- A Lifetime of Vermont People
In 1988 I decided to write a book on Vermont; a book of black and white portraits and profiles of the type of Vermonters I grew up with; hillside farmers and other people close to the soil and the pocket villages in the valley below. When this idea first took root I had just quit the best job in journalism at "Life Magazine" and moved back to Vermont. All my life I had taken portraits of Vermonters, visited with them, and photographed them in their element. So I gave the book a go and showed it to thirteen publishers who all turned it down. “No autumn foliage” they said, “No red barns” “No cows, no green pastures…just native Vermonters, who would buy a book like this?” One Vermont publisher predicted that I wouldn’t sell 2,000 books over ten years.
I accepted the challenge, remortgaged my house and for the next year I collected the photos I had taken since I was seventeen years old. I discovered that I needed a lot more photos so I traveled throughout Vermont in search of subjects. I named the book Vermont People and hired a designer and editor and together we came out with a good-looking coffee book. It was nerve racking however (the fate of my home depended on this book selling) so I sent a bunch of press releases to the newspapers, telling them all about my David and Goliath story: myself playing the role of David, while the publishers were cast as Goliath. I also mentioned that thirteen publishers turned my book down, and that if I lost everything the book was my bicentennial gift to the state of Vermont.
Soon I had an exhibition in Weston, Vermont at the Todd Gallery and sold fifty books. Shortly after I discovered the prejudice against self-published books (if a publisher didn’t want it, book stores didn’t either). However after the press releases came out (some of them full spreads of photographs from the book with text), one reviewer called the book a Walker Evan’s take on Vermont.
Within six weeks I sold the entire edition of 3,000 books, and by 2003 I had sold 15,000 copies and the book went out of print. I put the money I earned back into more books. Keeping busy I wrote People of the Great Plains, Vermont Farm Women, The First Time I Saw Paris, Nothing Hardly Ever Happens in Colbyville Vermont, and countless more articles for various magazines.
In 2011 there was still Interest in Vermont People, so at the age 78, I started to put together A Lifetime of Vermont People: 208 pages with 60 portraits and profiles of rural Vermonters. I expanded it to poets, writers, and artists (even a skiing governor). I realized that I was documenting the era I grew up in and its quick disappearance as Vermont became more homogenized and gentrified. So my legacy is Vermont’s legacy. This book is about the sixty years I spent writing and photographing the people in this state. Many of the Vermonters whom I have written about in Vermont People and Vermont Farm Woman are now icons of the independent, rural Vermonter whom one Los Angeles reviewer called “an endangered species”.
I take great pride in the quality of A Liftime of Vermont People; I am having it printed by EBS in Italy; They are matching the color-profiles for the book directly from our photos to get the best reproductions available. The book is 9x10½ inches long with 200 photographs and 60 stories. The cover is cloth bound with gold embroidery and featuring two iconic photos (seen above) making this book for great display. Many of the profiles illustrate the concerns of the Vermonters I interviewed. They understood that times were changing, and that the traditions, customs, and way of life they valued were being practiced less and less.
I spent the last part of 2011 and all of 2012 putting together this book. I took new portraits, interviewed these people and re-wrote old stories. A Lifetime of Vermont People has sixty more pages then Vermont People and the text is longer, for there is more to say and the subjects are not shy. In the back of the book there is a short essay on the changes I have witnessed in Vermont during the past fifty years, and a brief history of the book. Currently A Lifetime of Vermont People is 95% completed. Carrie Cook, the designer, has done a great job of smoothing out the stories so it is a seamless journey through the lives of these Vermonters, from the first to last pages. Kyle Green, my assistant, and I have gotten the scans into great shape and the first proofs look fantastic. The book will be delivered to us in June 2013 and we will have a celebration at Frog Hollow State Craft Center in Burlington.
This brings me to you: we need help paying the printer and designer; which costs about $38,000, out of which I have paid $8,000. I have once again put my house, my time, and my life into this project, please join me in giving Vermont a record of the people who made this state so independent, and who keep the mountain and valleys pristine. They are my people, my extended family, and this book honors them all—my cousins, as we say in Vermont.
To see excerpt from stories click:http://www.silverprintpress.com/
To view gifts click:http://www.petermillerimages.com/page1
Risks and challenges
Most of the risks and challenges in completing the book A Lifetime of Vermont People are minimal. Editorially the book is 95% completed. The writing is done and layouts made. Of the 208 pages, 195 pages have been laid out and written. We have a pdf of these pages that can be viewed by anyone who wishes to invest in this project. We have had a copy editor edit all the stories. We are having a meeting with four advisers to look at every story and to paginate the book. Editorially, the book is in control and well ahead of its deadline. It is being printed in Italy and it takes two months from printing to receiving the book in Vermont. Our deadline is to present the book during the first week of June, 2013, which means the book should be printed by EBS in Verona April 1. We expect to have the finished disk to be used for printing in Verona by February 1, so we are two months ahead of deadline.
The problems could be that the printer has a problem, financial or a disaster but we have a back up printer and all they require these days is a DVD disk and of course we have copies.
It could be that the author is incapacitated by injury or health to finish the book. However, even if he was, there are notes, the photos are taken and the designer could put the story together and the copy editor finish the two unwritten stories and do the contents and the list of changes to Vermont since
1980, the era when most of the photos were taken.
The biggest problem is finance. I have the income from my mortgage to pay for half of up front money that the printer requires, which is $30,000. I have friends who will lend money if necessary and the bank may help out when they see that the project is finished and understand the reputation the author has for his books. However, it is because of banks that I have registered with Kickstarter.
I have two grants totaling $4,000. The book, a photo exhibition and myself will tour, for one year after June 1, 12 major Vermont libraries. This is being sponsored by me Frog Hollow State Craft Center in Burlington, Vermont, and the Vermont State Library commission.
Of course, there could be another recession but the people who will buy the majority of these books will not be affected as much; many of them are collectors or deeply committed to the idea of keeping Vermont rural and maintaining the independence of many Vermonters who work for themselves. We have a film of the project that will be on Facebook, Twitter, my websites and my blog. It will also be shown through friends who also have social media contact for their businesses. These amount to about 8,000 additional email.
This project is under control and vetted by my advisors. Yes, the book could be lost in shipping, the ship could sink, there could be a strike in Italy or America. This is a chance we have to take. It would not destroy the project, it would delay it. We feel very confident about this project but also, we are very aware of Murphy's Law.
- (30 days)