On this page I describe the history and background to Hobnob Press, and then offer some suggestions, primarily but not exclusively, for anyone thinking of
approaching me with a book proposal. Some of what I say here may be helpful to anyone contemplating a local history publication, and with no intention of approaching me. Finally I offer a simple
stylesheet, which may be found useful by anyone preparing a manuscript to offer to a publisher.
Background to Hobnob Press
Hobnob Press was established in 1983 by Tony Martin (then proprietor of the Everyman Bookshop, Salisbury) to publish John Chandler’s history of Salisbury, Endless Street. During the 1980s Tony published four more local books under the Hobnob Press imprint, all now out of print, but after 1988 the press fell silent. Tony sold his Salisbury shop (it no longer sells books), then ran bookshops in Southampton and Ringwood, but has retired from bookselling; John subsequently wrote other books about Wiltshire and regional history for Sutton Publishing and Ex Libris Press, and has for many years conducted freelance historical research. In 2001 Hobnob Press was revived by John Chandler (with Tony Martin’s encouragement), to publish quality local books at an affordable price from a South Wiltshire base once again. After 2009 the focus changed slightly, to concentrate on print-on-demand and short run editions of local and (Wessex) regional history titles, in most cases with a more academic and national or international interest. As publishing and bookselling evolve this seems an appropriate way forward, and a close working relationship between author and publisher is forged so that just a handful of worthwhile and significant books are published each year. In 2011 John was appointed county editor of the Victoria County History in Gloucestershire, so Hobnob Press has become a spare-time activity, and has downsized accordingly.
By 2021 nearly 200 titles have been published. New books regularly receive favourable reviews in the local press and historical periodicals, and most people interested in the history and landscape of Wiltshire by now will have many Hobnob titles on their bookshelves. In 2013 one new title, Life in an English Village, featured in The Times and other national and regional media.
Hobnob Press has always worked with other organisations, including the Wiltshire Record Society, the Wiltshire Buildings Record, and Ex Libris Press, and several titles have been published on behalf of or in conjunction with local organizations, including the Friends of Shaftesbury Abbey, Chippenham Civic Society, Gillingham Local History Society, Gloucester Rugby Club, Gloucestershire Gardens and Landscape Trust and Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum. Details of some of these and other links will be found on the Hobnob and Friends page of this website.
Publishing with Hobnob Press
PLEASE NOTE: Before you read on! I am retaining these notes (first written in 2010) on my website because, as a general statement of present and future trends in local publishing good practice they seem to have been found useful. However, because I am still now (2021) quite heavily engaged on academic work aside from publishing, Hobnob Press has become for me a part-time activity, and I am taking on fewer new titles, concentrating on completing and publishing long-standing commitments. I remain happy to hear from prospective authors (whose work falls into the broad categories described below), and will try to help and offer suggestions, but in most cases I shall not be tempted to take on new titles as Hobnob Press publications.
These notes are intended for authors who are considering an approach to Hobnob Press with a book that they have written or are proposing to write. We describe the background, scope and philosophy of Hobnob Press, and plans for its future. We also deal with the practicalities of publishing, such as the editorial and financial implications, and the opportunities presented by advances in computer and printing technology. Hobnob Press works alongside other small publishers so that, even if a book proposal is not suitable for our own list, we may be able to refer it to one of our colleagues.
Since 2001 historian John Chandler has published titles under the Hobnob Press imprint, and designed and typeset others for societies and individuals. With few exceptions these have been concerned with the local and regional history of Wiltshire and neighbouring counties, and have ranged from village histories by enthusiastic amateur historians, and walking and popular guidebooks, to academic studies of archaeology, historical biographies and architectural history. The range and scope can be seen from other pages of this Hobnob Press website. From 2010 our strategy has been to concentrate on local and regional studies (Wiltshire, Wessex and South-West England) within the fields of history, archaeology, landscape, architecture, biography and literature, produced in limited quantities for an academic and special interest readership. Local interest book proposals, such as village histories, reminiscences, etc, which fall outside these criteria may be referred to other publishers, with whom we are in contact.
