Q&A with Tom

We thought about putting in the standard “boilerplate” text about our mission statement, our commitment to excellence, how and when we got started, but we decided that you’ve probably heard that all before—and far too many times. Instead, we decided to interview the owner of Armor Plate Press, Tom Laemlein, writer and publisher, and let him tell you about the company himself.

Q: Maybe it is not so important to ask how you got started, but rather, why did you start Armor Plate Press?

LEM: This whole thing got started a few years ago when I finally realized that I could do this. I’ve loved military history since I was a boy, and after almost 20 years of writing professionally for the advertising industry, it finally came to me that I should put my professional skills and my passion together. Why it took me so long to figure this out, I have no idea. But I am very glad to be doing this now.

Q: And that was it?

LEM: Another big factor was my love of military photographs. I’ve collected photos and photo books for a long time. I’ve always wanted more—even from the greatest photo books in my collection. One of my close friends mentioned that instead of complaining about seeing the same WWII photos published again and again, that I should do something about it. The challenge was there to create photo studies that really covered a topic in depth. That’s what ultimately motivated me to do this work.

Q: What were your first books?

LEM: I started out with two photo books about U.S. small arms in World War II: the M1 Garand Rifle and the M1 Carbine. These were published by Historical Archive Press. I wanted to have more control over my work and publish books on more esoteric topics—things like captured and wrecked Axis aircraft—and so I started Armor Plate Press. The first books from Armor Plate Press were, I think, Grounded Eagles and Setting Suns.

Q: Do you have a particular criteria or checklist when you develop a book?

LEM: There are two sides to that issue, and they both have to work together to create a successful book. First, while my books are not “mainstream” and are most appealing to serious students or collectors, I cannot be selfish or self-absorbed when choosing a subject to cover. Other people have to be interested to make the title viable. Of course, I have to be interested in the topic before I’m willing to spend the time on it—but that is not much of a problem as I find most military history topics fascinating.One of the things I am most proud of with the books that Armor Plate Press produces is that we will cover topics that most publishers don’t know anything about, ignore or consider to be unwanted by the marketplace. I spend a lot of time talking with militaria and weapons collectors, modelers, researchers, historians, gamers and book buyers—anyone with a strong interest in military history (particularly of the 20th Century). That’s where I get a lot of great input. If I can find the photos to properly illustrate the topic, then we’ll do it.

Q: What do you think distinguishes your books?

LEM: The feedback I get from customers gives me the clues on what they find interesting, worthwhile and satisfying. The greatest feedback is about the photos—the amount, the uniqueness, and the clarity. These are the key factors for us at Armor Plate Press, because they are the key ingredients sought by our customers. Everything we do is based in delivering the highest quality visual information we can find, and coupling that with well-written, accurate captions. Our layouts are simple and clean, and we don’t over-design the books. Many of my customers are extremely knowledgeable. They know much more than I ever will about specific weapons, vehicles and aircraft. They will contact me, from anywhere in the world, to let me know if I have made a mistake in a caption or if I did not identify some obscure piece of equipment. This does not offend me at all because I have yet to receive a mean-spirited comment, and my clients have a wonderful way of offering new information to me. I receive so many thanks and praises for the books that it continues to motivate me to do more.

Q: What is the hardest part of creating a book?

LEM: For me, the worst thing is to have almost enough photos to cover the topic. How do I know when I have enough? That is another hard decision to make and I guess I would have to say it is a judgment call on my part. There are times when doing photo research that I can feel the well running dry, and that I will need to finish the book soon, or not for some time or maybe not at all. That is very frustrating. Most people have no idea how hard it is to find, get access to, or purchase photos. The right images always take more time, effort and money than you ever expect at the beginning of a project.

Q: Where do you sell your books?

LEM: Through the miracle of the internet, I have been in touch with people from all around the world. We’ve sold books to many, many countries—all over in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and the Pacific Rim, across the United States and Canada. I’ve even sold a few books in Africa, but strangely I’ve never had an order from South America! But now, as soon as I’ve said it, I bet there will be an order from down there. I’ve been able to meet so many cool people all over the world via the Armor Plate Press website and the books we sell. Hopefully I will be able to travel and meet them in person one day.

Q: Do you sell your books through book dealers and bookstores?

LEM: The first place to find Armor Plate Press books is at www.armorplatepress.com. We don’t work with large bookstore chains, and as we are a specialty book publisher it is unlikely that we ever will. To help our customers get access to our books we also work with military book dealers and hobby shops. We have book dealers in the United States, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Portugal and Germany. We are soon to have a new dealer in Australia. More sign on all the time and this helps us get books in front of even more enthusiasts.

Q: Any other comments that you would like to make?

LEM: I greatly encourage communication from our customers and our dealers. Let us know what you are looking for and we’ll do our best to get it to you. Armor Plate Press is a small company that pays attention to the details and we exist to serve the enthusiast market. We exist to make great books. And we exist to have fun.