How do I get started with you?
We have a conversation about your goals. Do you aim to explore your roots? Put in writing what you already know? Ensure your work is remembered for generations? Leave room for imagination. You can commission the history of your family, a biography, or an autobiography. We can deliver a hardbound book that looks like what you would buy at a store. Or we can gather your scattered photographs and turn them into an annotated super-scrapbook. Another idea is to focus on a theme: one notable ancestor, a group of letters, a soldier’s wartime exploits, your own story. Sometimes a book serves as the script for a video (we can work with documentarians to make this happen).
What’s the price?
Each book has a different price based mainly on the number of words. We will talk about this with you in a private conversation. A work of history, by its nature, takes a certain amount of time and expertise. We will complete your work at a reasonable cost.
Are there other expenses associated with the book?
There are usually no added costs of significance, other than printing. If necessary and you approve, we travel to examine documents by hand, find an ancestral home, or comb a neighborhood to retrace an ancestor’s footsteps. When all else fails, we hire local experts and language translators. These would be significant added costs, but are optional.
How does the printing work—do you own a press?
We don’t own a press, but contract with a printer to print your history at cost. This is separate from the price of research and writing. New technology allows for the printing of very small numbers of books—as few as one—at a modest cost. There are numerous printing options. You can have many pages or few, matte or gloss paper, and color or black and white. The book can be softcover or hardback, with a glossy or cloth cover. Many family histories have the appearance of a coffee-table book, but they can be of any size. E-books are available.
How long does a book take?
A typical book takes about six months to write, then several months to design and print. Naturally, the length of the book greatly influences the time it takes.
How many books do I get?
You get as many as you would like. The more you order, the cheaper the cost per book.
Do you sell my book at stores or online?
No. It is a private book just for you. Some people choose to donate copies to libraries. Your local library or historical institution is probably eager to have your history, if you choose to share it.
Who owns the rights to the book when you are done?
I am not ready to commit to a whole book. Are there other options?
There are as many options as you can think of. History does not have to be contained in a traditional book. We can tell your story through a book of photographs with captions, a collection of correspondence, or a volume of images of your artwork, hobbies or other creations. How about a book of your essays? Thoughts on life? Childhood memories? Sometimes a book is not even a “book,” exactly. History can live in an interactive website we create for you, or in a video….
What about a video?
A book can serve as the foundation of a video. Or we can forgo the book and make a stand-alone video documentary. Capturing family members, especially the matriarch or patriarch of the clan, on camera is a wonderful way of preserving not only their deeds and ideas, but their faces, voices and gestures.
This sounds interesting, but I’d like to talk more about it. Can we just have a conversation?
The Private Historian, Matthew Nickerson, can talk to you over the phone, via email, in a letter, or in person. He would be happy to meet for coffee at the Chicago History Museum’s cafe or for schnitzel at the Berghoff. You can get in touch with him by dialing (773) 746-4781, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by writing him at:
455 W. Oakdale Ave., Apt. 3
Chicago, IL 60657