Creating a book using digital cultural heritage resources

This document is intended to be a guide to creating a book using digital cultural heritage resources sourced from Europeana or other digital cultural heritage platforms. It is based on the experiences of the Europeana Food and Drink consortium partners, who created a book about the history and heritage of local London pubs, using a collection of pub photographs from the 20th Century that are available through

Before starting out to create a book using digital cultural heritage resources, the most important thing to be aware of is that it will take some time. The creation of the London Local Pubs: Past and Present book, on which these guidelines are based, took a year from its initial concept to the final publication. However, the relationships necessary for this project had been established before and had to be maintained after publication, so the entire process took closer to two years.

Phase 1 – Developing the concept

To develop the fundamental concept of the book, there are three things that need to be considered, namely audience, collection and theme. These segments are equally important and need to connect to each other in a logical way, therefore they need to be developed at the same time. This triad forms the backbone of your book and should be referred to throughout your development process.

Collection: Identify an interesting collection (in our case, through Europeana), making sure that you can use it commercially and that you have access to high quality material. You can also use one of your own collections.

Theme: In parallel, think of a good theme or idea for your book that can be illustrated using the material you can find in your chosen collection. Think about why it would be interesting and how it is different from previously published books.

Audience: Think about the audience for this publication. Who are you trying to reach? Who would be interested in this book? It is important to identify a specific type of audience, rather than the ‘general public’, as this will inform much of your marketing strategy. If necessary, create an ‘audience profile’ that will help you to visualise what type of people you are reaching out to. Research networks of people in your locality that are connected to your audience and make notes about how to contact them and what their interests are — this will help you
a lot later on in the process.


Phase 2 – Finding a publisher

Once the above three factors are firmly in place, the next steps are related to finding a publisher that would be interested in publishing your book.

Step 1: A comparative review of other books
What other books have been published in the last few years that are related to the theme you have chosen? Who has published them? What is the audience for these books? How much are they being sold for? What is their ranking on websites like What is the design of these books? What is their tone of voice?

Step 2: Shortlist publishers
If you are going with traditional publishing, make a list of publishers that are likely to publish your book and that you want to pitch to. Keep an eye on the type and calibre of books that they usually publish and see if your book idea fits in with that. Make notes of how you can approach these publishers with a pitch, e.g. a certain email address or phone number.

Step 3: Pitch to publishers
Pitch to the shortlisted publishers using a short and well-designed pitch deck that explains the basic idea of the book, showcases the content you want to use, gives a rough idea of your timeline and explains what effort you will put into marketing the book.

If you have access to a designer, you can perhaps mock up some pages of the book as you have them in mind.

Expect about a 1 in 10 chance of a publisher being interested in publishing your book, so make sure to approach as many relevant publishers as possible.

Step 4: Discuss with publisher
Once your pitch has been accepted by a publisher, discuss the below points with them before signing a contract with them.

  • Contribution. It might be that the publisher asks for a monetary contribution towards the cost of publishing. Consider whether this fits into your operations and whether you think this request is reasonable compared to what services the publisher is providing.
  • A workable delivery schedule. If you are writing and sourcing content yourself, make sure to leave yourself enough time to do this. If you are outsourcing this work, provide clear briefs to the people you are working with and set up regular check-in times.
  • Royalties. What is the publisher offering in terms of royalties? Can you accept these royalties or would it interfere with any grant funding? Decide how the royalties will be distributed.
  • Frequency of reporting. Agree with the publisher on the frequency of reports on the sales of your book, perhaps based on what you need from any funders. Quarterly reports are common.
  • Author copies. As author of the book (or at least the organisation signing the contract with the publisher) you are entitled to a number of author copies. How many you can expect depends on the print run. Author copies are useful for giving away to reviewers and to those that have helped you create the book.
  • Sales channels. Which sales channels does the publisher have and where can you expect to see the book being sold once it has been published?
  • Marketing. What is the publisher’s common practice when it comes to marketing? Will they use their networks to promote your book?

Paxton, Gipsy Hill
Paxton, Gipsy Hill

Phase 3 – Sourcing content and creating partnerships

Once you have finalised the contract with the publisher, you can start sourcing content in earnest, as well as reaching out to the networks that you have identified in the first phase and get them involved.

  • Make sure to clearly attribute any content you use in the book to Europeana or any other source it stems from. Double check to make sure you are allowed to use all content for commercial purposes. The publisher will expect you to have cleared the rights of all material that you deliver to them.
  • Reach out in earnest to individuals and networks who would be interested in your book. A soon-to-be-published book is a great trigger for engagement. Ask questions about the subject, ask them if they have material related to it that could be used in the book. Gauge if there is interest in doing some crowdsourcing events. They are a great way of getting people invested in buying the book once it has been published.
  • When doing crowdsourcing events to collect some stories, memories and material from your audience (there is a helpful guide to doing crowdsourcing events in pubs here, which can serve as inspiration), make sure all your participants sign release forms so you can use their material in your publication. Keep a record of their contact details so you can invite them to later events.
  • Ask some members of your intended audience to review your draft publication and give you feedback.


Phase 4 – Marketing and book launch

Once you have submitted your final manuscript to the publisher and while the book is getting printed, which can take a few months, start thinking about the marketing you want to do around the book. There are a few suggestions below:

  • Landing page. Set up a landing page to function as the main source of information about your book. Make sure to get a snappy short link and use a website building tool to make it look professional. Set up website analytics so you can collect visits, views and click-throughs. Provide information about the book’s launch date, where it can be bought, what the story behind it was (this is also a good space to mention any funders), where people can explore Europeana collections in more detail, hyperlinks to your own website etc.
  • Press release. Write a press release for your book so you have it ready to send out when the book is published. Focus on the story and theme behind the book, rather than the fact that ‘a book has just been published’. It should be interesting and easy to read.
  • Networks. Utilise your networks to the fullest. Ask your contacts whether they know anyone in television, radio or newspaper journalism that they can introduce you to. Again, focus on the story behind the book rather than the book itself here.
  • Social media. Send out teasers on social media, with sneak peeks of the book when it is due to be launched. Perhaps organise a contest for your online audience, which offers a chance of winning the book. Keep using your social media channels to promote the book once it has been launched. As for the landing page, ensure that you have appropriate ways of measuring the engagement you get your social media channels.
  • Involve friends, online users, colleagues, etc. to spread the word about the book online and offline. Direct marketing and word of mouth communication are often key elements to push sales and promoting a book effectively.

You can now also start planning your book launch. Check with the publisher what their common practice is.

  • Invite all contributors to the book to your launch. Also invite prominent figures from the networks that you identified earlier.
  • Try to host the event in a venue that has some connection to your book, either through the theme or through the audience.
  • Ask a prominent person from the audience to give a speech.
  • Provide some complimentary food and drink for your audience.
  • Have copies of your book on hand to sell or to give away.
  • Organise a photographer for the night and use your social media channels to share the launch with a wider audience afterwards.


Hopefully these guidelines will have given you some insight into how to develop effectively and market a book based on digital cultural heritage resources. For more information about the Europeana Food and Drink project and the London Local Pubs: Past and Present book on which these guidelines are based, visit and

Download these guidelines as pdf

By Lise Schauer, Historypin










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