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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

DNA Testing Is the Beginning, Not the End of the Search for Your Family History

Biff Barnes

Last Christmas my brother-in-law’s twenty something sons gave him a 23 & Me DNA test kit. They weren’t alone. Wired reported  that Ancestry.com sold 1.5 million DNA test kits during the Christmas shopping season and 23 & Me, while not releasing total sales figures, was one of the top five best selling items on Black Friday.  When I came across the figures, I wondered what happened with those test kits.

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Why We Don’t Go to RootsTech Anymore

Nancy Barnes

We love to work with genealogists and family historians to create beautiful family history books. That said, you might have expected us to be at RootsTech, “the world’s largest family history conference,” which was held last weekend in Salt Lake City, but we weren’t there.  RootsTech is a wonderful event. We have certainly enjoyed it over the several years we attended and presented at the conference. So why don’t we go to RootsTech anymore? We decided Stories To Tell was simply not a good fit with the conference’s goals. The reasons for our decision are worth examining.

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A Lesson for Authors from the Shut Down of Create Space

Nancy Barnes

It’s been almost six months since Amazon announced that CreateSpace, its print on demand service, would be merged into Kindle Direct Publishing. There’s an important lesson for independent authors in the death of CreateSpace.

Most of the discussion of the merger has been focused on the less than seamless transition. Bumps in the road for authors have included delayed royalty payments, problems using the KDP website, subtitles accepted on CreateSpace rejected by KDP, a requirement to list on Amazon to get extended distribution, KDP copies that don’t look like those printed on CreateSpace, and the replacement of CreateSpace’s telephone customer service with an online ticket system with KDP. But there’s a more important take-away for authors from the merger.

Publishing a book does not lend itself to mass production.

That was a problem for what Amazon envisioned when it bought Book Surge and renamed it CreateSpace.

Amazon had already dramatically changed the way books were sold. New technology had transformed the publishing landscape, and a rapidly growing number of authors were using it to self-publish. By offering print-on-demand services through CreateSpace Amazon planned to tap a new revenue stream and provide a new load of titles for its digital bookshelves. However, not all authors who wanted to use CreateSpace had fully edited or designed manuscripts.  The result was some embarrassingly bad books. As authors learned the importance of professional editing and book design to their book’s bottom line (see our post How to Earn 1/3 More on Your Self-Published Book), they sought help. CreateSpace offered authors editing and design. It was a one-stop shopping center.

The system worked fine for some authors. CreateSpace outsourced both author services like editing and design along with its customer service and technical support to meet the flood of authors who flocked to the service, but the results were uneven. A growing number of online posts expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of both author and technical services. Many of the complaints focused on the inability of the authors to get in touch with a person who could or would help them. They wanted one-on-one contact with a real person. Its absence shouldn’t have been surprising with a business designed to publish books in huge volume with what was essentially a production line process that was impersonal by its very nature.

Amazon tacitly acknowledged that the system wasn’t working when it discontinued CreateSpace’s editing and design services in April, 2018. Then, in August, 2018, Amazon shuttered CreateSpace merging its services into KDP.

What happened?

Production lines are a very efficient way to turn out a high volume of products that are all exactly the same. Every book is unique. That is a problem. The author is not just another customer purchasing a one-size-fits-all service, he or she is a creative participant in the process of publishing a book. Editing a book is a collaborative endeavor which requires dialogue between the author and editor. Authors often have a vision of their book’s cover and the appearance of its layout. A professional book designer brings both experience and technical skill to the design. Working together to help create a book that reflects the author’s sensibilities and at the same time is a state of the art design requires an on-going back-and-forth conversation between author and designer. Authors have differing levels of technical skills. Some require a good deal of tech support in using software tools used in creating a book.

Providing the kind of personalization required to give each author the things he or she needs to publish the best possible book is not an easy task for a behemoth like Amazon. At Stories To Tell we operate on a more human scale. (see How We’re Different on our website) Creating a book with us is a collaborative process involving ongoing dialogue which helps us develop a personal relationship with our authors. We strongly believe that is the way independent self-publishing should work.

