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Getting Published – Making a Arcadia Local History Book

Getting published – Making a local history book using Arcadia.

Arcadia Publishing is America’s largest publisher of regional and local history books. Do you have a great idea for a history book and you want to become an author? Arcadia does have a proven process for getting your idea compiled, printed, and distributed. It’s actually quite easy if you have a strong archive, a good sense of history and the research needed, and a small group of promoters that can get the word out.

Here’s your chance to tell your story – our advice –  go for it.

Getting Started

Arcadia has an author’s proposal kit you’ll need to fill out. Our organization is in the northeast so we contacted [email protected] They’ll want a basic outline, and a list of your photo sources. Be careful here–make sure your photo sources are solid! You don’t want to flake out on your editor after you’ve made the pitch. You’re going to have to sell a few thousand books, so be prepared to market the creation. Remember, the cover photo is THE most important. Make sure you’ve got a great cover photo!

Arcadia is NOT a vanity press. They deal with the entire publishing process from editing to publicity, marketing, and distribution at our own cost and pay royalties to our authors. Its formula for regional publishing is to use local writers and historians to write about their community using 180 to 240 black and white photos with captions and introductory paragraphs in a 128 page book. The Images of America series is the company’s largest product line.  In addition to Images of America, there are other book series; Postcards of America, Then and Now, Postcard History, Images of Rail, Images of Sports, Corporate History and a few others are now in print.


Here are the actual steps that Arcadia has suggested to those wanting to submit a publishing proposal. Once the proposal is submitted, you can expect to hear back from their editorial department within approximately one month. Previously published Arcadia authors are required to complete a new proposal form for each new book that is proposed.

  1. Completed Author Proposal form (5-6pages)
    1. Title of Book
    2. Author Information
    3. Area Information
    4. Book Information
      1. i.      Content
      2. ii.      Images
    5. Schedule
    6. Marketing and Sales Information
  2. One-page summary (at least 500 words) of proposed book content
  3. Sample images (at least 20) and accompanying captions.

After the submission, some authors have heard back in as soon as a few days.

Here are a couple of other points to consider:

  • You could do it in as little as four months, but the overall process can take about eight to ten months to have books in your possession.
  • All of your fees are “out of pocket” since there are no advances.
  • Royalties vary from 8%-10% of the $19.95 retail price.
  • Stories can be told only if there’s a photo to accompany the photo.
  • Can’t sell advertising.


Authors who read their contracts with Arcadia carefully will discover that they will receive 10% of net sales on each book; which sounds good, but in reality, its one of the lowest royalties paid to authors in the publishing world. With Arcadia selling to retailers at about $10 per book, that means authors get $1 or less, for each book sold. Arcadia also only pays royalties to authors twice a year, whereas many other publishers pay monthly or quarterly.

Images of America

Arcadia Publishing was founded in Dover, NH as a publisher of local and regional history in late 1993. During the intervening 10 years authors and readers alike have shown an enormous appetite for re-discovering and chronicling the stories and events that have contributed to the formation of towns and communities across America. Arcadia Publishing has grown to meet this demand and now publishes out of four offices across the country – San Francisco, Chicago, Portsmouth NH and Mt Pleasant SC. With in excess of 2,000 books in print, principally in the Images of America series, Arcadia Publishing is now the largest local and regional history publisher in the United States.

Making of America Series

For those unfamiliar with Arcadia Publishing, books in the Making ofAmerica series contain a comprehensive, chronological history of a community’s development over the centuries, highlighting major events, such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, and the Great Depression, that had an impact on its citizens and landscape. The narrative consists of roughly 45,000 to 55,000 words and is accompanied by 120 historic and relevant illustrations (photographs, postcards, sketches, advertisements, maps, etc.). These books strive to be both highly readable and highly visual.


Each book has 128 pages. No financial commitment necessary to participate in this acclaimed series (“Images of America”). The books normally retail for $19.99, contain about 200 photos with accompanying captions, time, and photo credits.

“Arcadia Publishing does have an open offer to reprint any of these titles at anytime, IF the author or a retailer places an order of 300 or more on a NON RETURNABLE basis. Any of these titles will go to reprint. The minimum reprint required of Arcadia from the printer is 600. After your guaranteed order of 300 the balance of 300 will be available to you for re-orders as well as other retailers at standard published trade terms. The title would be reprinted at the CURRENT reprint price and in many cases be available for distribution within 6-8 weeks. Arcadia Publishing would require a $1500 deposit which is NON REFUNDABLE at the time the request for reprinting is made. Then the remaining balance would be due once the books arrive in the warehouse but before they are shipped out to your location. Current reprint costs are $ 19.99 retail. With an order of 300 you would receive a 48% discount, an order of 400+ a 52% discount PLUS UPS shipping ($88.00/$100.00 respectfully) ie: 300 x $19.99 = $5997 – 48% = $3118.44+$88 s/h = $3206.44.”

History Listserv discussion area (a great source for historic info):

Online Rights

There is a current issue where books and photos are making their way to the internet. Authors have recently received a letter asking to change agreements with Arcadia to enable them to put the books and/or photographs on the website of the Alexander Street Press. It’s definitely a work in progress and you need to protect your work and your collections. Make sure you’ve got your assets covered.

Additional Sources:

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1 thought on “Getting Published – Making a Arcadia Local History Book”

  1. I have reviewed William Wong and Judy Yung books published by you.
    I would be interested in submitting a proposal to you. Before I do so, would you send me
    information on how to obtain permission for the use of photos, including an release forms. Some of the pictures have been handed down to friends and family and others
    in the orphanage collection. Lastly, what permission is needed from newspaper archives?

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