Hailer’s best seller is a 40-year-old work on counterinsurgency written by a French army officer who served in China, Southeast Asia and Algeria. Since starting his company as a sideline in March, Hailer has sold about 2,400 copies of David Galula’s Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice to everyone from intel experts to generals-in-training.
‘I kind of stumbled on a subculture of retired CIA and Army guys who are pulling their hair out about us blowing it in Iraq like we did in Vietnam,’ said Hailer (pronounced Hi-ler). ‘When they found out I was publishing this book, they pushed it like crazy.’
Rick Newton, an instructor at the Joint Special Operations University at Hurlburt Field in Florida’s Panhandle ordered 100, then e-mailed his buddies at West Point and the Naval War College; they also wanted the book.
Newton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, said he had been looking for the Galula book for a couple of years before being put in touch with Hailer.
‘It’s the only book I’d found which takes strategic-level goals and links them to what soldiers on the ground have to do,’ Newton said of the book, written in 1964 while Galula was on a fellowship at Harvard. ‘You read it and scratch your head and say, ‘He got it right.”
Next thing Hailer knew, the head of the Command & General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, where the Army trains its top brass, ordered 1,500 copies, saying he wanted to put the book in the hands of every student.
Then came e-mail from some sources at the CIA, suggesting that Hailer try to track down a 1978 book on the formation of the Saudi kingdom.
‘They said they’d been looking for the book for years and that the only copy had walked out of their library,’ Hailer said.
Hailer began moonlighting as a publisher after reading an article late last year in Inside the Pentagon , an independent weekly journal published in Washington. The author took an informal poll of active and retired generals, defense and intel experts, asking them to name books that would help officers and troops understand the insurgency in Iraq.
“Perhaps the most enthusiastic endorsements from officers and experts … are reserved for out-of-print or hard-to-find books – mostly on counterinsurgency warfare – that seem to have gained new urgency and application in Iraq,” wrote ITP‘s senior correspondent Elaine Grossman.
Hailer said that statement triggered an enterprise he’d been mulling over for some time, after finding an out-of-print book he wanted on the British Royal Navy was selling on the Internet for more than $1,200. Hailer decided to make his first reprint effort the Galula book because a retired CIA officer told ITP‘s readers to “run — not walk — to the Pentagon library and get in line” for the book, which he considered “a primer for how to win in Iraq.”
Hailer, who had read the Galula book in graduate school, found a copy in the University of South Florida’s library. He then tracked down Greenwood Publishing Group in Westport, Conn., the company that had acquired the book’s original publisher, and got an enthusiastic response.
“I was lucky I found someone supportive on the first phone call,” Hailer said. “He said, “Knock yourself out. We don’t even have a copy.”‘
Hailer drew up a simple contract, agreeing to pay Greenwood royalties for reprint rights (Galula died in 1967). He found a Fort Lauderdale company that was able to make a high-quality scan of the book without destroying it, then he shipped the electronic file to a printer in Minnesota who can produce as few as 10 or as many as 2,000 copies in a run.
The hardest part, said Hailer, is tracking down the rights’ holder. In most cases, the copyright for out-of-print books resides with the publishing house, but widespread acquisitions in the industry have made it difficult to trace old contracts. In a couple of cases, the rights have reverted to the author, leading Hailer on more than one global goose-chase.
“I’ve been tracking one guy for a year-and-a-half now,” Hailer said. “His last known address was Florence, Italy, and his last known communication was in 1990. I think he’s long gone and for all I know he left no heirs.”