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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Why Guns Are Neither USED nor USEFUL for Self-Defense – The Standard Model Part 2 of 5 (Light Over Heat #42)

Last week I discussed some work I am doing systematizing the dominant academic approach to understanding Gun Culture 2.0, what I call “The Standard Model of Explaining the Irrationality of Defensive Gun Ownership.”

The model has 6 points. In this 2nd of 5 planned videos, I discuss point 2: That guns are neither USED nor USEFUL for self-defense.

I also offer some critiques of this point in the model.

New “Light Over Heat” videos are released on YouTube every Wednesday, so please surf over to my YouTube channel and SUBSCRIBE to follow, RING THE BELL to receive notifications, and SHARE so others can learn about this work.

The Standard Model of Explaining the Irrationality of Defensive Gun Ownership (Light Over Heat #41)

In mid-November, I am presenting at a workshop about firearms and self-defense at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. I am using the occasion to write out something that has been in my mind for some time: Systematizing the dominant academic approach to understanding defensive gun ownership (Gun Culture 2.0).

In this and the next five Light Over Heat videos leading up to the Saint Anselm workshop, I will be sharing what I am calling “The Standard Model of Explaining the Irrationality of Defensive Gun Ownership.”

This week’s video summarizes the entire 6-point model.

New “Light Over Heat” videos are released on YouTube every Wednesday, so please surf over to my YouTube channel and SUBSCRIBE to follow, RING THE BELL to receive notifications, and SHARE so others can learn about this work.

Race, BLM, Gun Ownership, and Views of January 6 Protesters (Light Over Heat #39)

A colleague, Ryan Jerome Lecount of Hamline University, pointed me to a recently published study of how race, support for Black Lives Matter, and gun ownership shape people’s views of protesters at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The results are interesting and complex and complement a few previous videos on this channel (see below).

I’m interested to hear others’ thoughts on these findings, particularly whether the findings seem generalizable from this limited sample.

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Gun Curious Podcaster Update

I recently received an update from the gun curious podcaster I spoke with earlier this year. He has now taken a 4-hour basic handgun course (with live fire) and plans to take additional courses then apply for his New Jersey firearm license. His is an increasingly common story. As before, I encourage you to check out the podcast for insight into his perspective (more than mine).

ORIGINAL POST FROM APRIL 2022:

The animating idea of this blog is to speak (primarily) to those who are neither totally bought into the idea of guns nor totally opposed to it. That is, to the gun curious.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with just such a person. Mark McNease is a politically liberal gay man living in rural NJ. Mark found me because he is a member of the Liberal Gun Club (LGC), which syndicates this blog. He is a member of the LGC even though he is not a gun owner. Mark is part of roughly 1/3 of the population who don’t currently own guns but don’t rule them out. He is gun curious.

Mark recorded our conversation for his podcast, One Thing or Another (16 February 2022).

This is a very informative podcast not so much because of my answers but because of the host’s questions. A lot of people out there have the same questions about guns and gun culture as Mark, so I hope I answered them well.

Call for Papers on “Firearm Markets, Marketing, and Society”

I have published a few articles/book chapters on gun advertising. My first was an analysis of the rise of Gun Culture 2.0 as reflected in The American Rifleman. I replicated that study using Guns magazine. And most recently examined the portrayal of women (and men) in the Rifleman. If we expand from advertising per se to the marketing of Gun Culture 2.0, then I can add my study of the USCCA’s Concealed Carrry Expo to the list.

Because most analyses of gun advertising are impressionistic (and politically motivated), I get quite a few calls from the media about it. Although I welcome the opportunity to correct misunderstandings about the content and effect of gun ads (e.g., Bushmaster’s “Man Card” campaign), I welcome even more a recent “call for papers” I received from a marketing professor, Terrence Witkowski.

Witkowski is guest editing a special issue of the Journal of Macromarketing on “Firearm Markets, Marketing, and Society.” See the full call for papers. The submission deadline is 28 February 2023.

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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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