• Part of a roofline shows from one building. Trees with fall color leaves on them fill most of the photo. A lamp-post is near center of the photo.

    Harpers Ferry Center

Planning a New Handbook


Before we begin a handbook, the park, its cooperating association, and Harpers Ferry Center meet and agree on the following:

Continual endorsement of the handbook: The association must agree to endorse the handbook and give it special attention in the sales area. It is also understood that the association will not produce a competing association publication that would adversely affect the sales of the Official Park Handbook.

Sales potential: Harpers Ferry Center works with the park, the association, and the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) to determine whether we can undertake a handbook project. Generally the criterion is how many copies of a handbook we think will sell in a three-year period. The quantity is arrived at through careful assessment of park visitation, sales of books in a similar price bracket, and to some extent secondary markets such as local bookstores and schools. About 85 percent of sales are at the park site. The cooperating association buys the books as needed. They do not have to buy a large quantity at one time.

Niche: The handbook should have its own niche and not duplicate the work done by another publication on sale at the park bookstore. We will discuss this niche at our meeting.

Time Frame

When we and the park decide to produce a handbook, we set a maximum target of two years from the time the author's contracts are written to the time the job arrives in the park. During this period we research, write, and review the manuscripts of contract writers; research and select photographs and historical images; perhaps commission illustrations to interpret specific themes; and produce maps. Sometimes the park brochure map can be adapted to the handbook. At other times very specific maps are needed—ecosystems, battles, etc. The park is involved in the review process for all elements of a book.

Often more than one author is needed. For the "Redwood" handbook, for instance, three authors were used—one writer-editor on our staff, a park employee in the field, and a professional natural history writer.


Development costs: Before we begin a handbook we must be assured that the park can contribute at least $25,000 towards the development costs of the book. Money sources include the park, the association, and other interested parties, such as local businesses. Any non-park group or cooperating association that contributes towards the development costs of the handbook will be mentioned in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. The remainder of the development costs are borne by Harpers Ferry Center.

Printing costs: Harpers Ferry Center pays for printing the book (usually around $30,000-$50,000). This policy is under review because of an overall funding shortfall. This covers the costs of prepress work such as scanning images, proofing, and the printing of 2,500 administrative copies. GPO "rides" our requisition and prints sales copies at this time. The GPO sales copies are paid for by GPO.

Average book specifications:

Size: 5 7/8" by 8 1/4"

Pages: From 64 to 112, plus cover

Paper: Cover: No. 1 Dull-coated Cover, white, 80 lb.; Text: No. 1 Dull-coated Text, white, 70 lb.

Inks: Cover: 4-color process plus ultra-violet cured coating; Text: 4-color process

Binding: 48 or 64 pages: 2 saddle wire; 96 pages and above: smyth-sewn

Average price:

Retail: $6.00 to $9.00 range for the first printing. Wholesale: $4.00 to $6.00 each (sold in lots of 50 or 100).

Reprint prices might be slightly higher, depending on the quantity printed. The sales copies from the first printing are less expensive than reprints (unlike private industry) because the agency pays for the set-up and make-ready costs. GPO pays only for the running costs of their sales copies. When the book is reprinted, GPO also pays those set-up and make-ready costs.

It is important to sell at least 1,700 books per year to guarantee a reprint of 5,000 for a three-year period. GPO will go back to press for less—even 2,000—but the unit cost is very high.

Reprints requiring corrections

A member of our staff will contact the park when GPO has about a ten-month supply of the handbook remaining. We will ask the Chief of Interpretation to go over the book and submit necessary corrections. If changes are required, these ten months are needed to get the work done and get the book to GPO for reprinting.

Cost of corrections: Consider carefully any adjustments you want to make. We should fix errors; update scientific or historic content and policy statements; and update or remove old phone numbers, addresses, and service providers. The costs for any changes will be the park's responsibility.


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