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Silver Spring, MD
United States

888-577-9342

Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

Should You Use a Template to Publish Your Book?

Nancy Barnes

There are a lot of template based publishing sites on the net that offer one-stop shopping where you can lay out your book’s interior, create a cover, and print your book. Should you use one? We recently received this question:

I’m beginning to work on a new project for my mother. It’s primarily going to be a Cookbook, with many of her recipes from the past 70 years.  I also want to include Quotes and Tips from her, including copies of Calligraphy she has done. I see there are many templates which can be downloaded and even complete the book printing. However, I’m not sure that I want to go this route. Please give me your thoughts.

This was my response:

That sounds like a very nice project. I wish I had done the same with my mother.

I've never found a template program that can do what InDesign, the book design software I use, can do. Of them all, the best is blurb.com. Have you checked them out? They are the only one that I would use – but just as a printer, not for the templates - because they will accept a PDF, and they will print just one well-made hardcover book, a request I get occasionally.

There are two problems with template software, including Blurb's. One is that once you put your materials in, you can't get them back out. The resulting file isn't a PDF, it's their proprietary file type, and the only thing it can be opened with is that company's print service. You're stuck with them, and if you don't like the quality, you can't move it elsewhere. If they upgrade their software or printer, your old file may not work, or if their business goes under, all you'll have is your printed copies. For family history books, preservation for future generations is important. We always recommend you keep the book's PDF files so you can print more copies, and to pass the files down to the kids, so that they can print fresh copies years later, after any physical copies degrade. 

The second problem is the printing. These template programs are all provided by printing companies trying to sell incredibly overpriced books through an automated intake, and often the quality of the books is poor. They are often meant for photobooks, with limits on page count, number of images, etc. That may be OK for a small, disposable book project, but it doesn't work for longer, more complex books.

I think your decision boils down to a few things:

Do you want to own and preserve the book file itself, or will you be satisfied with just one print run (if your templated creation can't be opened later?)

Do you want to have control over the paper and binding?

Do you want a longer book? Many template services have page limits.

Do you want multiple copies? These printers charge so much more per book that a run of 25 copies, for instance, can cost thousands of dollars. That's for suckers.

If you want just a few copies, and don't care about the issues I've mentioned, then you could get away with a template, and the printing of just a few overpriced books won't break the bank. 

Then the question becomes, do you want to design the book? Book design, for a project like this, is an art. If you like to do art projects, then doing the Photoshopping and text styling and page layouts, etc., is an enjoyable project. But if you don't enjoy it, you won't want to spend the time on the learning curve, and you'll benefit from someone with more experience to do it. The advantage to not designing it yourself is that you can simply provide me with the raw materials, both in Word and scans of the images. You can tell me what you envision, and I'll do the rest to make it beautiful. That also allows us to choose a higher quality, lower cost printer, so you'll save significantly on the cost of the books, which would offset some of the cost of my help.

What's the Best Way to Design a Family History Book?

Biff Barnes

When you set out to self-publish a family history book you need a variety of skill sets. These skills include research and writing, but there is another there is another type of expertise that many family historians overlook – technological skill. Let's take a look at what it takes to create a beautiful heirloom quality book.
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Save Money as an Indie Self-Publisher

Biff Barnes

Who should publish your book? Every author faces the same choice. Increasingly the choice is between “assisted self-publishing” and becoming an “indie” who truly self-publishes. Before you sign up for an all-inclusive package with a heavily advertised giant like Author House, Xlibris, or Outskirts Press it’s important to understand that when you choose one of them you will pay an inflated price for every book they print for you. Let's see how it works.
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What Makes a Memoir Great?

Biff Barnes

Writing a memoir that connects with an audience is not about telling your story. “Unless you're Bill Clinton or Mick Jagger,” said novelist and memoirist Holly Robinson, in The Huffington Post, “nobody but your best friend cares about your life story (and she might be pretending).” Writing a great memoir depends on telling your story in a way that gives readers an insight into their own lives and the human condition. Great memoir relies on the tools of the story teller and is reflective rather than reportorial.
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Source Notes and References in Your Nonfiction Book

Biff Barnes

Nonfiction, whatever form it may take, is built on a foundation of facts. Whether they present an account of actual events, as in family history or biography, seek to prove the validity of an argument, or demonstrate the correctness of a method of doing something, as in a how-to book, an author’s words are judged by the quality of the facts on which they are based. A nonfiction reader is likely to ask, “What’s the evidence for this?” Generally that evidence is based on documents, research, or accounts written by others and used by the author. So it behooves the nonfiction author to include references to allow the reader to know and evaluate the quality of the sources from which that evidence is drawn. Let's look at how to do it.
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Using Styles to Add Headings and Subheadings in Your Nonfiction Book

