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    « Arizona Family History Expo: Let's Talk About Your Book! | Main | Turn Your Genealogy into a Family History Book »

    How to Write & Publish a Family History Book

    You’ve been thinking about creating a memoir or family history book. But you may feel a like you’d be setting off on a bit of an uncharted course. Creating a book may seem like an overwhelming task. Understanding the six steps every book goes through on its way to print will give you a roadmap which will make successfully seeing your book through to publication much less daunting.


    What belongs in the book? If you are a genealogist, take inventory of the information you’ve gathered through your research. Generate as many stories as you can. Sort through your memories. Consult diaries or family documents. Your photographs may trigger stories. Interview relatives or friends who recall people or events you want to include. They may add interesting details to stories you know or even tell you stories you’ve never heard.

    STEP 2: PLAN

    Plan the order of your stories. Part of organizing is to decide what kind of book you want:

    • A memoir which recalls the elements of your life that you find most interesting or important. You can pick and choose only the stories you want to tell.
    • A family history is focused on the preservation and transmission of the family identity.
    • A tribute book is written to express appreciation of a person’s positive influence on your life or to focus on their accomplishments.
    • An ethical will is designed to provide a statement of your accumulated values, beliefs and life lessons and those of your family.

    Then decide whether your stories can best be told chronologically, topically, by focusing on biographical sketches, or a combination of approaches. Do you want to build around  topics like turning points, greatest accomplishments, or stages of life?


    Get your stories down on paper. Some people have found that recording their stories and having them transcribed is easier and captures their own unique storytelling voice better than writing. Others prefer to write their manuscript. You can get a rough draft down on paper using either method.

    STEP 4: EDIT

    Review your rough draft by looking at the big picture. Are there changes that will improve the book? You may find that you need to:

    • Add more details to clarify or enhance a story.
    • Cut material that is repetitious or doesn’t seem to fit.
    • Move stories to create an order which flows better.
    • Revise the way you told the story to clarify or heighten interest.
    • Correct factual errors.

    Don’t undertake this alone. Enlist trusted friends and a professional editor to help you revise.


    Design involves every aspect of how your book will look including colors, cover photo, type font, page layout and photo placement. Again this is a step most authors entrust to a professional book designer.


    Choose a printer that fits your goals for the book. For example, do you seek limited distribution of an heirloom book to family and friends? Or do you want to sell the book and want a printing house that can help with distribution marketing?

    Set a date for when you want to see your book in print. Then work backwards from that date to determine when each of the steps must be completed. Deadlines can always be adjusted, but they also help make sure you are on track in moving toward your goal.

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    Reader Comments (2)

    This is a really great post. Thanks for this tips here, it's definitely right on the spot. Your site is incredible by the way.

    Jan 23, 2013 at 2:10AM | Unregistered CommenterTerry Wellington

    Thanks, Terry!

    Jan 24, 2013 at 9:11AM | Registered CommenterNan Barnes

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