You've done the research, collected photos and documents, and written your family history manuscript. Now you want to share it with others but are wondering if publishing a genealogy book is hard to do.
Publishing a genealogy book is relatively easy. First choose the type of book to publish: traditional, self-published, digital, or homespun. Second, decide what level of support you need. Third, carefully pick your partners.
Choose the type of book to publish
There are many options for anyone wanting to publish a genealogy or family history book. Here are the main ones:
- Traditional publishing
- Self publishing
- Digital publishing
- Homespun publishing
Traditional publishing is where an author writes a manuscript and then submits it to commercial publishers in the hopes that a publisher will offer the author a contract. The publisher will then print, publish, and sell the book through booksellers and other retailers. In this model, the author sells the rights to publish their book in return for royalties from sales.
Traditional publishing isn't the best option for most people with a genealogy book since they only want to share their work with family and friends and could not generate the large sales volumes needed to entice a traditional publisher.
There are family history books that have been commercial successes. For instance, Ian Frazier's "Family" and Hellen Stapinski's "Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History" both were traditionally published and enjoy strong sales. So, if you've got a great family story that you think the world will want to hear, consider traditional publishing. If not, keep reading!
Self-publishing is a great option for anyone with a genealogy book they want to share. It's easy, doesn't require minimum print runs, produces professional-grade books, and can be cost effective if done right.
To self-publish a book, the author acts as the publisher overseeing the design, layout, and printing of their book. They also take on any marketing and promotion activities, selling their book directly, rather than having a traditional publisher handle those responsibilities.
Self-publishing is ideal for genealogy books because typically these are not published for profit, eliminating the need to market and sell. Simply find a good book printer (like Book1One!) and then hand out your book to family and friends.
The other benefit of self publishing is you can produce a professional-grade book that can become a family keepsake. Physical books are hard to beat when you want the project to be special.
Digital publishing is a nice option, especially if you have some experience working with digital files or maintaining a blog.
With digital publishing you have two main directions for your project. One is to develop an ebook. This can take the form of an informal PDF or a sophisticated Kindle book. The other is to publish your research and manuscript to a dedicated website.
Creating an ebook can be pretty straightforward. You can produce the book using a word processor like MS Word or Apple Pages and then export as a PDF. You can also get a little more sophisticated by using software designed for publishing, like Adobe InDesign or Canva.
If you want to offer your digital book on Amazon, you can publish it using the Kindle platform. There are plenty of tutorials available to help you though the process. Here's a good YouTube video to get you started.
Setting up a dedicated website for your family genealogy project can also be easy, assuming you have some familiarity with blogging. You'll need to secure a domain (e.g. petersonfamilyhistory.com) and set up your software. There are a number of good options out there, including WordPress and Blot.
A few things to consider as you explore the digital route.
First, we're using "easy" as a relative term here. Digital technology makes many things easy, but it assumes you have a level of proficiency with tools like editing and layout software, and languages like Markdown and HTML. If you don't, the digital route may not be best for you.
Second, although digital publishing is easy for folks with the above proficiencies, it does not offer the longevity that a physical book offers. Who will maintain the website over time? Will your PDF files get lost when your family processes your estate? And, will anyone remember that they have the family history if the file is sitting in a folder on an old laptop? Digital is a great way to go if you want to get wide dissemination, but it does not lend itself to long-term sustainability.
Homespun publishing is probably the simplest option, but is only feasible if you want to create a few informal "books".
Essentially, you can create a homespun book by printing out copies of all your assets (manuscript, photos, graphics, and documents), and compiling them into a binder.
This can be as simple as buying a few binders, a ream of paper, and a three-hole punch, assuming you have a color printer and a good supply of toner or ink.
Of course, you can take your files to a local copy shop and have them do the whole project. They'll print everything and bind your book using a classic three-ring binder or a spiral or comb binding if you like. Keep in mind that this approach is easy, but not very cost effective when compared to some of the options above.
Decide what level of support you need
Once you've chosen the type of book you want to publish, decide what level of support you'll need. You can go completely DIY, doing everything from layout to file prep yourself. Or, you can have the book done for you by using a genealogy book service like Pictures and Stories.
First, decide what you want your finished product to be. Do you want a beautiful keepsake to give to family and friends? Or, are you happy with a less-professional outcome? Next, decide what kind of budget you have to work with. Last, decide how much time you have to put into the project.
Once you have decided on a finished product, budget, and time commitment, you should be able to get an idea of how much support you need and can afford. You can get a great result by intelligently leveraging a little freelance help and partnering with a reputable book printer. But, you may just love the feeling of doing it all yourself and that's fine.
The key is to figure out where you'll likely need help and how much time and money you want to spend.
Carefully pick your partners
It's time to pick your partners. Typical partners would include a freelance editor, freelance designer, and a book printer.
An editor can add a lot to a book. Not only do they catch errors like bad punctuation or typos, they help provide better structure, flow, and development. This will make your book much more readable and enjoyable for your family members.
A freelance designer can assist with cover design and the layout of your genealogy book. They also know how to prepare files when it comes time to send your book to the printer.
A book printer is the final piece of the puzzle. They are the make-or-break partner because they are going to turn all your hard work into a physical book. Make sure to find a printer that has experience with the kind of book you're producing and that they don't have any minimum print runs or hidden fees or charges. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to them. Get a feel for their culture, process, and team. And, there's no harm in asking for samples!
Publishing a genealogy book can be easy if you follow these steps: Choose between traditionally published, self-published, digital, or a homespun book. Decide what level of support you need. Carefully pick your partners.
We at Book1One are genealogy book-printing specialists and we'd love to help you. Check out our free estimating tool if you want to get an idea of how much it will cost to print your book. Also, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get tips and tricks to help you get the best results possible.