Local history has often been regarded as the cinderella of the historical world, because in the past it has too often been pursued in a blinkered and inexpert way, out of touch with the many exciting new historical and archaeological disciplines that have burgeoned in recent decades. In fact good local and regional history can and should be the meeting place for amateur and professional; academic and lay; historian, archaeologist, geographer, ecologist – a whole range of students whose work involves them in the study of particular places. While there will always be scope, of course, for publishing local history at many different levels, in different formats and for different readerships, Hobnob Press will henceforth focus on offering an outlet for locally anchored work of wider significance, written in an accessible way but to a high standard by experienced authors and scholars.
Conventionally publishers have had to estimate the potential take-up of specific titles, and bear (or pass on) the financial risk of what they perceive to be the appropriate print-run. Short-run and Print on Demand technology, and the emergence of e-publishing, offer exciting new possibilities which Hobnob Press is eager to embrace. Not only can books be printed in small numbers, as and when required, but individual copies can be supplied directly from printer to retailer (saving storage and handling), ebook editions can be marketed concurrently with the print version, corrections can easily be made and books can be kept in print indefinitely, without wasteful overstocks and uneconomic remaindering. Increasingly such advantages can be achieved without compromising the book’s design and production quality.
We have already used this new approach to produce books of impressive quality, and intend in future to concentrate on this area of publishing exclusively, which appears to have great potential for local and academic publishers and their authors. For it to be cost-effective, however, our authors’ work must require a minimum of editing, and they should be prepared to submit to us their texts and illustrations in accordance with our Stylesheet. We shall then design and typeset their books within established templates to develop identifiable series, publicise them to appropriate markets, and ensure that both author and publisher are fairly remunerated on sales, as set out in a simple contract.
Everyone has their own way of expressing their ideas, and this stylesheet is not intended to curtail free expression. It is assumed that our authors have a proficient grasp of syntax, punctuation and spelling. Here are just some house rules which make for consistency, particularly in matters of headings, annotation, citation and captioning between Hobnob Press publications. For guidance and inspiration on how to organise material in a book, especially the preliminary pages and endmatter, potential authors should examine well-produced books by mainstream publishers. For questions not covered here please consult the The Oxford Manual of Style. It is desirable that all text be read by more than one person prior to submission, to check for spelling, punctuation, accuracy and consistency.
Text: All text should be word-processed on a computer that uses Word or Rich Text Format, or programmes that can be reliably converted to one of these formats. The typeface and point size are immaterial. Try to disable all special formatting, such as paragraph indenting and superscript ordinals, but inserted footnote or endnote referencing may be used. If you are annotating text and your program does not include inserted notes begin a new sequence for each chapter and type them into a separate file. Do not insert tables or pictures into text files. Leave one space, not two, after full stops at the end of sentences. Indent new paragraphs but do not leave line spaces between paragraphs. Do not indent the first paragraph following a heading. Devise a clearly distinguishable hierarchy of headings, subheadings and (if necessary) sub-subheadings, and apply it consistently. Ordinal numbers (1st, 12th, 23rd, etc) should not be in superscript form (e.g. 23rd), and the preferred form of dates should be 17 October, not 17th October or October 17th. As a general rule numerals from one to twenty should be written out in full, 21 and higher in figures, but do not mix numerals as words and figures in the same sentence. Quotes should be enclosed within single quotation marks; double quotation marks should only be used for quotes within quotes. Extended quotes (more than three lines) should not be enclosed within quotation marks, but regarded as a separate paragraph, not indented, but with a line space before and after (when typeset the whole quote will be indented and printed in a smaller point size).
Referencing and Bibliography: Harvard referencing may be used for more academic works, or endnotes/ footnotes tied to superscript text references. Some books will need no specific annotation, apart from a note on sources and/ or a bibliography. Annotation and bibliographical citation must be consistent as to order and punctuation. The preferred forms are these:
• for a book: Vernon, Charles, 2005, An historical guide to Malmesbury. Malmesbury Civic Trust.
