Publishing Family History

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Publishing Your Family History Book

By Libby Feil

Have you ever dreamed of publishing your family history research? Would you like to write up what you've discovered so that the information can easily be passed on to other family members or even to the public at large? Here are some ideas to help you with this.

First, of course, you have to carry out research on one or more families. Come in to the Local & Family History Department and let us help you get started or get past a roadblock.

Next, you have to put together a book for publication. Should you include reproductions of photographs? What should you do with letters, recipes, and documents you've found? Should you lay out your family trees as charts, written narratives, or something else entirely? These helpful manuals can help you figure out the answers to these questions:

Finally, you have to decide how to publish your work. Most family histories are not candidates for traditional publishing by big publishing houses; they just won't have a large enough audience to justify it. But you can still have the satisfaction of seeing your work in print. For most family historians, self-publishing is the way to go.

Self-publishing needn't be expensive. Consider your audience. If you just want to make enough copies to give out to your close family, or if you feel that you might want to make changes later on when you've done more research, there's no point in investing in traditional bound books. Also, if your book is not entirely created in a computer file such as Microsoft Word, then this is the way to go. Why not simply self-publish through a copy shop such as FedEx Kinko's or your closest local copy store? Copy shops have become very sophisticated, and can offer you many options to make your final product look professional, including different colors and weights of paper and a variety of bindings and covers. Just make sure to request a proof and bill in advance of final printing, so you can make sure the final version looks as it should and costs what you expect.

If you'd really like to produce a more traditional, bound, hard- or paperback book, there are options here that also won't break the bank. With the advent of the internet, self-publishing web sites have sprung up to help you out. One reputable site is Lulu, All you need is a computer file of your book as any one of multiple formats (including as an Acrobat PDF, Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, Microsoft Works, Microsoft PowerPoint, or dozens of others). You then choose the binding, colors, and cover art, and voila! You can pay for and print as many copies as you'd like, as often as you'd like, or you can tell people about your book and let them purchase it themselves.

Whichever publishing method you choose, don't forget: if you need help along the way, you can always come in to Local & Family History and ask for help!

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Last updated by: Libby Feil, December 28, 2006

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