Why Family Historians Should Self-Publish! | The Armchair Genealogist
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Why Family Historians Should Self-Publish!

Let’s start by laying out the three publishing options.

Traditional Publishing – you submit your book proposal to publishers via an agent. If you get accepted, you may get a cash advance and royalties from the sales of the book. The publisher looks after design, editing, printing and distribution. This process may take years and unless you write a true best seller, you won’t make much money past the initial cash advance. Did you know if your books don’t sell in a brick and mortar type store they are returned to your doorstep at a cost to you?

Vanity Publishing or Subsidy Publishing – You pay this publishing house to create your book. Since you are the paying customer, there is no question as to whether or not it will be printed.  A subsidy publisher will print whatever you give them, so the responsibility of publishing a well-edited and designed book falls to you alone. You take all the risk.  A subsidy publisher charges you to publish your book and rewards you with a very small royalty on any books sold. Often times subsidy printing is a lower standard of printing. In recent years, vanity publishers have not acquired very good reputations for producing quality products.

Self-Publishing – you form your own publishing company, don’t worry it’s not that complicated and we will discuss it in detail in future posts. In self-publishing, you still bear all the risk both financially (although as self-publisher you have more control over the money then a vanity press scenario) and of course, creatively you assume all the power.  You do it yourself or hire professionals to edit, design and layout your book.  

You can easily convert your word document into the format versions to cover all the major players covering 80% of the market.  Self-publishing is by no means easy, but for entrepreneurs who want to be in control of the process and to some degree the outcome then self-publishing is the way to go. Self-Publishing will net you approximately 60-70% of the returns and you maintain full rights to your book. This cannot be said for traditional or subsidy publishing options.

Why Self-Publishing for Family Historians?

Family historians have a skill set they have developed through their years of genealogy research, this skill set is very much aligned with those of self-publishers, making them great candidates for self-publishing.

Family historians are self-taught, entrepreneurs, internet savvy storytellers with attention to detail.

As entrepreneurs, we commence with a name and embark on the research. We uncover entire generations of families and generations of stories.  We have the ability to gather all this information on a shoestring budget.  Like self-publishers, we learn the ropes as we go, with little to no information, we put a plan into motion and execute it on a tight budget. If we can accomplish it in genealogy we certain can take on self-publishing.

We have become internet savvy. As genealogy runs rampant on the internet we have adapted, and have become some of the techiest people on the planet. RootsTech was a sure-fire flag waving moment that we had arrived. We have also created an entire blogging community around genealogy, a great asset for a self-publisher. Technology wise we are right where we need to be to take on self-publishing.

Family historians are all about the details. Finding your ancestors lie in the details. It is imperative we pay attention to those details when finding some of our most difficult ancestors. The skill of looking after the details is a great asset in self-publishing a book.

Finally we are storytellers, no one genealogist takes up searching family names for the goal of collecting names and documents, we take it up to learn the stories behind the names. Our goal has always been and always will be about the people and their stories, the stuff of best-selling books. Great storytelling will be our motivation for self-publishing a great book.

However, you don’t have to be willing to write your story. Perhaps you would prefer to share your knowledge, the tips and tricks you learned along the way. The vast amount of information you have gained in your years of research. Self-publishing a How-To Book is a great fit for genealogists.

I believe self-publishing gives you the most authority and flexibility to create your book.  Self-publishing is no longer as daunting as it once seemed. The internet has levelled the playing field for self-publishers. Infact, bestselling authors recognize the power of self-publishing. Many are turning down contracts from traditional publishing houses and going it alone.

When you decide to self-publish, you take control and since most family historians are territorial over their years of research, yet another reason why self-publishing maybe just the right fit for a genealogist.

As a self-publisher, you don’t have to be a one man show, you can hire cover artists, editors, copywriters and layout artists to help you produce your book. Again no worries, I will help guide you through these options as well.  

Perhaps you are perfectly comfortable knocking off some of these tasks yourself, perhaps you have some experience in a past life then by all means keep your costs down by doing as much of it yourself. With the exception of editing, no one should edit his or her own book.  However, you take control of each of these tasks, you have a vision and you can hire whomever you feel will best reflect your book. These are work for hire arrangements and they have no claim on any of the rights to your book.

As a family historian you already have the skills to self-publish, act on those skills and make it happen.

(This is part of an ongoing series at the Armchair Genealogist, The Family Historian's Guide to Self-Publishing.)