Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Self publishing for genealogy

Let's pretend that you have actually finished your family history book. Well, what now? What are you going to do at this point to distribute your work? It is highly unlikely that a publishing house is going to pick up your book and print thousands of copies. I have never seen a family genealogical history at the top of the New York Time's Best Seller list, at least not one in a non-narrative format. With that in mind, where do you go from here?

I am no expert on self publishing but I have had a small hand in it before. There were a few years where I put out a family newsletter with maybe 100 subscribers. I went out and bought a nice printer and made them myself. I tried printing at Kinko's but the cost became quickly prohibitive, especially if you wanted to print in color.

The best option that I found was Lulu.com, in the case of bound editions. This site allows you to upload your book, create a cover online, and then you can print copies for yourself. You can even get an ISBN number. Books are printed just like with any professional publisher, just lower volume. You can buy one copy or 5,000, receiving a volume discount as the number in your order increases. They offer both hard and soft-bound options.

Lulu also offers you the ability to sell your book to others. All you have to do is provide them with permission and they will give you a link to promote your item. It will also be available for search in their store. For example, here is a book that I "published" a few years ago...1850 United States Federal Census, York County, Virginia, Transcription and Last Name Index.

Keep in mind that Lulu is a print-on-demand service so no one pays anything until a book is purchased. They also allow you to sell a download-able version where your customer does not actually get a printed version, just a PDF file. There is obviously a revenue share when Lulu sells one of your books. It has been awhile since I bought or sold anything. However, I did make a few dollars from selling this title in the past, just nothing recent.

I forgot to mention that I have also used Lulu to print books for clients, after I "completed" their family trees. It is a nice, inexpensive way to present my research to them in an extremely professional-looking package. I usually give them the first copy and offer to sell them additional copies, upon which I make a small mark-up. I make a few extra bucks and they get to share a wonderful product with friends and family. (In the case of client books, I would tell Lulu that the books are private and that will prevent them from selling copies to anyone but me).

I am sure there are other options for self publishing out there but Lulu is the one I have used from past experience. I happened to find an old copy of my York County book the other day and it made me think about self publishing so I thought I would write a small post. Please feel free to add comments here and tell us about other services that you have used or any other self publishing experience.

2 comments:

Robyn said...

I printed a book last year (my grandmother's autobiography) on Lulu and LOVE IT! I won't use anything else, and I try to tell everybody about how wonderful it it. My book was hardbound, full-color, coffee table size & was only $29.

Robyn said...

I published a family history book (really an autobiography my grandmother wrote) about 2 years on LuLu and loved the whole experience. I'll never use anything else!