The WD Archives—and my new pet project

Hi Writers,
Last week, we hosted an AP reporter who flew in from New York to spend two days combing through the Writer’s Digest archives. He’s writing a feature on the history of the publishing industry and found plenty of fodder for his piece here—in fact 88 years of writing and publishing advice.

Last year WD Books published a book featuring some great pieces from our archives, you can read an article about that here.

As you can imagine, there’s amazing stuff in our archives—interviews and first-hand essays and advice pieces written by just about any literary luminary you can think of from the past century.

And as we were shuffling those crumbling, leather-bound magazines around—we’re talking actual bound copies of the original magazines going back to 1920—I realized that wow, we really need to get our archives digitized. And soon, before all that history crumbles away with the low-grade paper it was printed on.

I’ve known this for awhile, of course. But as often happens, preserving the past takes a backseat to the pressing needs of the present. Like hitting deadlines for the next issue, and building a better website and blogging and hitting circ numbers to keep our publisher happy, etc., etc. etc…

So, I’ve got this awesome task ahead of me. It’s something I’ve charged myself with, and something that I know in my gut I have to do.

But the sheer size of this project is overwhelming—we’re talking months and months of scanning hundreds of thousands of pages of historical content. It’s a big, big job. And I’m now in the process of convincing my bosses that not only does this need to be done, but that people might actually pay for CDs of our archives.

You could really help me build my case to get this done by saying sure, I’d buy that. So if you’re into this pet project of mine, please leave me a comment here. I’m assembling reader feedback for my proposal now, and I’d sure appreciate hearing from you all.

Keep Writing,

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24 thoughts on “The WD Archives—and my new pet project

  1. : Donna

    I know I’m late on this, but I agree — the past definitely needs to be preserved!!!! What you’re talking about is irreplaceable! I also purchased "Legends of Literature" (also from the WD archives) by Philip Sexton. It’s great stuff! Insist on it, Maria! I really loved the idea of being able to download issues or articles for a fee!
    : Donna

  2. Ryk Stanton

    Because you have 80 years of archives, you might be able to sell DVD-ROMs by the decade and also offer the entire run for one price. $19.99 per decade, or all 8 decades for $99.99. I’d certainly pay that!

  3. Susan Donavon

    I hope the enormous undertaking does not stop, not hinder you. Your newsletters have always come as a great source of insight and inspiration, for a newcomer such as myself. I hope that you would see the countless newcomers, that would benefit, beyond measure from your perseverance.

    Warmly Susan

    Never Stop.

  4. Marie Tofipt

    Your goal is a must. Thirty four years ago, in my city, the local newspaper published my first short story. Last year, I searched to get a copy of this early work but it was not found in the files. With the articles created for an easy search and printing available to the public the bouncing is for a profitable projection.

  5. Scott B.

    Preserving past documents is so important; so much so that often, when documents get withered away or lost, the first thoughts that come to mind are: "Why didn’t I think about saving that?" Once gone, truly, they’re gone forever.

    I’d certainly like to see the CD if and when it gets done.

  6. Marjorie Kildare

    To preserve history is vital to our future. And since I recently donated all my WD to the women’s shelter – so more women share in the numerous benefits of writing – I’d consider owning WD’s digitally-preserved history.

  7. Kevin J Mackey

    Yes. Make it searchable (indexed by topic, theme, author, market segment or just plain words!) across issues and I will buy it sight unseen.

    Best of luck with the project,

    – KjM

  8. Steve B. Davis

    Maria this is a fantastic idea and many organizations, clubs and societies are doing it. It would be a major benefit to Writers Digest, writers and editors everywhere, and the general public.

    I think that once they do it they will wonder why it wasn’t done earlier.


  9. Donald Fairchild

    Making an archive of WD is very interesting to me and I would be interested in having access to it via either CD or online. Great for research and education. Not mention just regular old browsing around. I enjoy browsing old newspapers that are online just to do some research.

    Have you considered involving a third party to get this accomplished by a group like ? This group digitizes any public domain material, so this might not be right for you. But in any case there are many others who do digitization, and development of online databases as well.

  10. Kirby

    To help the next generation of writers, I really think it would be a good idea to digitize the WD archives. There are so many great interviews with authors from years ago that could be easily available. While I enjoy the magazine, my husband is not happy about the stacks I have sitting around the house. Plus, I don’t recall what article was in which magazine. Please, if it’s possible, a digital archive would be appreciated by writers like me…and my husband.

  11. Christina Katz

    Count me in! And what would be so great, is if YOU could do a Power Point presentation from the CD at the Writer’s Digest/BEA Conference and then have the CD on sale at the books table afterwards. It would be like a trip down publishing history lane! Love the idea.

  12. Perry P. Perkins

    I would be first in line to buy these CD’s and I think this wold be a very successful marketing venture for WD, to have all that work out there again, pointing writers back to the magazine.

    This would also make fantastic blog and newsletter content, all pre-edited and pre-approved!

    GREAT idea!


  13. Andreas

    I would buy digitized copies of your archives. The New Yorker did a similar thing, and I believe it is going very well for them. (And yes, I bought the New Yorker archives on a USB Hard Drive).

    If you are going to do this, though. Please try and make the articles searchable and printable once they are digitized!

  14. Reese Szymanski

    I think it definitely needs to be done and I’d likely buy it — heck, I just bought the audio files from MWA’s last conference, so I’m a sucker for these things.

  15. John Pupo

    Maria you hit the nail exactly on the head. If you don’t do it, you will lose all the old archives. Then if they want part of the history they will have to hunt down someone who may have an old copy from (like a collector of old magazines) which is going to be almost impossible… If you don’t save it, you won’t have the roots of your magazine and where you started from. Not only is it important as a business venture, but it’s important for any company to keep track of where it’s been and what it’s done. Think of the endless possibilities… They could spurn a whole series of articles In the past… In the present… (Many magazines that have been around that long do this sorth of thing every month…) As Maria said you could put them on cd’s and sell them… Once digitized you could even do print on request back issues for certian prices (issues all the way to the magazines beginning….) I would be shocked if you didn’t want to keep a part of your past *and* be able to make something off of it…


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