There are two steps to building a family history book: the writing step and the layout step. The layout step is where you combine your text with the photos, charts and graphics. Today’s technology has made self-publishing affordable and easy. Your publishing needs will depending largely on the type of project. An reunion or anniversary commemorative book will have very different requirements than a novel based on an ancestor. This page introduces the various types of publishing services with additional pages discussing the services and resources available for each type.
Print on Demand
This can range from photo-sharing platforms offering prints, photo books and gifts to services that print digitized art (original artwork or photographed copies) on canvas or fine art papers. These services can be used to share copies of family heirlooms, provide souvenirs for reunions or create a fun, history-inspired gift. Sources for print on demand services include:
- Cafe Press provides print-on-demand service for posters, tee shirts, stickers and much more. You provide the photos or graphic design and Cafe Press will print it on anything. It’s a great place to create custom memorabilia for reunions and other special family events. There aren’t any upfront layout fees here. You upload your graphics and choose the product you want it printed on. You can also set up your own storefront at Cafe Press if you wish.
- Imagekind is a print-on-demand service for art work and photographs. They provide high-quality printing on a number of art papers as well as canvas.
- Shutterfly and Snapfish are photo-sharing sites which offer print-on-demand photo books, calendars and prints.
Publish on Demand
Services in this category offer affordable print and binding services and many provide a storefront where you can offer your publication for sale. There are no minimum orders – you can just publish one copy if that’s all you want. Although many provide fee-based services for editing, layout and marketing, if you’re willing to do the work yourself, your up-front costs are minimal. Some will even provide both print and ebook versions of your publication.
- Lulu offers a broad range of services supporting the author/publisher. You can take advantage of free tools such as word-processing templates and user forums to write and lay out your book. There are no up-front costs to publish your own book and no purchase minimums. If you only want one copy, that’s all you need to purchase. Lulu offers a broad range of book sizes, binding options and cover styles and they can convert your manuscript into e-Pub format if you wish. In addition, there are a number of paid services ranging from editing to distribution to marketing that you can use.
- Blurb supports both photo books and text-heavy books which can be set up using their online editing platform or by downloading their free BookWright app on your desktop. In addition, you can build an e-book to be read on an iPad. You will find a Blurb offers plenty of support on how to use their tools to create an impressive book. There are no up-front costs and Blurb provides a bookstore where your publications can be sold.
- My Canvas is a good choice for beginners with minimal word-processing experience. It provides formatted pages where you drop photos, text and charts to create your family history. They offer a number of beautiful binding options and you only purchase the number of books you want.
- BlogBooker and blog2print make it easy to create a book from the posts in your blog. Not only will it capture your words, images and links, it can even include comments. BlogBooker supports blogs created on WordPress, Blogger, Medium, TypePad, Tumblr and LiveJournal. Blog2print supports WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr and TypePad.
- Family Heritage Publishers has been in operation since 1952 and are focused on family history. Like other publishers, you submit a PDF file containing the text, graphics and photos arranged as you want them in the finished book. Prices are based on number of pages, type of binding and any extras you want to include.
- Family History Publishers are focused on producing high quality family histories. They are committed to quality and have a knowledgeable staff to help you create a family history your family will love.
- Genealogy House describes themselves as a boutique publisher of family history and genealogy. They will help you with every step of your family history project. From writing and editing to page design and layout, they will insure your book presents your family in the best light possible.
Online Publishing Platforms
Here you can upload your manuscript and make it available from your personal library. You can sell your publication there and/or have them convert it to ebook formats and make it available at the online booksellers.
- Scribd provides an online platform to share your publications – large and small. There’s no cost to post documents there. Publications can be uploaded in almost any size or shape and Scribd includes both social features – making it easy to connect with others – and the ability to embed your documents – YouTube style – in blog posts and other online platforms.
Become a Publisher Yourself
The major booksellers offer some great resources to help writers get published. You can “go it alone” and create your own author accounts with them. You will have to do most of the work yourself, but your costs are less and you control your publications. You become a publisher as well as an author.
- Create Space – print and digital. A subsidiary of Amazon, they are focused on publishing books for sale at Amazon although they will distribute to other booksellers and services too. There are no up-front costs or required minimums however they do offer a broad range of fee-based services for editing, layout, cover design and marketing at very reasonable prices.
- Kindle Direct Publishing – digital only. The simplest way to get your book converted to Kindle format and set up for sale in the Kindle bookstore.
- iTunes Connect – digital only. Apple’s publishing service to make your book available in Apple’s iBooks store.
- Smashwords – digital only. Upload your manuscript to Smashwords and it will be converted into just about every ebook format known to man. You book will be available at the Smashwords store and distributed to a broad range of booksellers. They also do all the bookkeeping for you – collecting revenue from each seller and sending it to you – minus their commission. They take 15% of your net sales. That’s after each bookseller takes their piece of the pie. Still, Smashwords is doing all the distribution and bookkeeping for you – and this deal is much better than what traditional publishing houses offer.
Package publishers provide various levels of editing, formatting and marketing support, but at a cost.