Way back in June 1986 Osprey Published the first in a planned series of books on Modern African wars in the Men-at-Arms series. The first book in the series, Men-at-Arms 183 Modern African Wars (1) Rhodesia 1965-80 was followed two years later by the publication of Men-at-Arms 202 Modern African Wars (2) Angola and Mozambique 1961-74 and then by Men-at-Arms 242 Modern African Wars (3) South-West Africa in 1991. And then, sadly, the series ground to a halt. But you, our fans, have helped relaunch the series.
As someone who personally has a particular interest in Modern African history, it didn't take me long to discover these books when I first began working at Osprey. And to subsequently discover that the books (with the exception of the title on Rhodesia) had been out of print and unavailable for the best part of a decade. And yet, the appetite for books on Modern African subject matter from our fans seemed undimmed.
In our book suggestions, titles on modern African conflicts cropped up time and time again, and the three original Modern African Wars books shot quite quickly to the top of the list of titles that customers had requested a notification on when they come back into stock. But the problem was, that when the books first came out they just didn't sell all that well - they didn't do badly, but didn't shift quite enough copies to justify a reprint.
But the enthusiasm continued from our fans continued. At shows we attended customers would rummage through our spinners before desperately coming to ask us if we had a spare copy of one of the three books knocking around the office that we would be willing to sell. The requests for stock notifications piled up and customers continued to chase us at shows, but the wider demand for the books from bookstores remained low.
Then we made the breakthrough we needed with print-on-demand and short run printings and I was able to surreptitiously sneak the three Modern African Wars into the one of the first batches of print-on-demand titles. And the response was immediate. The three titles didn't quite top the bestselling POD title charts, but they were not far off - and they have continued to sell strongly week in, week out.
Which raised the question - if the appetite for the series was there from the customers and fans, if not necessarily from the bookshops - should we continue the series? You will already know the results of that conversation as Men-at-Arms 492 Modern African Wars (4) The Congo 1960-2002 is out now. It would have never happened without your continued support for the earlier books in the series.
Turning to the future - will there be a Modern African Wars (5)? Well I for one hope so - though much will depend on how well this latest iteration performs. Here is hoping that we don't have to wait another 25 years before we can get the next book in this great mini-series out!