In my last post, I covered the first six points (visioning through writing) in a twelve-step plan for producing a corporate or personal history book. Here are the remaining six steps.
6. Text review and approval
It is most efficient (and cost-effective) for the text to be reviewed and approved as final before it enters the design process—that is, the phase in which the text and images are laid out in page spreads with a program like InDesign. Text changes during the design phase are much more time-consuming, and therefore expensive, to make than changes in a simple Word file. This step, therefore, is crucial to achieving an on-time and on-budget history book project.
7. Image selection, scanning, and matching
When I say “images,” I am talking about more than photographs. The richest history book projects I’ve been involved with have blended photographs with images of letters, envelopes, playbills, ship manifests, passport pages, news clippings, etc., etc., etc. And the photographs themselves can be a mixture of print photos, digital photos, and archival photos sourced externally. The image management process includes selecting the images, scanning those that need to be digitized, touching up or otherwise correcting the scanned images, and matching each image to the text to give the designer some guidance in the layout process. The image matching process also identifies any gaps in images; if Chapters 1 through 3 have a wealth of images and Chapters 4 and 5 have hardly any, you know you’ve got to do something to bring some balance to the book. The answer often lies in external archives or in additional image research internally.
Although this is the step I’m usually the least involved in, design is my favourite phase of any history book project. I’m always amazed at how a talented graphic designer can bring a bunch of Word pages and a collection of images to full-colour, multidimensional life. As with the writing phase, the design phase usually has a checkpoint towards the beginning so that the client can weigh in on and approve the look and feel of the book before the designer has spent too much time on layout.
9. Design review and approval
The final design review and approval step is another crucial milestone. This is when final changes are made to the text (limited to essentials only; see step 6), photos, and captions. Changes are time-consuming and expensive here, but they are at least still possible before the book is printed and mistakes are memorialized—or copies are pulped at enormous expense.
The proofreading stage is usually done at the same time as Step 9, design review and approval. A professional proofreading is an exacting examination of textual and visual elements of the laid-out book. Do all page numbers appear where they should? Are running headers and footers correct? Is everything included that should be? Are the table of contents and cross-references correct? Do captions refer to the right images? And so on. This is the last chance to identify and correct issues of any sort.
Not all corporate or personal history books are indexed, but I think they should be (or at least the corporate books should be). A back-of-book index of terms such as personal and corporate names, places, events, and major concepts in the story is a vital finding aid to details in the book that are otherwise hard to locate.
12. Production and distribution
The final step in the process is production and distribution. Production could include the printing of physical books as well as production of digital versions of the story that can be read online or on a device like an iPad. The sky is really the limit today when it comes to the non-physical forms that a corporate or personal story can take and the means of distributing it to intended readers. This is a key point to be addressed at the beginning of the project (see Step 1), as it completely drives the rest of the project. (Maybe the history project doesn’t just end in a book, but also a video, or a website, or an app, or an . . . )
As you can see, producing a corporate or personal history book involves many streams of activity and potentially a lot of people. Simply put, it’s a project that needs to be managed to be successful, and project management is the over-arching element that must be factored in to the time frame and budget for a corporate or personal history book. Project management includes schedule management, communication and project updates, project meetings, contractor management, budget oversight, file organization, and production and print management, to name just a few key tasks.
This all might sound like a lot to take on, but the time and financial investment in a history book can yield rich returns. A personal history book is a keepsake legacy that future generations will value forever, and a corporate history book can advance client relationships, engage employees, instill company culture, celebrate a legacy, and preserve organizational memory more cost-effectively than many other marketing or culture-building methods.