Lost Laurel is a photographic regional history book which I'm writing and designing, focusing on the vanishing businesses from my hometown of Laurel, Maryland. It's comprised of historic photos and artifacts (many never before published) from the Laurel Historical Society archives, the Baltimore Sun, the Laurel News Leader, as well as those from the personal collections of current and past Laurel residents.
The project began in October 2011, when I started a blog and Facebook page called Lost Laurel—where I posted images representing the countless stores, restaurants, movie theaters and other retailers that I recalled from my childhood in the late 1970s and 80s. Some were national chains like Zayre and Woolworth's; others were one-of-a-kind mom and pop shops like Delaney's Irish Pizza Pub and Kellers/Knapp's.
At the time, I didn't expect more than a handful of followers; but less than two years later, the blog has had over 70,000 views, and the Facebook page has surpassed 3,500 fans—proving that I'm not the only one with nostalgic feelings for the little town midway between Baltimore and Washington, DC.
In fact, as the fanbase grew, so too did the requests for more distant Laurel retail history. I began digging further back in the Laurel News Leader archives, documenting places that existed well before my time.
I've spent hours at the Laurel Library and the Laurel Historical Society, photographing things that have languished in file cabinets for decades. I've pored through every issue of the Laurel News Leader in the library's archives—hardbound volumes from 1947–1981, and additional decades on microfilm. I've also met wonderful people who've shared photos and artifacts from their own photo albums and private collections—things that may otherwise have never been seen by the rest of us.
I'm neither a writer or a historian, but Lost Laurel is certainly more than just a hobby to me. I'm actually a professional graphic designer, and it recently dawned on me that I should curate the findings from my research and apply them in a manner that I'm very much familiar with: designing a book.
Book design is something I've had a good deal of experience with since graduating from the Corcoran College of Art + Design in 1997. I've designed books and exhibition catalogs for clients such as Time-Life Books, the Smithsonian Institution, the Folger Shakespeare Library, National Geographic, and the U.S. House of Representatives. Designing one of my own, however, is truly a labor of love.
The Lost Laurel book will cover a full century of Laurel's retail history, and is organized by decade going all the way back to the 1900s. I'm currently planning on a 152-page (minimum) softcover book, published by Blurb.com. The book will be 7" x 7" and full-color throughout. However, with additional funding, I hope to upgrade the book—by adding to the page count, printing on a premium sheet, and/or featuring a hardcover version.
The biggest hurdle is obviously the printing cost. Most printers, including Blurb, base their costs on quantity—and unfortunately, books are one of the most expensive items to print. If I were to simply make the book available for individual sale on their site, the per unit cost would be over 25% higher. However, if I'm able to raise enough funds to order an initial bulk supply, I can take advantage of the volume discount and sell them at a more reasonable price. That's where Kickstarter will be invaluable.
I'm also hoping to have a surplus of books to sell in person at next year's Main Street Festival in Laurel, which will allow me (and buyers) to forego shipping costs and logistics.
The other major expense is photo licensing. Plenty of folks have donated terrific images in exchange for a photo credit and a complimentary copy of the book, but there are several historic Baltimore Sun photographs that I feel need to be included. The cost for the dozen or so images that I've already earmarked will top $1,100. The Kickstarter funding will be a tremendous help in offsetting that hefty out-of-pocket expense.
At right, you'll see tiered reward levels for various contributions. The book itself is the $40 level. If you make the $40 pledge, you'll be guaranteed a first edition of the book. There are also levels below and above that price point—some of which include limited-edition Lost Laurel postcards, as well as one-of-a kind photos from the Baltimore Sun's historic archive.
Throughout this 30-day Kickstarter campaign, I'll also be posting updates with new reward levels, including artifacts from the Lost Laurel collection, and some that appear in the book itself! These will only be available to the project's backers on Kickstarter.
Just a Few of the Rewards:
This book will make a welcome addition to the home of anyone with ties to Laurel, or an interest in vintage retailers. Copies will also be donated to the Laurel Historical Society and Laurel Library, where it will bring me even greater pleasure to see my work on their shelves.
Please order your Lost Laurel book by pledging the $40 level today, take advantage of some of the other awesome rewards, and spread the word!
And don't forget to take advantage of the lower-priced rewards, too!
Risks and challenges
The first challenge is the funding itself. I've purposely set the Kickstarter goal at a less than ideal amount, because it's literally all or nothing. If the campaign doesn't reach its goal, I don't receive ANY of the pledges—and then it's back to square one. However, if it EXCEEDS the goal, it's all systems go for the Lost Laurel book!
Completing the design, proofreading, and having the book printed and ready to distribute by May 2014 is my goal, in order to participate in the Main Street Festival.
However, I have already designed roughly 70% of the book, and have outlined most of the remaining content for the complete project. That being said, there is actually a very good chance that the book will be ready to go to print well before the deadline—possibly even before the end of this year.
Some delays may occur if a photographer decides to rescind an image for some reason; at which point a replacement photo would be required, as well as a possible change in layout. Neither of these would impact the schedule significantly, however. And so far, I've yet to encounter a photographer who isn't as excited as I am about this book!
More likely, delays may be due to the opposite—having too MANY great photos to choose from. (And that's a good problem to have!) As of this posting, I'm waiting on several new photos to arrive from contributors, some of which I've yet to see. Undoubtedly, at least a few of these will need to be added to the book, requiring additional layouts or redesign of specific spreads.
Likewise, if the Kickstarter campaign yields more funding than expected, (fingers crossed!) that could open the door for several additional images and/or pages, all of which would require some additional time to lay out. Nonetheless, the May 2014 deadline would still be more than sufficient.
As far as printing goes, I'll have the chance to carefully review a sample copy of the complete book before proceeding with a full bulk order. In the event that there are problems with image quality, color, etc., I may need some time to confer with print representatives, and/or supply them with updated files. Again, this would simply be a quality control issue that wouldn't impede the overall schedule.
Last, but not least—the mail. We all know that the postal service can be hit or miss. For all orders that will require shipping, I plan to use USPS Media Mail, and will secure the packages to the best of my ability. All padded envelopes/packages will include cardboard stabilizers to prevent folding, and will include a return address to ensure that any misplaced mail eventually finds its way to you... or back to me.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter