But sales were not the greatest hurdle - rather it was subject matter. The number of author proposals for Men-at-Arms titles seemed to be drying up, or were getting so incredibly precise that the narrow focus was sure to prevent the book from being made. Although all of your suggestions were still pouring in for the series we were struggling to find authors who were able to write books on the subjects suggested. Back in 2008 there were even whispers (albeit in hushed, respectful voices) that it was time to start thinking about how to wind up the Men-at-Arms series. It surely couldn't go on forever could it? Maybe it was time to let the series go out in a blaze of glory.
But, we decided we would give the series one last chance - a big push, a concerted effort to relaunch the series, so that it could once again take pride of place amongst our other series titles. We even toyed with the idea of updating the Men-At-Arms cover so that it matched the new Campaign and Elite covers.
In the end we decided rather than trying to rework a tried and tested formula, all the series needed was a little bit more TLC. That doesn't mean that we necessarily were neglecting the series - but we hadn't spent much time nurturing it. And that is what we did, and if this years bunch of Men-At-Arms titles (and those from 2009 for that matter) are anything to go by, I think we made the right decision.
Just have a look at the MAA titles coming out this year:
MAA 459 The Varangian Guard
MAA 458 Army of the Republic of Vietnam
MAA 461 French Foreign Legion
MAA 463 Chinese Warlord Armies
MAA 460 Frederick the Greats Allies
MAA 462 Imperial Armies of the 30 Years War
And last, but not least, the first book in a planned series of three: MAA 464 World War II Soviet Armed Forces (1)
A pretty decent selection of books if I do say so myself - and probably most exciting is the commissioning of a major series of books on the Soviet Army in World War II - left pretty much untouched by the Men-at-Arms series so far.
When you take the Men-at-Arms books released in 2009 into account as well (MAA 455 US Armed Forces in China, MAA 452 The Belgian Army in World War I, MAA 454 The Seminole Wars, MAA 453 Armies of the East India Company, MAA 457 Imperial Armies of the 30 Years War (part 1), MAA 447 The Czech Legion, MAA 456 Mounted Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard, MAA 451 Imperial Roman Naval Forces, and the very long awaited MAA 443 The Army of Herod the Great) the series seems to be going from strength to strength - and for the first time in ages MAA titles are creeping into our bestseller lists again, with the Czech Legion and the Belgian Army titles both performing very strongly over the last 18 months.
It really does look as if the series is going from strength to strength, and where a couple of years ago we were wondering whether the series could reach the mythical 500 mark, now the question on everyone's lips is whether 600 is a more realistic proposition - particularly as the interest in older Men-at-Arms titles has also grown with our regular reprints of some of the oldest (and rarest) Men-at-Arms titles.
It looks as if our TLC may be bringing new life into Men-at-Arms, but as ever we are still looking for new ideas and subject suggestions for the series - what subjects have we forgotten - where do we need a more comprehensive coverage of subjects, and which of our older titles are you absolutely desperate to see back in print? Let me know!
Oh - and check back here in a couple of days for an exclusive glimpse of what 2011 holds for Men-at-Arms!