Writing a book about your family or your genealogical research can be a major challenge, but it is just the first step in getting your publication out to your family and other interested people. The advent of print on demand and of electronic publishing, also known as eBook publishing, adds options for publishing and distribution of family histories and genealogies. It is important to understand the overall process of traditional publishing to understand the differences with the newer technology. It is also important to note that very few traditional publishers will even consider paying to publish a genealogical publication unless it has broad appeal. Usually, a pedigree or history of a family does not fall into that category and you will have to pay a price per copy to have a book published.
In outline form, traditional book publication involved the following processes:
Writing > Editing > Table of Contents and Indexing > Inserting Illustrations > Formatting for Print (book layout, fonts) > Proof Reading > Typesetting > Application for ISBN/Copyright > Proof Print > Printing Pages > Binding > Distribution and/or Sales
Depending on the method of publication, the publisher may have had control of the project at the conclusion of the writing. Even before computers became pervasive, writers began assuming more steps in the publication process. This was done either to increase profits to the writer or simply because the writer wanted a greater input into the final product. The ISBN or International Standard Book Number is represented by the bar code that appears on almost all published books. Very small run or one copy publishing when there is no intention of selling the book obviates the need for an ISBN.
Whether or not your book is sold commercially, there is an issue with copyright. It is not necessary to have a copyright notice on your book or publication in order to be protected by copyright but it is always a very good idea. If there is a problem with copyright infringement in the United States, your work must be registered before you can file a copyright action in the Federal Court. See Basics of Copyright.
Presently, all of the above steps can be done by the writer or, in most cases, any individual step, including the writing of the book, can be contracted out to a specific supplier. But two major changes make publishing your book much easier than it was previously. The first of these is print-on-demand.
Traditional printers were set up to make hundreds or thousands of copies of a book or document. Making a single copy was neither practical nor cost effective. Today, there are book publishing machines that will publish one book or a hundred. The cost of the first book is very reasonable. The major drawback for those wanting legacy materials is that the binding is limited to softcover perfect (glued) binding. Here are a number of online services that will print one or more books for a reasonable price:
The real question that needs asking is whether or not you want to do all of the steps for publication yourself, including editing and proof reading. If you are determined to have a hardbound book, you may also discover that binding can add considerably to the cost of each book. There are several genealogical publishing companies that will produce a hardbound book from a file or printed copy, depending on their requirements. Here are some suggested sources:
- Stories To Tell
- Creative Contiuum
- Higginson Book Company
- Family Heritage Publishers
- Family History Publishers, Inc.
You can find further sources by searching for “genealogy books publishing.” One advantage of having an on-demand publisher is that you do not have raise money from relatives to buy the books. You can have the book available and only order the number of books printed that are purchased by relatives.
With the popularity of eBook readers such as the Kindle and the Apple iPad, publishing a book electronically is more than a fad. If you look at the New York Times Best Sellers List, you may be surprised to find that many of the best selling books are now available only in eBook format. One advantage of publishing a book in eBook format is that it can be updated at any time and distributed in a variety of formats. EBook publishing is exactly like traditional publishing except for the final printing and binding. There is still a need for good writing skills and the book files have to be adapted for a variety of electronic book readers.
Some of the publishers listed above will publish the book, not only in paper editions, but also prepare and publish an eBook version or versions. For example, Lulu.com will provide both paper and eBook print services. Bear in mind that eBook publishing can be done entirely locally on your own computer. You could write and illustrate your book and then print the file to a PDF file and send the file to your family members. Many eReaders, such as the iPad, have software to read a PDF file online. If you feel that your eBook is commercially viable, you may wish to use Amazon.com’s Kindle Publishing or a similar service for distributing your publication. To publish a book to Kindle Publishing, you can format the book in Microsoft Word or a similar word processing program.
Whether you publish your book on paper or electronically, you will find that it takes considerable time and effort. Electronic publishing may cut out some of the steps necessary for a paper publication, but the quality and readability of the book has to be adapted for online or eBook reading.
This article was written by James Tanner
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