How to Self-Publish Your Genealogy

Do you have a story that needs to be shared with an audience beyond the walls of your home? Are you hoping to sell your educational or research material to earn a side income (or potentially replace your income)? Considering self-publishing your manuscripts.

“Become an Author” was never on my Bucket List, but several years ago I ventured into book writing. The venture began with the desire to share a few tips on how to scrapbook with a friend. My husband noticed that I had enough material to make a book. Following his suggestion, I formatted my thoughts into chapters and eventually had a book. The next step was figuring out how to make the information available to others.

We live in a fantastic time when technology has simplified our ability to share our ideas with the world, and earn a few dollars in the process. In 2012, I launched my first book on Amazon and shared the status with my family and friends.

Facebook status after launching my first book

Since that time, I’ve revised this book and launched an updated second edition. I have written Family History Scrapbooking Simplified, Reimagine Family History, A Recipe for Writing Family History and co-wrote DNA Q&A: Real Questions from Real People and Genetic Genealogy. In addition, I’ve completed two family history stories – one about my PaPa Lew and one about my German immigrant ancestor – Joseph Geissler.

The pay off from publishing my family history is a deeper connection with my living relatives. They love sharing the stories of our common ancestors with their children. 

For my how-to books, I have inspired and encouraged many others to capture and preserve their stories through scrapbooking and/or writing their ancestor’s stories.

You should be publishing your family histories, at the very last. If you want to educate others, this year should be the year you accomplish that goal.

Traditional Publishing Route

After completing their manuscript ready, most people send their books to traditional book printers.  They don’t have a book publishing deal, they just utilize book printers, order a large quantity, and hock their wares and genealogy conferences and on their websites.

The major advantage with these is that the printers can produce large quantities of books for a nominal cost per unit. In many cases, a 250-page book will probably only cost $2-$3 to print. If you are selling it for $10 or $20, there is significant profit to be made.

The downside is there is usually a minimum order of 100, 200, or 500 books. Since most authors sell less than 500 copies of a book, it may not be wise to use this method unless you are a known entity.

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Vanity Publishing Route

Too many people who wish to make money from their books chose an extremely costly method and you should avoid it like the plague. Vanity printing is when a “publisher” will print and market your book, but you are under obligation to buy X number of copies. X is usually in the neighborhood of 500-1000. Lower amounts are available, but the cost per book to you is much more than a traditional book printer. Another twist on this plan is not only are you required to pay for the 500 books, and you have to promote and sell those books before the printer starts marketing your work. It seems like you’d want them to help you advertise and sell the first 500 more than the books after that point, right?

So, what can you do?

Self Publishing Route

You can self-publish your book. I would recommend eBooks over print-on-demand services when you’re starting out.

On the surface, print on demand publishing services cost 50%-100% more per book than a traditional printer, but there is a huge advantage.

  1. What happens if no one wants your book?

  2. What happens if you can only sell a third of the books you ordered at the lower cost per unit rate?

Print-on-demand does not have any upfront expenses. That makes this risk-averse frugal girl happy. If my books don’t sell, I’m not out money I should spend on my kids. If the books sell well, I can stuff the profit into a college savings fund for five kids (hint – hint). Win-win!

Kindle Direct Publishing – Amazon

When I published my first book, I used Createspace. Since then, Kindle Direct Publishing (the eBook distributor) merged with Createspace (the paperback distributor). The book quality is comparable quality to most trade paperbacks and many genealogy authors have used this service, one of which is Nathan Dylan Goodwin.

 What is more important is that KDP integrates its distribution with Amazon, which is the largest retailer of books. They handle the shipping, payment processing, and any returns. Plus, if anyone borrows an electronic version of the book, you receive a kickback as well. This increases your revenue stream! 

You still have to begin marketing your book initially, but I have sold far more books to total strangers who have never come across my website or YouTube channel. That’s the major advantage of KDP!

What should you use if you don’t want to sell on Amazon or just want to publish your family histories?

I have used for nearly ten years. They can publish your book in hardback or paperback (which KDP can not). You can order one copy or multiple copies for friends and family. You can even provide your family with a private link to a book that they can purchase themselves. You won’t have to pay for copies no one wants on their shelves!!!

You can Self Publish!

Let this be the year you publish the instructional, informative, or family legacy book that has been tucked inside you.

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