Images of America: Four Simple Steps to Edit a Pictorial History

Editing a picture book with 50 -70 word captions for each of 200+ pictures requires more effort than you would think, and grammar is not the hardest part to correct.

1.  Ask experts to read your manuscript.

McKay Point 2

I might have made the mistake of calling this a cement dam at one time.  But not after writing Images of America:  Woodlake.  Robert Edmiston corrected one entry explaining that cement is a part of concrete, but dams are made of concrete, an aggregate of cement and rocks.  No company in Woodlake makes cement.  In a million years I would not have corrected that mistake on my own.

This is the four room school built in 1912 or 1913, not 1923.
This is the four room school built in 1912 or 1913, and not in 1923.

2.  Ask experts to help you check pictures for historical accuracy.  This can be more difficult than you think.  Sources of pictures don’t always label their pictures.  Even libraries rely on the picture donors to date and label the pictures correctly.  Sometimes you can check facts using newspapers, but they are not always accurate either.  I used two or three references when possible to make sure I had names and dates correct.  Even then, my readers questioned me on several items.  Marcy Miller and I sleuthed through dates of the school buildings.  She had a picture of a building built in 1913, but several dates were attached to it.  I had thought it was the same building that is now the district office, but I had a date of 1923 on that building from an obscure reference in a book.  As we dug, we found that there were actually two different buildings.  We looked at the brickwork at the bottom of the building and compared it to another building picture we had from a newspaper.

Edmiston-29

3.  Ask experts to check names, double check them. If you are like me, you were not alive in 1860.  When a relative tells you that one family’s children were too young to attend school in 1860, you have to question the historian’s information, if possible.  In this case it was not possible because the historian passed away in 1971, and she did not have anything footnoted.  The mystery might have been solved because the woman from the family in question had children from a previous marriage that could have attended school in 1860.  Even though the children had a different last name than was listed in the book, the historian might not have realized that because the woman had remarried, and the children might have gone by the new husband’s name to make things more simple.  Some things never change!  But it is surprising how important it is even 150 years after the fact, to get the names correct.

 

Notice the search box at the top, and the name is highlighted.  The page number is also listed in the sidebar not pictured.
Notice the search box at the top, and the name is highlighted. The page number is also listed in the sidebar not pictured.

4.  Document your sources so that you can find where you got your information.  One fact in question came up about the name of one of the participant in the 1926 Pageant named in the picture. One elderly resident had seen the picture and told Marcy Miller that it was one person,  when in fact it was his brother.  The evidence was in the newspaper, and when I showed her the article, she said, “Well his memory isn’t always perfect.”  Expect people to question your facts, and do your best to keep track of them.  When publishing with  Arcadia books, the template doesn’t allow for footnotes or an extensive bibliography, but you almost need to include one in your own copy.  I spent a lot of time looking for the information source to prove my writing.  Sometimes I had it listed in the caption, but when I approached 70 words in the caption, I couldn’t include the information credit for publication.  As I neared the end of my research, I purchased a product, Wondershare PDF Editor Pro to make my PDFs searchable.  This helped me to find information faster.

Can you guess the year of this picture?  Clue:  Experts are alive today who can name most of those pictured.
Can you guess the year of this picture? Clue: Experts are alive today who can name most of those pictured.

In their author’s guidelines the publisher suggested that writers allow 2 weeks for editing using an expert reader.  They moved my deadline up a month, so I didn’t have that luxury, but they have been wonderful about accepting changes, and once I get the proof back, I will have another opportunity to proof read it once again.

I hope this has been a helpful process for you in your own writing.  🙂

Find me on Facebook under TC History Gal Productions.

 

Author: Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, author, blogger and retired teacher/consultant. Read more about me here. http://wp.me/P7tP3I-2

16 thoughts on “Images of America: Four Simple Steps to Edit a Pictorial History”

  1. Very impressive insight into what goes into writing a non-fiction history book. One thing I love about writing books is that the best ones often involve so many people throughout the process for writing- not just those who offer support or inspiration, but the myriads of experts and friends who help with the research. I love reading acknowledgements for a novel, and pouring through the bibliography in a non-fiction. Writing really is a very human and very social art. I’ve heard a lot of people say that it is the perfect craft for “introverts” and this always made me smile, considering just how many people are involved in writing a book. This gives me an even deeper understanding and appreciation into just how difficult, and certainly humbling, it can be, and also how vastly rewarding and exciting to be able to seek out valid information, to pursue it tenaciously, advancing human knowledge in the process. Such a wonderful learning process, indeed. Love it. Glad you’ve had a lot of help and have been so devoting to finding out the truth so that you may be able to provide others with a beautiful, very high-quality history book. That is a great gift indeed. Hugs and best wishes, and happy Christmas to you and V and all those you love. Cheerio,

    Smiling Toad

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Such insight from a Toad! I love your comments. They inspire me and reward my efforts. Writing is good for an introvert. I read yesterday that it is ironic because writers are alone – they have to be to write, but their goal is communication with others – on a large level. I think writers like it because think they can control it. I don’t think communication is controllable. I had a teacher get mad at me because I used a lesson plan of his once. I told him that once you put something out in public, you don’t really own it anymore. It becomes part of public knowledge, and it will morph, and the writer can’t control it – not really. So thanks again for your words of wisdom and encouragement. 🙂 Lots of love for Christmas and the holiday season. I hope you have a wonderful time. BTW, did Sire get a new job? A post from him blinked by, and I never could find it again. M

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    1. Let me know, Yvonne! I need more than a proof reader. I need an editor/advisor, and they cost .03 per word. I think that is excessive for a new writer that stands to make almost nothing on a first book unless it is a fantastic book.

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