Personal Histories: Books/Print
A personal history in book form generally incorporates the content of in-person interviews conducted by a personal historian (PH) or a manuscript written by the client and brought to the personal historian for editing and book packaging. The written content is often complemented by items especially meaningful to the client: photographs, images, documents (birth certificates, ship manifests, marriage records), family trees and other elements. Typically, book manuscripts go through professional editing, book design, proofreading, and then final printing. Books can range in size and length and may be offered to family and friends only, or to the public market. Books can be hard covered, soft covered, or have a specialty covering or boxing.
Why choose a book?
You may prefer a book format for your personal history because books last and are easily accessible. Books are not dependent upon technology. You can simply pick up a book and turn to any page. While technology changes regularly in printing, books remain more or less the same physically, providing a permanent record. They can be passed from hand to hand and generation to generation. They can also be digitized for distribution through the internet.
Types of personal history books
You may want to tell the story of your own life or commission a personal historian to interview a loved one or memorialize a deceased friend or a pet. You might plan to commemorate an event—anniversary, family reunion—a place that has been special to you or an experience. Your book may be the story of a single individual or a family, a family business, or an organization. Personal historians often work with genealogists for clients wishing to delve deeply into the past.
If you’re in search of a personal historian, you have the right to understand how much you’ll be paying for your book, from the first interview, through full book design, to final printing. The rates personal historians develop and charge for their work can vary widely depending upon the scope of the project, the number of people to be interviewed, number of photos to be incorporated and the amount of research required. The personal historian will create a contract specifying the agreed-upon scope of the project and your cost.
PHNN does not suggest or provide pricing information, leaving this to each individual personal historian.
What to look for in a personal historian who writes book
Experience. Ask about the background of your PH and what kinds of writing he or she has done before. How long has the PH been in business? Is your PH an experienced interviewer? Ask to see samples of previous work, and look at the content of those samples.
References. Ask for references and look for testimonials on the PH’s website.
Comfort. Do you feel relaxed in the presence of the PH, and does conversation flow easily back and forth? Would you feel at ease sharing your life story with this person? Do you feel confident about this person’s ability to keep your information confidential until you are ready to reveal it in the book? Being comfortable around a person with whom you’ll share your life story is critical.