Music provides the sound track for our lives. Nancy often says, “There’s a song for everything,” and quotes a lyric. It’s no wonder that writers seeking to create a mood or capture a moment in time should be tempted to do the same thing. But when you are tempted to quote a song lyric in your book, think twice.
The first step in the process of actually creating the family history book you keep saying you will write someday is to transform it from a dream to a specific goal on your to do list. Genealogical research is infinite. There’s always more to do. As long as you’re focused on research your book remains a dream. A book is finite. It requires specific actions to make it a reality. The first step is to set a target date for completion. “I’ll have my book written by _____.” Once you have established a target date, you can plan backward from that date to set sub-goals which will lead you to completion of the book.
To construct a narrative family history one must gather the family lore and stories to supplement the facts drawn from vital records. Unfortunately, as most family historians know too well the people we would like to ask about those stories are often no longer with us. When that’s the case, you need to reconstruct your family’s narrative from the limited records available. Letters and diaries can be a rich source of family stories. Even a single letter can be a wonderful tool in understanding an ancestors time and place. Letters and diaries are part of the cultural conversation of the times in which they were written. The topics they address are those which were important not only to their authors, but to their contemporaries. These personal writings can help us to understand both our ancestors’ connection to their times and their the unique way they experienced those times.
“I just don’t have a lot of family stories,” say far too many genealogists who want to write a family history. I understand. Everyone always wishes they had taken the time to gather family stories when they had a chance. There are plenty of questions you wish you’d asked Grandfather Harry or Great Aunt Sue, who was the family busybody and knew everybody’s story. But the opportunity to sit down with them with a notebook and pen or even better a tape recorder has come and gone. But that doesn’t your family history is doomed to be a dutiful recounting of facts recalled from your genealogical research and pages of pedigree charts. You can make your book lively and interesting. All it takes is a little perspective.
Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) are a routine part of a traditional publisher’s process for launching a book. The should be something you use in getting your self-published book off to a good start as well. The idea of an ARC is to get a copy of your book into the hands of opinion makers – reviewers, media contacts, influencers – prior to the launch of your book. These readers can help create a buzz about your book as it is becoming available.
Most family historians have probably never heard of Leopold Von Ranke, but he’s largely responsible for many of the methods they use in studying their family’s history. Von Ranke, a great German historian of the 19th Century is generally regarded as the founder of the empirical school of source based history. He believed that we should use primary sources to learn "how things actually were." Family historians have happily embraced the search for documentary evidence about their ancestors. Unfortunately there’s another element of the historical method Von Ranke suggested which is much less rigorously applied by genealogists and family historians. That involves the purpose of research. He said, "To history has been assigned the office of judging the past, of instructing the present for the benefit of future ages.” The task of instructing can only be accomplished when the historian constructs a historical narrative from the information she has gathered through her research. In short, you have to tell the story of your ancestors if anyone is to learn from your research. How do you plan to do that?
Today we are offering a collection of tips, ideas and tools to help create a buzz about your book and keep up with new developments in the business of writing and publishing. Follow the links to the latest business news for writers from top sources around the web.
Should writers follow the rules? The website Galley Cat which covers the book publishing industry recently posed the question when it offered a link to a writer’s cheat sheet. The Writing Tips, developed by novelist, gamer and technologist Mike Shea, include • Strunk and White’s Principles of Composition from The Elements of Style • Yale professor Edward Tufte’s Rules for Presentations • George Orwell’s Questions • Science fiction master Robert Heinlein’s Rules • Lists of Evil Passive Verbs and Evil Metaphors and Phrases They are all condensed onto a single page which a writer can keep on his desk as a quick reference. Should you?
What’s the best reason to write a family history book? At the beginning of October I posed this question as we began Family History Month. Today. I’d like to share a great answer with you. Mike Casey is writing a biography of his great-grandfather Henry Bothin, who came to San Francisco from Portage, Wisconsin in 1871 with the shirt on his back, a formal education ending at fifth grade, and a strong work ethic which he employed to become the owner of both one of the leading steel companies on the West Coast, the largest property owner in the city at the time of the 1906 earthquake and fire and the founder of one of the first private charitable foundations in California. In the preface to his soon to be completed biography, Mike Casey explained why had written the book.
Last weekend at the Wordstock Book Festival in Portland, Oregon I had an opportunity to talk with Beth Anderson, Executive Vice President and Publisher at Audible.com. We discussed how an author can get a book or ebook produced as an audiobook. This spring Audible, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, launched a new process for creating audiobooks called The Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) Audible describes ACX as “a dynamic online marketplace, production platform, and sales system. ACX directly connects professional authors and other book rights holders with actors, studios, and audio publishers to…provide an easy way to turn professionally published books -new or old – into professionally produced audio books.” Here's a short YouTube video to describe the process.
I love book festivals. Wordstock, last weekend in Portland, Oregon, was wonderful. How could it miss with some of the nation’s finest authors, people in the book business swapping insider knowledge about what’s new, and an audience of people who want to talk about books. One of the highlights was PEN/Faulkner Award winning novelist T.C. Boyle’s appearance. I have enjoyed reading Boyle’s work for years. A polished speaker and fine performer, Boyle read his short story Top of the Food Chain, an ironic, but chilling account of a senate committee investigation of a Third World environmental disaster. After the reading he told the audience that he had just finished his next novel days before beginning his current tour with his new book T.C. Boyle Stories II. The new book should be out next year, he said. Then he paused and corrected himself to say we could expect it in early 2015. Early 2015! Twelve to fifteen months. It was a sharp reminder that it takes a long time to publish a book.
You may have been offered a contract by a traditional publisher. Or you may be considering a self-publishing company. Maybe you plan to be a true self publisher taking complete personal control of your books publication. Before you go any further, ask yourself a simple question: What’s in it for me? Wise authors have become comparison shoppers. Weighing all of the factors in each route to market, which is the best deal for you? Set up a spreadsheet in which you can make a side-by side comparison of your options. Here are some things you’ll want to include in your comparison.
October is Family History Month. We want to invite you to help us celebrate by participating in a poll. It short and sweet: What’s the best reason to write a family history book? Leave you answer in the comments (or if you would rather Tweet them using the hashtag #STTBooks). We’ll compile the results and post them at the end of the month. We hope you’ll enjoy telling us what you think. Encourage your friends to share their thoughts. We are looking forward to hearing from you.
If you do research for a book – and almost all of us do whether it’s for fiction or non-fiction – what can you legally take from your sources and what might get you into trouble? The obvious answer is what they told you in elementary school, “Don’t copy.” So high profile writers have been embroiled in some ugly public flaps over this simple idea. Alex Haley, author of the blockbuster Roots settled a copyright infringement suit with fellow novelist Harold Courtlander for $650,000. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin settled with writers of three books following accusations of plagiarism by the Weekly Standard. But assuming you are trying to play by the rules, what are those rules? The answer is based on the legal concept of Fair Use.
I love book festivals. We exhibit at some of the biggest and best in the country including the Tucson Festival of Books, The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and the Miami Book Fair International. Nancy and I are looking forward to Wordstock in Portland, Oregon next weekend. If you love books, you can’t beat the conversations at a book festival. Each time we go we meet some wonderful people, talk about interesting and exciting books, explore the craft of writing, and learn more about what is happening in the business of books. You can get a great education at a book festival just by walking around, talking to people, visiting fellow exhibitors, and dropping in on some of the speaker sessions. We come home enriched by the experience. Each time I go to a festival I set a goal. This my goal time is to learn more about tools that will help self-publishing authors in their roles as entrepreneurs.