Sarah Hoggatt

When you’re writing a non-fiction book, it’s a great idea to include headings and possibly subheadings in your manuscript. Headings and subheadings not only help keep you organized and stay focused in your writing, but it also break up the content into manageable chunks for the reader, provides a visual break on the page, and assists them in locating the content they want to read. These features can be easily added using the Styles feature of your word processing program.
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Building Your Author Platform on Goodreads

Sarah Hoggatt

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a social media website just for book lovers? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a place where people can recommend your book to their friends and you can post the books you’re reading in order to better connect with your readers? This describes a website called “Goodreads” and I highly recommend you join if you’re an author.
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Create an Author Business Card

Sarah Hoggatt

Have you ever been talking with someone about your writing and have to scribble your website on a piece of paper so they can look you up later? Or do you ever get home with a scribbled e-mail address from someone but don’t remember why you have it and what you’re supposed to do? I’ve been in both situations and it’s embarrassing. One of the best things we can do for ourselves as authors is to create business cards to hand out the next time someone asks us what we do.
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Printing Your Self-Published Book in Landscape

Sarah Hoggatt

Are you thinking about publishing a family history, photography or children’s book on CreateSpace or Lightning Source? Have you thought about what size the book will be? Before you start working on illustrations or editing your photographs, it’s important to decide what size of book you’ll be printing and where you’re going to print it so the illustrations fit well on the page. You don’t want to have all the art finished and then find parts of the illustration are going to be cut off or you have to leave empty space at the top or bottom of the page to fit it all in.
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Deadlines for Self-Published Books

Sarah Hoggatt

One of the easiest and the hardest aspects of self-publishing is having no one to report to. You are the organizer, the lead, the boss. When you publish your own books, you are the one who calls the shots. This can be a wonderful gift as well as be frustratingly difficult, especially when it comes to deadlines.
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How to Hold A Launch Partry for Your Book

Sarah Hoggatt

Your book is coming out after months and years of work and you’re ready to celebrate! It’s been a long journey but the book is finished and you’re ready to release it out into the world! As a self-published author, a book launch party is definitely in order. It’s a chance to showcase what you’ve been up to, to thank those who’ve helped you along the way, and to share your work with a wider audience. As fancy or informal as you make it, a book launch party can be tailored to you and the theme of your book—a fitting event to celebrate your accomplishment and share it with your readers and friends. Whether you are planning a black-tie affair or a relaxed gathering at a coffee shop, here are some specific things to keep in mind as you plan your important event.
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Family History and the Art of Storytelling

Biff Barnes

If you’re like most of us you have had children come to you and say, “Tell me a story.” That’s a lot like the position you’re in when you set out to write a family history. You need to tell your family’s story. That’s much different than simply recounting the information you’ve gathered about ancestors during years of careful research. You are the lens through which your reader will view your family. You need to reflect, evaluate, and make judgments about what you have discovered. What is important? What is not so important? What lessons are to be learned from the experiences of your ancestors? What might those experiences tell family members who are currently alive or in future generations about their own identities? Yours is the voice of the storyteller which draws meaning out of the experiences of those who have gone before.
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A Bookstore For Independent and Self-Published Authors Only

Biff Barnes

Frustrated by the lack of opportunity to display and sell her children’s books, Patti Brassard Jefferson, an award-winning independent author and illustrator, decided to change the rules of the game. This summer she opened P.J. Boox, described by Publishers Weekly as the “first bookstore dedicated to self-published authors.” P.J. Boox only sells books published by independent and self-published authors.
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How to Create an Author Newsletter

Sarah Hoggatt

Author newsletters are a great way to reach out to your readers on a regular basis and interact with them in various ways. Unlike social media, newsletters can be sent over e-mail and by adding a newsletter to your platform, you will not be dependent on another website for your contact list. If you really want to keep people familiar with what’s going on with your books, a newsletter is for you. Here's what you need to know about creating one.
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A Lesson for Memoir Writers from Elvis Costello

Biff Barnes

I don’t pay much attention to celebrity memoirs. They are usually ghost-written and convey little insight into their subject. But when Elvis Costello, a singer/songwriter I have enjoyed for years appeared at Washington D.C.'s Sixth & I to discuss his memoir Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, I went to hear what he had to say. Costello is somewhat unique among celebrities. He actually wrote his own memoir. I hoped he would talk about his writing process. I wasn’t disappointed.
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Planning to Self-Publish? When Is Your Book Done?

Sarah Hoggatt

Most people who read books have no idea of the lengthy discussions held about the tiniest little details. Do you capitalize the L for emphasis or will the reader think it’s a typo? That comma—is it in or out? Is it two sentences or one? Each of these questions can take several minutes to a good half hour to discuss, I kid you not. By the time the final edits are done, you are ready to scream and pull your hair out but you don’t because you care so deeply about your manuscript, instead, you take a deep breath, sit down with a bowl of ice cream (because by this point you need it), and take one more look before sending it to the printer. With all these tiny and seemingly miniscule edits one after another, how do you know when your book is done and ready to send? When do you leave well-enough alone and click the “submit” button?
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