A Frustrated Yet Still Somewhat Hopeful Update on My Book on American Gun Culture

Among the reasons for my recent hiatus from online activity in connection with my research on guns is frustration at my literary agent’s inability to find a publisher for my book, Gun Curious: Inside America’s Evolving Culture of Firearms. This is not due at all to his effort and expertise. He is annually one of the most successful sellers of non-fiction works in the US.

Last summer (2022), he began sending my proposal to editors at trade publishers like Crown, Random House, Scribner, St. Martin’s, Bloomsbury, Sentinal, and others. In three rounds totaling 19 submissions, all but one passed or did not respond (effectively passing).

Of course, I have to accept the possibility that the book I am writing is just not interesting or that I’m not the right person to carry the project. But there was a pattern in the editors’ responses that I could not help but notice:

Thanks for this, Don. The author is really impressive and this is a timely and important issue. That said, I have too many concerns about the size of the audience for a book on this subject, as well done as this is.

I think this is a pretty difficult sell. While Yamane’s approach to guns, gun laws, and gun culture is in a unique kind of thoughtful middle ground, I think we’ll be hard pressed to get people on any side of the gun issue (pro, anti, curious, etc.) excited enough to lay down money for the book.

I think it’s going to be a pass. It’s a smart proposal and we enjoyed reading it, but looking at the sales track for the comps, we’re concerned that none of them have broken out—even with some of the authors having bigger public-facing platforms than David.

“No audience for this book” is certainly an easy answer for an editor to fall back on, though perhaps too easy an answer because I recall hearing somewhere that the vast majority of books published do not sell out their advances. The idea that other books on American gun culture have not sold well (“broken out”) is certainly a reality I am fighting against.

But more discouraging to me is the idea that occupying “a unique kind of thoughtful middle ground” in the gun debates is a dead end. As much as I believe in my project, I have to admit that a book on Guns and the Demise of American Democracy OR Guns and the Salvation of American Democracy would be easier to sell.

Indeed, in my frustration last fall, I mocked up two competing book covers and developed a plan to release the same book under both titles and use sales figures as data on where Americans stand on the issue.

And, yet, I am still somewhat hopeful about this book project because the issue of guns remains essential and no one is approaching it in the way I do in Gun Curious. Before my last meeting with my agent, I re-read the entire 60+ page proposal and found almost nothing I wanted to change.

The proposal is now in the email inboxes of another group of editors, and as Sandy always reminds me (citing often rejected authors like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and John Grisham), it only takes one. So, please send your positive energy to Manhattan for me.

For those interested in the longer story of this effort, read on.

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New Book on Gun Culture by Noah Schwartz, “On Target”

As my agent continues to try to find a publisher for my book on American gun culture, I feel bombarded by other people’s books on the topic.

Actually, most books published on guns in America today do not compete with mine because they approach guns from the perspective of what I have been calling The Standard Model of Explaining the Irrationality of Defensive Gun Ownership. This model is driven by criminological, epidemiological, and public health approaches, as well as social science animated by the “hermeneutics of suspicion.”

Enter Noah Schwartz, a Canadian political scientist who wrote his doctoral dissertation on why the National Rifle Association (NRA) is so influential in American gun debates. Spoiler alert: It is not because of their political lobbying and campaign donations.

Schwartz’s work now appears in print as On Target: Gun Culture, Storytelling, and the NRA. (Buy it at your local bookstore, or HERE to indirectly support local bookstores.)

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Light Over Heat #33: The Professor Reviews 4 Books on the NRA

In this week’s Light Over Heat video, I discuss four books on the National Rifle Association (NRA) in light of two persistent myths.

First, that the NRA was a benign, apolitical sportsmans organization prior to the Revolt at Cincinnati in 1977.

Second, that the NRA is “the most powerful lobby in America.” A PBS Frontline episode in 2020 managed to highlight both.

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Review of Misfire: Inside the Downfall of the NRA by Tim Mak

Before I had a chance to read it myself, I had been hearing good things from reform minded NRA members about Misfire: Inside the Downfall of the NRA by NPR investigative reporter Tim Mak.

I’ve now had a chance to read the book in full. Despite some small quibbles I have with Mak’s language, analysis, and storytelling, this is an interesting and important book for those wanting to understand how the NRA got to be in the position it is in right now.

If you don’t have any idea what I mean by “the position it is in right now,” then you DEFINITELY need to read this book.

I “live Tweeted” my reading, chapter-by-chapter, so you can see my synopses and thoughts unrolled below.

Reading “Misfire” at the Barber Shop. Selfie by David Yamane
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Gun Culture 2.0 Book (Provisional) Table of Contents

As mentioned the other day, I have finally gotten the pitch for my book on Gun Culture 2.0 into the hands of some literary agents. Now the waiting game begins.

In the mean time, below you will find the provisional table of contents for the book to whet your appetite.

Preface. On Being a Truth Advocate

Introduction. How a Liberal Professor Became an Armed American

1. Guns are Normal, Normal People Use Guns

2. Building an Arsenal

3. Living with AR-15s

4. Top Shot and the Human-Weapon Relationship

5. Swept Up in the Concealed Carry Revolution

6. Pascal’s Wager and Firearms

7. Serious Mistakes and Negative Outcomes

8. Training in Applied Violence

9. The Changing Face of Gun Owners in America

Conclusion. What the Professor Learned

Proposal for Gun Culture 2.0 Book Going Out This Week

I stepped out of the social media fray for a few days this past weekend to commemorate the moment when my wife Sandy and I committed our lives to each other at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC in 2013.

But I didn’t stop working on my book, provisionally titled Gun Culture 2.0: Inside America’s Evolving Culture of Firearms. On the long drive from Winston-Salem to Washington and back, and during quiet moments at our hotel, I worked on my author query letter, book proposal, and the first four chapters of the book.

This week I will be sending a query letter to 6-8 agents along with the proposal and sample chapters to try to get literary representation for the project. The literary agent will then try to sell the book to a publisher.

Finalizing a book chapter at a hotel in Washington, DC, November 2021. Photo by Sandra Stroud Yamane
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ANNOUNCING UPDATED EDITION of Concealed Carry Revolution: Liberalizing the Right to Bear Arms in America

I am very happy to announce that the Updated Edition of my small (92 page) book on the history and current status of concealed carry laws in the United States is now fully available online via Amazon.

This includes the paperback with free 2-day Prime shipping for $12.95 and the Kindle edition for $0.00 with a Kindle Unlimited subscription or $6.99 otherwise.

If you buy a copy of the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon (or Goodreads or Google books) because that helps others outside my social networks find the book.

If you bought a copy of the first edition, there’s nothing to prevent you from leaving a review of the Updated Edition.

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Concealed Carry Revolution Book Update

It’s been a couple of weeks since I announced the availability of my small book on the history and current status of concealed carry in the United States. I picked a terrible time to launch the book because I took off for a 4,000 mile drive from NC to California immediately after.

It has been gratifying to see some pictures of the book on social media, including one alongside books by Massad Ayoob and Patrick McNamara, two gun culture celebs well beyond me.

As a reminder, you can buy a print copy of the book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any other bookseller for $11.95. A Kindle edition of the book for $8.95 is, according to the publisher, forthcoming any time now.

I sold out of the original batch of 50 signed copies for Buy Me A Coffee annual supporters ($60), but have reordered more and will be signing/shipping those when I get home in mid-June. You can also get a “free” electronic copy of the book as a Buy Me A Coffee monthly supporter ($5).

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