If you've ever been told, "You ought to write a book," we can make it happen. Better yet, it can be one of the most pain-free and liberating tasks you have undertaken because we do the hard parts for you.
The first step is meeting us in the comfort of your own home. If you supply the hot water, we'll bring the tea bags. We’ll peruse other client book projects, discuss your vision, budget constraints, schedules and deadlines.
When you’re ready to start your book-writing adventure, we’ll review the paperwork, which includes a contract and a pre-interview survey; then pencil-out an action plan.
Our next meeting is the advent of the book project. Armed with your completed pre-interview survey, we turn on the recorder and ask you questions. As the questions progress, the foundation of your story begins to unfold.
Your biggest challenge is gathering and selecting photos, documents and other memorabilia that you would like to include.
If you would like to save costs, you or other family members can help with scanning images, submitting letters and other writings, generating artwork or any other creative endeavor that adds to the uniqueness of your project.
After the recorder is turned off, the real work begins transforming spoken words to into type. Then the transcript is rewritten into a narrative and given back to you for corrections and additions. It is also a time to reflect on our direction and re-strategize, if necessary.
The approved transcript is added with your selection of images, organized, and compiled into a book layout format.
Editing is a continual process throughout the project, but the edit becomes the most critical at the last stage when all the components need to be checked and verified. For that process, we employ a qualified editor who looks at it with fresh eyes.
The next step is the creation of a galley copy that is a sample of how the final product will look. This provides one last opportunity to do edits, change papers, binding, foil stamping or any of the components that comprise a completed book project.
When the galley copy and its edits are approved, the final production is made and the books are delivered to your doorstep.
When we meet for the first time, you will be able to see different types, shapes and styles of book projects. Each one is different, so you can pick and choose elements that are the most pleasing to you.
You also can decide the look of your end product. All products are executed at the highest level of quality, but some may include more bells and whistles. The old marketing adage applies, “If you are looking for a Chevy, we won’t try to sell you a Cadillac.” High-end, color is more expensive and yields a lot more pizzazz, but if black and white fits your budget, that’s what we’ll deliver.
Some other considerations include the scope of the project, number of people to be interviewed, image content, quantities and binding options.
Parameters often change in the midst of a project, but reviewing the options and establishing your vision gives us a solid foundation to lauch a project.
After you feel comfortable with the quality of our work and establish a vision of your own project, it’s time to pull out the paperwork. A contract provides a legal agreement between you and Special Editions Customized Biographies that identifies the projects steps, how expenses are handled and the detailed variable hourly rates for interviewing, graphic design, editing, researching and project management.
Print and binding costs are generated when we know how many pages are in the finished product, the number of color images, print quantities and binding options.
Depending on the complexity of the project, a project proposal may also be generated that defines overall strategies and specific action items.
When the contract is signed, we ask for a deposit that will be deducted from the final invoice when your books are delivered to your doorstep.
Due to the customized nature of our products, we do not have a standard package. We will demonstrate projects ranging from $500 to $50,000 and explain procedural steps that can save cost or add expense.
An industry guideline for an average project (the Chevy) is 25 hours of labor for one hour of interview. That includes transcription, drafts, photos and editing for a 145-page book. Hourly rates can vary between $35 to $75 for different elements of the books production.
Pay by Milestone
Once we have established the parameters, we can provide a rough estimate. Over time, however, we have learned that it is challenging to provide exact up-front costs because the vision often changes as the story unfolds, more materials are added and original parameters are abandoned. Through trial and error, we've determined that the most effective method of billing is on a milestone basis.
Pay as You Go
For instance when the initial interview is complete, transcribed and edited, we deliver the project with an invoice. This allows our clients to "pay as you go" as we complete each milestone in the project. It also provides an effective means of cost containment. If the work is beginning to exceed your original stated budget, we will review cost-cutting measures and make real time decisions on the direction of the project. We may decide to reduce the content, cut photos or change binding methods to maintain lower costs.
Changes in Scope
Most clients, however, go the other direction. Visions of a black and white book evolve into full color and more content is added instead of less. By the time you are immersed in the second or third phase of the project, you will have a crystal clear vision of your end product. Making real-time project management decisions eliminates surprises and has proven to be a more successful approach for our clients and for us.
