Your family history is unique. So why would you want a cookie-cutter template? At the RootsTech Family History and Technology Conference, a number of people came to our Stories To Tell exhibit and asked, “Do you have software or a template to create books?” We didn’t, and we don’t ever intend to make a book according to a template. A template-based book, compared to a custom book, is like a child’s paint-by-numbers kit compared to a real, original work of art.
We don’t offer templates, but a lot of people do. For example,ancestry.com’s My Canvas promises, “Family History Books auto fill with your family group sheets, pedigree charts, and timelines using Ancestry.com records.” Others offer lists of questions to answer which would generate some book text, and there are publishing packages to create family histories. These packages suggest that if you just point and click, you have a book.
Ease of use is often a good thing, but what if something important is lost? The function of a template is to mass produce items in the same shape and pattern. Your family may be special or unusual people, but your book won’t be.
Publishing packages are often priced attractively, at first glance. Consider what you get, for what you pay: there are a limited number of sizes, limits on photos or other illustrations allowed, limits on the number of pages, and simplistic cover designs. The quality of these books, both in the template’s DIY design and in the printed paper, binding, and cover stock, is often painfully poor.
There’s something else they aren’t telling you. Why give you free templates? Because you’ll have to print the books through their service, and you will pay an inflated price for each printed book. Worse, your book is locked into their software, and you can’t retrieve it to print the book elsewhere. They own the rights. Check the fine print – will you be allowed to download your completed book after you’ve designed it in their template?
We help people to find an independent printer, because authors should own their book files, and retain their complete rights. As an author, you should be able to tell your ancestors’ stories any way you want, without shaping them to fit someone else’s template. Want a beautiful book with lots of images? You can have it. Want to own your book so you can shop around for a deal on printing? Insist on that.