Writing and publishing your school history

29th September 2005 at 01:00

Decide why you want to do it
The essence of your school lies in the interaction of people and events. That means you're going to collect and tell stories that will make your readers nod and smile with surprise or recognition. It's a warm-hearted celebration, so although the history has to be accurate, don't worry too much about filling in every gap.

It'll be a bigger job than you think
Once word goes round, material and memories will roll in. It'll all need organising in a careful and time-consuming way, and almost inevitably as you go on you'll upgrade the final plans for your book.

Don't think you're going to raise funds for school
Typically, what's conceived as a fund raising pamphlet ends up as a well produced book that loses money , though it's invariably seen as a worthwhile investment.

Make it a team effort
Someone has to lead, but a range of skills is called for: project management, IT, writing, organisation of paperwork and notes, looking after people who have stories, negotiation with printers and designers.

Settle on a structure
One school started with a framework of the school's development over a chosen period of time - size, buildings, changes of name and status - and then added the stories and memories. It's not the only way, but a plan of some sort's necessary.

Include photographs
Give priority to pictures of people: PE in the Thirties, drama in the Fifties. Group photographs are interesting - and promote sales - especially when they show clothes, hairstyles and living people.

Look at existing publications
Invest in some published school histories. See how they stand up in relation to your own aims. When you find a good one, contact the school and talk about how they did it.

Find a printer who'll listen and give advice
Get quotes from three or four firms, of different kinds: big, small, local, national, specialist, general. Take your word-processed text and photographs and talk about what you want. Ask to see samples of similar work. Ask for advice, and make a judgment based on the quality and sensitivity of how you're received and advised.

Don't spoil the ship
For example, poor paper means muddy photographs. A cheap cover looks exactly what it is. Your book should reflect the values that you stand for in your school. Make sure you're proud of it.

Don't go to a "vanity" publisher
You'll probably publish your book youselves.
Mainstream publishers will probably only look at it if either you or the school are famous (or notorious). You could try some smaller publishers - but beware of "vanity publishers", who don't always reveal themselves as such. Stick to those listed in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook ( published by A amp; C Black. Essential reading in any case).nbsp;A vanity publisher is any publisher who wants money from you in advance. Johnathan Clifford, an expert adviser in this area says, "There's nothing a vanity publisher can do that you can't do yourself."

Enjoy it
It'll enrich the life of your school, promoting it in the neighbourhood, delighting everyone and bringing old friends together.

Further information


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