06 February 2011

DIY Publishing

Print-on-demand with online publishing is ideally suited for genealogists and family historians who anticipate a relatively small print run, i.e. limited distribution among family members. Not to forget donating some copies to appropriately relevant genealogical societies. Undoubtedly some will still prefer to work with a local printer who can provide a similar and perhaps more personalized service. I haven’t tried it so I can’t speak to the advantages of that choice. 

A number of companies are providing online publishing for all manner of personal and “vanity” books, from wedding memories and travel journals to first novels or blog collections. You pay for the initial printing and receive the minimal amount of author’s print copies (or more). Thereafter, interested parties can order directly from the company for a reasonable price. We are talking print copies, not a download-able digital book.  

Some of the more familiar companies are Lulu, Blurb, and NoWaste (look ‘em up). They have discovered the genealogy market. The only reason I am even posting this blog is because I am hopelessly low-tech and wanted the easiest way to get my assembled histories into print with the least amount of aggravation, anxiety, and desperation. After all, it took a lot of discipline to say to self: Stop careening around in endless research and do something tangible with it NOW!

I repeat, hopelessly low-tech, and this is not to be construed as a comparison of various offerings or quality. This is merely my kindergarten experience for enlightening any friends who happen to be equally low-tech. 

So I chose UniBook. They offer a choice of finished sizes and the cost and pricing are reasonable. Most of all, the process was the easiest to follow. It’s a good idea to print out the instructions and read them about 34 times. Then you won’t make some of the mistakes I did. Like totally omitting the cover photograph for book number one (read the step by step instructions carefully). Weep. Maybe I can re-do it before the relatives twig.

Basically you prepare your manuscript as camera-ready copy in your choice of popular size. All text and headings should be done in a somewhat standard font (they tell you what works; read the instructions again) because some fancy ones will turn out awful-looking. The manuscript includes all the photographs you want to insert. Unlike me, you will probably not spend weeks agonizing over sizing, re-sizing, and placing them. You will know how to fix the blank gaps they sometimes cause on a page with copious footnotes (and I certainly hope you are footnoting or endnoting to make it all worthwhile). Consider thoughtfully how you want the first page to look, and where your page numbering will begin.

Then you PDF the whole works (luckily, I know how to do that). You can choose hard cover or from a variety of soft cover bindings. The fun part is designing your cover and creating a word-restricted summarized blurb and bio for the back cover, plus meta tags so someone out there somewhere, a perfect stranger, will stumble on your book on the Web and might even buy it.

I am very pleased with the appearance, the paper quality, the binding, and the photo reproduction. Can’t think of any drawbacks except not reading the instructions often enough—they are quite visual and straightforward. At this point, my two family histories represent a fair amount of satisfying work. The next will be even more satisfying because surely I won’t miss anything in the instructions (don’t call me Shirley). 
Family response is underwhelming but not unexpected. Then again, maybe I should think beyond Facebook as a way to tell the world. Being the PR person for your own book is a big responsibility, possibly another new learning curve. Wonder if anyone will notice the misplaced research blooper in the Dougall book. That reminds me, getting someone to review your manuscript is a seriously excellent move.

UniBook is not paying me in any way to flog their services. Apparently they are saner and more professional than that.


Janet Iles said...

Thanks for sharing this Brenda. Thanks for the tips about reading the instructions carefully.

I am glad to hear that it can handle footnotes or endnotes. My soldiers' project has endnotes at the end of each chapter. Some chapters have as many notes as there is information.

I will have to start investigating different options for publishing this book.

Ruth Blair said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with self publishing Brenda. It is something a lot of us will be looking at in the near future.

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Great to read your experiences Brenda. I usually don't use online services for my book publishing but recently jumped into Lulu and
published a family photo book.

I was impressed but decided I want to try others too. I'd never heard of the one you used til you wrote your blog post so guess what's going on my TO DO list now!

BDM said...

Thanks for your comments! Another little glitch I noticed .. I had put some fancy iconic symbols on my contents page (visual interest, you know :-) to mark chapters and sub-sections. They turned out strange looking. So I'm careful now to choose standard-looking "bullet" markers and use them sparingly.