In September 2014, my first local history book, Bishop’s Stortford Through Time was published by Amberley Publishing. This week, I am very excited to be doing tour around various blogs talking about aspects of my book: not just the subject matter, but also writing and researching my books.
In yesterday’s blog post The process of writing a local history book on Worldwide Genealogy, I answered Julie Goucher’s questions about writing my book. Today, day 2, it is my turn to ask the questions and for my publisher’s Amberley Publishing’s to answer.
My overriding question to Amberley is that thorny topic:
How to get a publisher interested in your book or history project?
Whilst writing my books, when I have been out and about researching or photographing, many people have asked me about how to go about getting a history book published. My book publishers are Amberley Publishing – very successful publishers who specialise in local history and general history books. I was extremely lucky in that one of their commissioning editors stumbled across this blog just under a year ago. The editor read some of my stories, and then she contacted me and there followed a couple of weeks’ negotiation. After which, Amberley commissioned me to write 3 books for them (this has recently been updated to 4 books).
I was lucky: Amberley approached me.
However, it made me ponder: how do you go about getting your local or specialist history book published? I came up with 9 questions, and posed my questions to my Commissioning Editor at Amberley Publishing. Here are my questions, and Amberley’s answers.
1. What makes a good history book?
The local history team tends to publish within several predetermined series, and many of our titles are heavily image led. We place a real emphasis on our books looking really good, so great images are essential. We also look for books that are well structured, clearly written and contain interesting information. With more stand-alone titles, we are always attracted to new and exciting concepts, though it is vital that these are also commercially viable.
2. What makes a good author?
Anyone who is passionate about their subject is a great potential author. It really comes across when people are enthusiastic and knowledgeable. As images are so important in Amberley’s books, it’s a real advantage for authors to have ready access to a good image source, whether this be your own collection or an archive. It’s also important for authors to have a clear writing style.
3. I don’t have any formal qualifications (degrees etc) in history or related subjects. Would you still be interested in a submission from me?
Many of our authors have no formal qualifications, and this is certainly not a prerequisite. Amberley isn’t an academic publisher. Authors should certainly be knowledgeable about their subject, but there is no need for an academic degree!
4. If I am writing a history book, should I use an agent or approach a publisher direct?
For any company with a submissions link on their website (or with details for a submissions editor) feel free to send your submission through directly to them. Amberley don’t tend to work with agents often – the vast majority of our submissions come through this channel [website]. However, larger trade publishers won’t generally accept direct submissions, so might be best using an agent.
5. The Essex Voices Past blog was read by one of Amberley’s Commissioning Editors. Do editors regularly go through the internet to discover new authors?
On the local history team, we frequently use this method to find potential new authors. If someone has a real interest in a subject and is clearly knowledgeable, we will often get in touch to see whether the blog/website owner might be interested in writing a book.
6. I want to write a local history book about my town about its experiences during the First World War. What would be your appetite and criteria for publishing this?
In general, this sounds good. Our first consideration would be the suitability of the book’s content for our target market. As the 100th anniversary of the First World War took place this year, general interest in the topic is high, so this would definitely be seen as positive. This type of book is also similar to previous successful titles, which is a real advantage. However, a key concern with any local book is the sales profile of the town in question, so we would seek advice on this from our sales department before moving ahead.
7. I want to write a very specialist history book, eg, about the Napoleonic Wars. What would you would expect to see in a submission for this?
As with any submission, we’d be looking for general details about the book, for example a summary of its content, word count, details of any images you would be looking to include. In the case of a very specialist book, we’d be looking for evidence of in-depth knowledge of the subject and a clear awareness of what makes your book stand out from others on the market. Every publisher has their own specialist subjects for which they are known in the market, so it would be best to look at the output of each publishing house before you make your approach.
8. I have an idea for a history book: what do you want to see in a submission?
Here at Amberley, we ask for potential authors to provide a single-page summary of their book. This should include a brief description of what the book is about, along with the book’s proposed word count and details of any images. There is no need to send in your entire manuscript at this point, as the commissioning editor will request this at a later stage if necessary. A sample chapter or chapter list can be very useful, though.
9. I have made a submission for a book: what happens next and how long until I hear back from you?
The first person you will hear from is our submissions editor, who is the first port of call for all submissions. If the submissions editor can see potential in your proposal, this will be passed to the relevant commissioning editor (depending on subject area) for consideration, and we’ll let you know that this handover has taken place. The commissioning editor will be the next person you hear from, and if your book looks like a good potential title we’ll take it from there. Timescales can vary significantly, but we aim to get back to everybody who contacts us as soon as we can.
My grateful thanks to Amberley Publishing for answering these questions. I hope this helps any budding historians reading this blog. I have certainly found my contact with Amberley to be very positive and a life-changing experience.
My blog tour
Tomorrow, I am delighted that my blog tour will continue on Ross Mountney’s Notebook where I will be talking about helping children, particularly home educated children and children with special educational needs, to become passionate about the art and discipline of history.
You can catch me on the following dates and blogs discussing “all things history” along with my recent book.
- Saturday 18 October – Worldwide Genealogy Blog: The process of writing a local history book.
- Sunday 19 October – Essex Voices Past: Q&A session with Amberley Publishing on “how to get a publisher interested in your history book”.
- Monday 20 October – Ross Mountney’s Notebook: Home education and teaching history to children.
- Tuesday 21 October – Family History Across The Sea: Correlation between local and family history.
- Wednesday 22 October – Anglers Rest: Using vintage postcards to add to family and local history research.
- Thursday 23 October – Bishop’s Stortford Museum’s Blog: Oral history.
- Friday 24 October – Essex Voices Past: Bishop’s Stortford’s postcards which got away.
I have a MSt in Local and Regional History (Cantab); a BA History (Open University) and an Advanced Diploma in Local History (Oxon) – all gained as a mature student. Having been a business technologist in the City of London for the last 30 years, I am currently taking time away from my City career to write. My first history book, Bishop’s Stortford Through Time, was published by Amberley Publishing in September 2014. I have been commissioned to write a further three history books for them:-
- Sudbury, Lavenham and Long Melford Through Time (due to be published summer 2015);
- Saffron Walden Through Time (due to be published summer 2015); and
- Postcards from the Front: Britain 1914-1919 (due to be published summer 2016).
I live in Essex, England, and regularly write about the local history of Essex and East Anglia on my blog.
© Essex Voices Past 2014.