• for a paper: Longley, David, 2001, ‘Medieval settlement and landscape change on Anglesey’, Landscape History, 23, 39-59.
• for a paper in a book: Healy, Frances, 2004, ‘Hambledon Hill and its implications’; in Monuments and material culture (ed. Rosamund Cleal and Joshua Pollard), Hobnob Press, 15-38.
Index: As a general rule books should be indexed, although indexing cannot be completed until a late stage in the production process, once the book is in page-proof. Comprehensive indexing is a complex intellectual process, which many authors prefer to leave to professionals. However, for many local history publications it will be sufficient to prepare an index which includes all personal names and place names, together with the principal subjects covered. For works specific to a particular place it may be convenient to list all place names within the place together, as sub-headings to the place-name. Incidental references, e.g. to London, America, Queen Victoria or Winston Churchill, which do not themselves contribute to knowledge about these people and places, should not be indexed. It is generally best to combine people, places and subjects into a single alphabetical index. Having done this, see and see also references should be added as appropriate to assist the user.
Illustrations and captions: Scanning illustrations into high-resolution digital format is one of the most time-consuming activities in the production of a local history book, and the author, or someone the author knows, is urged to undertake this process prior to submission. Modern photographs taken on a digital camera are quite easy to handle and generally give good results. Ideally they should be converted to grayscale and supplied at a resolution of at least 600 dpi once reduced to 10 x 8cm (approx). Old photographs should be scanned to at least 600 dpi and, if the originals have been screened (if taken from printed books, newspapers or certain types of postcard) the scanner’s descreening facility should be enabled. Cropping, enhancing and adjusting levels may also be undertaken prior to submission, but some further cropping may be necessary at page-layout stage. Digital images should be submitted on CD as numbered TIFF (preferably) or JPEG files, and a separate text file of similarly numbered captions should also be submitted. If scanning and digitisation is beyond the scope of the author, original images (prints or transparencies) should be submitted for scanning. These should be discreetly numbered (e.g. in pencil on the back) so that they can be linked to their captions, and they will be returned once the book production is well advanced.
Proofing and Printing: The usual procedure following submission and acceptance of a manuscript, and once all necessary editing has taken place, is for the typesetter to produce a galley proof of the entire text. This includes no illustrations, takes no account of page breaks and may run on one chapter to the next with merely a conventional space. The purpose of this is to enable the author (and editor) to check for spelling and punctuation. Minor changes and amendments can be made (by annotating the proof) at this stage. The corrected proof should be returned to the typesetter with an indication also of the target positioning of all the illustrations within the text. Thus, if the illustrations and their captions have been numbered 1-60 these numbers should be added in the margin of the proofs at the appropriate place (not necessarily in their original numerical sequence). The typesetter will correct the text and add the illustrations, producing a page-proof, which will also be sent to the author for checking. The author should make certain that the captions match the illustrations, that all illustrations are the right way up and that nothing important (or mentioned in the caption) has been cropped. The preliminary pages and cover should be checked very carefully – it is easy to miss the most obvious mistakes, such as the spelling of the author’s name on the title page, or incorrect page numbers or chapter titles given on the contents page. At this stage too the index must be prepared, so time should be built into the production process to allow for this. After the page-proofs have been returned and corrected and the index typeset it is normal to convert the files to PDF format, print and check a further set of laser proofs from the PDF output, then proceed to printing the book. If this is not a Print on Demand title a set of running sheets (unbound pages) is examined before the book is bound. Hobnob Press is usually responsible for collecting bound and cartoned books from the bindery. Since most Hobnob books now are print-on-demand, it is usual to order two copies of the book as proof copies for the author and publisher to inspect before the book is released for general sale.
I am including below a link to the notes on self-publishing for local history which I prepared for a webinar in 2021 on behalf of the British Association for Local History. You are welcome to download this document, which contains useful information on many aspects of self- and small-run publishing.