The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Many genealogists dream of publishing books about the family tree or about local history. Some want to write a book of “my ancestors,” but it may be better to write, “The Descendants of (insert ancestor’s name here)” or the “Early History of Washington County” or some other area where you have expertise. Either way, you have three tasks ahead of you: write the book, get it published, and then find buyers. I can’t offer much assistance for writing the book, but in this article I will tell you about some online services that can make it easy to self-publish and sell your new masterpiece.
Dozens of book publishers are willing to print your book. However, if you are not a well-known author already, most will charge you for set-up and printing expenses. In the trade, this is known as the “vanity press.” In other words, the publisher is a publishing house which authors pay in advance to have their books published. In order to sell books, commercial publishers may specialize in a particular genre, such as genealogy.
Arrangements with vanity press publishers vary widely, but it is common for the author to take delivery of all the printed books and then figure out how to sell them. Some vanity press firms will work with the authors in publishing, storage, and shipment of the books. It is common for publishers to advertise the books on their own web sites and even show the books at trade shows in an effort to work with the author to sell the volumes. Indeed, a number of genealogy book publishers offer collaborative marketing services in which the publisher partners with the author to sell the books.
Traditionally, printing and selling a self-published book is an expensive and often frustrating effort. The author must first pay for the set-up, printing, and binding of the books. Prices can vary from $5 per book to more than $50 per book, depending upon the length of the book, the binding desired, quality of the paper, the number of color or black-and-white photographs to be included, and especially upon the number of books to be printed. The more books printed, the cheaper the price will be when calculated on a per-book basis.
Writing a book will require more work than simply writing the words. Depending upon the publisher chosen, the author may be responsible for setting up page layouts to accommodate the text as well as for supplying pictures, drawings, and maps. Finally, an ISBN number (International Standard Book Number) will need to be obtained. Some publishers will obtain the ISBN number for the author. If not using a full-service publisher, the author may need to obtain the ISBN number instead. The price of ISBN numbers is reasonable when purchasing numbers for ten or more books but becomes expensive when the purchaser only needs one.
The new author is perhaps in the worst predicament of all. He or she probably isn’t experienced in self-publishing and may not know where to start. This article should provide some assistance.
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