lana woodbury December 14, 2017 at 8:58 pm

Tom I really enjoyed reading your interview. You are a very interesting person. I did not know this what you did. I am very impressed. I will have to show this to Bob , I knew there was more to you than just liking spiders. You and Jan and family have a wonderful holiday. Lana Broadfoot.

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