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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

"Steubenville" A Book Written by Librarians

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 3, 2005

Librarians usually buy books for the library, we don't write them. Sandy Day and I have co-authored a book called, "Steubenville." It was a great experience to work with the other side of publishing, the creation of a book.

Arcadia Publishing Company has been producing their "Images of America" series since 1993.  They use an established format for all of the books in the series. Every book is 128 pages in length, can contain about 200 photos, and no more than 9 chapters. Their goal is to provide a local history photo history, and to be profitable in the venture.

Sandy is the Local History Librarian for our library system, and we worked together in editing the 1997 "Steubenville Bicentennial" book. When approached by Arcadia, we both felt that there was a need for a photo history, and it would be successful in sales. Wow, we didn't guess how successful!  It seems like every retail outlet selling the book has sold out and had to reorder. We are sorry that finding a copy has been difficult; but glad that we produced the book.

It was the first time that Sandy and I had worked with a for-profit publisher.  Our Editor was Melissa, who is based in Chicago, and she was truthful in her evaluation of our work.  She was correct in her evaluation and we adopted nearly all of her corrections.

Selecting the photos was difficult, we wanted to do a 1,000 page books with all of the photos, but were forced to select only 202 photos for the 128-page book. What was logical?  What order made sense?  Which photos would people enjoy? Which ones would tell the history of the city?  What caption would best describe the photo? The format limited the book to 128 pages, no more.  What would we use, and what could we not use? The most difficult part of the work was arranging the photos and captions on the pages, and producing the layout for the book.Each photo had to have instructions to size it to the space, and show what we intended. The caption had to match the photo, and researched to be sure the information was correct.

After being sent to Chicago, the publisher returned a "galley proof" of the prospective book to be "marked up" in preparation for the final copy. The Editor sent corrections of text, and offered suggestions for photo placement.  She found a way to increase the number of photos to 202 by allowing chapter title pages to contain photos.

Then things were silent.  For weeks, we heard nothing.  Did they toss the whole thing out the door and give up on us? In early May, Sandy and I received a lone copy in the mail, and the magical moment when the authors see the finished product for the first time! Our joy is the fact that you are enjoying the book as much as we enjoyed writing it.  It has provoked an excitement was people read and recount the history of the City.

Local retailers benefit from the book sales, the library will benefit from any royalties that the book will produce.The publisher will be watching sales, and could be interested in doing another book in the series, maybe another Steubenville book or a different book about the county.