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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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