There’s excitement in the air this week in Las Vegas. No, not the sound of jackpots on the slots and cheers from the craps tables. The National Genealogical Society’s annual conference opened today. Over a thousand family history enthusiasts are diligently seeking just one more ancestor.
It seems like a large share of them also want to create a family history book. They have kept us busy this morning with a barrage of questions. Most of the conversations seem to begin, “I want to publish a family history. Can I …?”
I think the reason people begin this way is that they have never been through the process of bring a book to life before. It seems overwhelming to them. I can understand that. We try to demystify the process and help these would be authors get from where they are to the beautiful heirloom book they dream of. Here’s how:
First, you need to understand the process of getting a book into print. We call it The Author’s Journey.
Whether a book is self-published or published by a traditional publishing house, the six steps are the same. Each of the steps is a creative process. The difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing is that traditional publishers buy the manuscript in order to sell it, so they take over after step three, and they have the right to shape the book as they wish. The author creates a draft and then the publisher edits, lays out the interior, designs the cover, and prints the book. When you self-publish a book you are responsible for all six steps. And that is a good thing.
As a self publisher, consider how to get the manuscript edited to prepare it for publication. Some authors ask friends or relatives to edit their books, but beware - unless these people have some professional editing experience, they won’t be able to make sure that the prose looks professional. You will also want to think about what you want the interior and cover of the book should look like. How will your text and images be laid out on the page? Which fonts are best? Do the photos need correction?
Finally, who should print your book? This depends on the features you choose: color, or black and white, hardcover, paperback or e-book, and whether you want it to be available through Amazon or another online bookstore.
All of these can be complex questions, involving both specialized knowledge and skills. We help people to make these choices, and to do the technical preparation of their book. Go ahead - do as much as your knowledge and skills allow. For the things you can’t or don’t want to do, hire professionals like us to do them for you.
When you self publish, your book can be whatever you want it to be. You get to decide what it will look like. If you don’t do all of the work yourself, anyone you hire should help you to realize your vision, not theirs.
The world of self-publishing leaves the creative responsibility for the book totally in the hands of the author. So for any author asking us, “Can I…?” the answer is, “Yes!” That kind of possibility is something to be excited about.