4 Questions to Help Your Nonfiction Book Succeed

Biff Barnes

Readers devour nonfiction books. Statista put total purchases at over 240 million in 2017. Author Earnings reported that more than a quarter of those sales belonged to independent or self-publishing authors. It’s no wonder that authors want to tap the nonfiction market. If you are an indie author planning to self-publish a book, before you begin banging away at your keyboard here are four things you should consider.

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Take One Step at a Time in Creating Your Family History Book

Biff Barnes

Family history books are complicated. They often contain not only text, but endnotes, appendices, a bibliography of sources, charts, and images. Family historians who want to self-publish often find this complexity overwhelming. We get it.

The problem is that many people try to do too many things at once. Let's look at how to do it one step at a time.

 

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Why Reviews Are So Important and 9 Ways to Get Them

Biff Barnes

If you want to find a good movie to see or a good restaurant, asking a friend gives you tried and true advice you can depend on. The same thing is true with books. A recommendation from a friend makes you confident that a book is one you’ll enjoy reading.

What authors need to understand is that today 3 of 4 potential readers trust online book reviews as much as personal recommendations.

We'll look at how to find quality and reviews. and nine top sources for reviewers.

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4 Ways to Save Money Publishing Your Short-Run Book

Biff Barnes

Not so long ago publishing a book intended for a limited audience of family members and friends was an expensive proposition. Today, technological changes in the world of printing and the evolution of the publishing industry have given authors an opportunity to dramatically reduce the cost of publishing books like family histories and memoirs. Here are four ways to save money when publishing your book.

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Can I Use That Image in My Book?

Biff Barnes

Acquiring just the right images to illustrate your family history book or memoir can be tricky. Completing the detective work to find a photo that’s perfect is just the beginning of the process. There are two hurdles to get over before  you’re ready to use it. The first is to make sure that you have an image of appropriate quality to use in book printing. The second is making sure that you have the right to use the image. Let’s take a look at how to do both.

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Best Locations to Find Resources for Black Genealogy and Family History

Biff Barnes

“African American genealogical research has always been challenging, but not impossible.”

Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society

As we begin African American History Month we want to offer some assistance to our readers who have taken up that challenge. We have helped a number of African American authors to publish family history books. To a person they have told us how difficult it can be to find the resources to document the lives of their ancestors. To help aspiring genealogists and family historians we have created a list of the best places online to find those resources. Each site has its own list of additional resources. We hope you find them useful.

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Four Tips to Help You Find the Right Illustrator for Your Children’s Book

Biff Barnes

Illustrations can make or break a children’s book, even one that has an excellent story. If you are working with a traditional  they will choose the illustrator. An indie author who wants to self-publish a children’s book, however, has to find and hire the illustrator for her book. Here are four tips to help you find the right person to illustrate your book.

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5 Questions You Should Ask Your Publisher

Biff Barnes

If you are an independent author who wants to self-publish a book there are plenty of companies out there to help you. The problem is how to decide which one you should choose. There are two important areas to explore:

Who will own the rights to your book?

Which arrangement will allow you to earn the maximum return on your book?

Here are five questions to guide you in this exploration.

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OCR: A Publishing Tool for Family Historians

Biff Barnes

Old documents often present a problem for family historians. People often come to us with diaries, journals or books written by ancestors that they hope to re-publish in whole or part. The question all of them pose is how to do it without having to retype the whole document.

Optical character recognition (OCR) is one possible answer. OCR is a process for translating text from paper into electronic files that can be manipulated on a computer using a word processing program. 

This post tells you everything you need to know about OCR.

 

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5 Questions to Help You Find the Right Editor for Your Book

Nan Barnes

Maxwell Perkins, the legendary editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons who worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway , and Thomas Wolfe, told authors, "Just get it down on paper, and then we will see what to do with it.”

The same advice applies to an indie self-publishing author as it did to the classics Perkins edited. Good editing is what takes a manuscript from draft to market ready. As Miral Sattar CEO of BiblioCrunch observed on MediaShift, “Not having an editor go through your book is like sending an untested drug out to market.”

So, how do you find the right editor to bring out the best in your book? Here are five questions that will help you as you conduct your search.

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