Earlier this year my first book was published. I can honestly say that if I had to do it all over again, I would not change a thing. This has been one of the most challenging projects I have attempted to date, and I look forward to doing another book like this again in the near future.
The book is part of the Images of America series published by Arcadia Publishing out of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. I had originally contacted the publishing company via their Facebook page October 2010. I had read many of their other books in the series and I had emailed to ask if there was any interest of inquiry about doing a book about Markesan. I heard back from someone at the publishing firm within a week of posting that question on their Facebook page. This is what they had to say.
I am the Wisconsin acquisitions editor at Arcadia Publishing. You left a comment on our Facebook page about us publishing a pictorial history about Markesan. I have looked into it, and while the market is relatively small—we usually cannot publish books on towns smaller than 5,000 or 6,000—it does look to be an active community with a wealth of history and a local museum. It very well may be doable. We have had success with similar titles.
I took a couple of days to think about this project, because I knew it was nothing like I have ever attempted. I replied and told them that I would be very interested in doing the book. I explained that I was only 19 years-old at that time and that I was a history student at a university. They expressed optimism in working with me and that is not uncommon for young people to work on these books.
The next step, as with any book idea, was to write out a proposal form for the book. It was quite detailed too! It was a lengthy process, but necessary for the publisher to gauge the area and the basic history and information I could give them. It was in the proposal where I was able to give a brief history of our community and it was my first chance to give possible chapter titles.
After the proposal was sent in I was given the official green light on the project, but the paperwork was not done yet. There was the usual legal and contractual paperwork to fill out and finalize before I could do anything. It was around the same time ( November-December 2010) that I was in touch with the Markesan Historical Society asking if they would be interested in co-sponsoring this project. The idea of writing a book about Markesan was warmly welcomed by the society board members.
January 2011 was when I leisurely started working on the book. The contact person from the publisher gave me my first deadline, which was the cover. I was able to submit 2 photographs that I thought would be suitable for the cover and the publisher would put it together to show what the final cover might look like. I was also asked to write the information on the back cover, which consisted of a brief history of the town and the author information. The picture at the top of my posting is what the final book cover looks like. Here is what the cover could have looked liked.
I choose the first image because the landmark downtown area is so common and so well know in Markesan. I think I made the right choice! So I knew early on what cover my book would have, which was exciting.
I worked 2 weeks in January, as I was on winter break at the time, but once February rolled around it was time to head back to school and I was on hiatus from the project until the end of May that year. Once school ended in May I really dug in and began to work on the project. I had a deadline set for November 1, 2011 and I knew I had to complete the majority of it before I returned to school in the fall.
I wanted to break the project up into separate stages. The first stage was setting in stone how I wanted to the book to be organized. The second step was to find and scan the pictures I wanted for each chapter. The last step was going back through all my images and research the images to put the historical information that was pertinent to that image.
The scanning part was as simple as going through the historical society’s boxes of pictures and picture display boards and scanning the pictures to the publisher’s specifications. The hard part came when it was time to identify and write for the pictures. Some pictures had little to no information about them. I spent countless hours researching and cross-examining pictures to pull out the significance. Some useful tools while I did my research were obituaries; some dating back to the 1860’s, Markesan Herald newspapers dating back to the turn of the century, scrapbooks, yearbooks, articles and other countless & priceless documents housed at our wonderful historical society.
Once I had all the information gathered and written for each picture, it was time to submit all the information to the publisher. Before submitting the information all the pictures and captions were gone over for grammatical errors and historical accuracy. I had two other people help me with checking the material. When it was all gone over, I sent the information in September 2011. The editor checked the material and sent it back to me on two occasions. Some last-minute editing and last check for historical accuracy was all done by the end of 2011. By January 2012, everything was ready to go and my book was shipped to the printers.
February 20, 2012 was the big day! My first book was officially released and I became a published author. My blog may make it sound like a cake walk, but it was a challenge that pushed me to new limits and prepared me for my field of history. I recommend anyone who loves history to contact the publishing company and see if they would publish a book about your area too. I have been to 4 books signings and have given 3 presentations about my work in writing the book. The people at home appreciate the effort and the work I put into the project and it is safe to say that more books are in the works for me.