When we meet to review your project, you will be given a pre-interview questionnaire as part of your introductory packet. It provides space for you to list names, dates and places of family and friends who will be included in you stories. This ensures that the interview progresses more smoothly because we will not have to interrupt with name clarifications and you will not have to struggle, trying to remember dates.
Clients who have already prepared genealogical records can supply me with family group sheets that focus on the people to be included in the project. You may not have stories about all your ancestors, but adding genealogical charts will greatly enhance your book project.
The second part of the questionnaire allows you to jot down some specific subjects that you want covered in the interview.
When we sit down for the interview, we will use your pre-interview survey as a guideline and will also ask you other questions—ones that dig for specifics, add clarity or open another interesting story line. There is no scripted line of questions or formula that we follow. We guide you along the interview in a comfortable pace that allows you to share remembrances in an open, trusting relationship and add new facts as they unfold.
The interview will include open-ended questions like—tell me about your father’s appearance—often followed by closed questions, like— what color was his hair?
Old black and white photos give little indication of eye color or hair color, or even give clear indications of a person’s height. So physical descriptions are as important as an explanation of personality traits when describing parents, grandparents and other relatives who pepper our lives with interesting tales.
Information shared in confidence, stays in confidence. If you choose to eliminate any material from the work, you have full editing rights. Often during the interviews, a relationship builds that dissolves closely guarded thoughts, feelings and even traumatic events. We work to provide a safe environment for you to tell your story in your own way. Sharing with a stranger is generally less threatening than sharing with family members. It is your decision what you do with this information.
If the interviews are turned into a book, transcription is the next step. This is not an easy process because no technology is available that transfers words automatically from a recorded message to type on a computer screen. Some computer programs can be trained to recognize an operator’s voice, but the technology does not exist that can distinguish the interviewee’s voice.
Transcription generally entails using a foot-pedal operated device that plays a cassette tape or a CD and allows the user to easily stop, start or slow down the recording in a hands-free fashion.
When the transcription is complete, editing is required to clean up false starts and create a smoother flow of words and thoughts that still retains the interviewee’s voice. When we speak, our language is generally more relaxed than words we want to see on paper. It requires a very trained eye and ear to edit this material.
Traditional oral histories are comprised of a Q&A format that closely aligns with the actual interview. Content may be shifted around to improve the flow of information, but the questions become part of the finished work.
Another option is to remove the interviewer’s questions, adjust the text and change the content into a narrative. This makes the words flow in a more story-like fashion, affording more creative handling of the material and often producing a document that is more pleasant to read.
Both options, however, are frequently used. The Q&A format is less costly and may in some cases be preferable for certain applications, especially when covering historical, political or scientific studies.
A book project can be compiled with both approaches and can be supplemented with content from social and historical research, as well.
Pictures are an essential part of our line of books. We feel that imagery is just as important as words. So we provide the technology and artistic skills to turn marginal, well-worn and even poor quality photos, news articles and documents into works of art. Small washed-out photos can be enhanced and transformed into full-page images that show details never before seen. Damaged photos can either be fixed or artistically rendered to eliminate the flaws. (See Photo Restoration samples on the home page.)
Before we start the interview process, dig out old photos and organize them by families and dates. Write captions on “sticky notes” and attach them to the back of the photos.
When you receive the transcripts for review, start matching photos with the words. Place consecutive or coded numbers on the back of the photos and mark your transcript to identify where they should be inserted.
When you find a picture that has an interesting story associated with it, set is aside for our next interview. We will add your description of the photo and the event on tape and incorporate it into our other materials.
Check out the writing sample on the home page. Old photos can restore long-lost memories. Take the time to study yours in minute detail. You may be amazed how you can make your words leap off the page with descriptions brought to life from old pictures.
Before going into production, we create one or two sample books that incorporate all the components of a finished work. It gives you an opportunity to do one more review of the contents and to see how the project comes together with your selection of papers, binding options, foil stamping, endpapers or whatever component we employ to make your book unique.
After you have reviewed the galley copy, you will be asked to approve any additional changes and sign off as ready for final production.