As you prepare you family history, you may find that you would like to include some valuable source material but find that it bogs down the flow of your book. This is a good use for footnotes or endnotes. Most word processors can automatically number and track your footnotes or endnotes for you. I have found that footnotes in personal and family histories are distractive and detract from your book. Use endnotes instead. These can appear at the end of each chapter if you have a lot of them, or at the end of your book (just before your index) if you have just a few. Not only do endnotes look better, but they are easier than footnotes to format and control.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I love being with family at Christmas time and on other holidays. We have several parties with different sides of the family and it reminded me that sharing family stories is a fun and important part of these family gatherings. I would suggest that you bring a digital recorder and turn it on when these stories are being told so they can be preserved and shared.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Last April I posted an article about connecting pictures to captions in Word 2007 (see April 14 post). Occasionally (I have no idea why) the captions and the pictures will not group together. So there is another step that needs to be taken when this occurs. Here are some detailed instructions that I found on ehow.com.
1 Insert a picture or shape by clicking the “Insert” tab at the top and making an image selection.
2 Insert text by clicking “Insert” and “Text Box” from the top menu, then typing new text into the text box.
3 Insert a new drawing canvas by selecting “Insert,” “Shapes,” “New Drawing Canvas” and resizing it to fit your objects using the sizing tabs.
4 Cut and paste your picture and text box or boxes, one by one, into the new drawing canvas. Select the items you want to group by clicking and holding the “Ctrl” key. Right-click in the canvas and select “Grouping” and “Group.”
5 Drag and drop your new group outside the boundaries of the drawing canvas. They can now be moved simultaneously anywhere on the document.
6 Select the drawing canvas and delete it, as you don't need it to hold the picture and text grouping.
(Here is the link on ehow.com:
This is a good way to attach captions to pictures or group pictures together if the regular way doesn’t work.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
This is a repeat of a post I did last December. It is so important that I feel like I should repeat it.
This time of year, I am reminded of the importance of deadlines as well as the lack of importance of deadlines. That my sound a little funny, so let me explain. First, I think that it is common knowledge that we need deadlines to push us over the top to finish projects. A couple of examples that I can think of is how many sports teams really push hard to get ahead in the last two minutes of a game. And how students study extra hard and long just before a final test. We definitely need deadlines to help us.
But there is another side of deadlines when it comes to publishing a family history. Every year I have some people ask me when is the last date that they can finish writing it and have it published for Christmas. We discuss the different deadlines and then I usually say something like this, "I just want to remind you that it is wonderful to have you book completed for Christmas, but your book will be around for a hundred years and so it is more important to have it just right than to meet a deadline." This is wisdom that I learned from my father. He used deadlines to help propel him forward, but he never cut corners. Maybe that is the perfectionist in him.
Keeping deadlines in their proper perspective is so important as we do these very large projects, like writing and publishing a family history. Use Christmas, a family reunion, or other occasion as a deadline to work towards, but remember that your book will be treasured for years to come. Make it a legacy that you will be happy with and not one full of regrets.
Chris Stevenson email@example.com www.sgenealogy.com
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I am so grateful to be involved with so many wonderful people in preserving and sharing personal and family histories. I feel very blessed to have the job that I do where we make people happy every day. I love my job. Thanks for making it possible to do what I love.
Here is something to think about as you spend time with your family. Last week, one of my good friends told me his number one regret is that he didn't sit down with his parents and get a record of their life stories. All he has of his father’s history is three paragraphs that he wrote many years ago. As you visit with relatives during this busy time of year, take the time to ask about and record their stories. You won’t regret it.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Making the story interesting isn’t just for novels, it is important for family histories, too. One of the main reasons that we write and publish personal and family histories is so that others will read them. If they are dry and boring then few people will enjoy reading them. But if we go the extra step and create curiosity and interest, then others won’t be able to put the book down. One of the best ways to create interest at the beginning of each story or chapter is to write a sentence or two that will hook the reader. These are easiest to write after the story is all typed and you are reading through it again. Look for something unusual in the story that you can refer to at the very beginning. You can even put it in question form like, “Did you know that grandpa was in Paris at the same time as grandma, but they were both with someone else?” So, look to add a “hook” at the beginning of each story so they won’t “sink” to the bottom of the reading pile.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Each fall I start thinking about calendars for the coming year. Many years ago I started making photo calendars with family pictures and birthdays on them. Then I saw an idea that I really liked, it was to add the birthdays of ancestors to the calendar. That way I am reminded of my ancestors on their special days and I find that I think about them more during the year. Several genealogy programs can print out calendars with the birthdays inserted so all you have to do is add the pictures to the pages. (I use RootsMagic 4.) If you don’t like the formatting of the calendars that your software prints out, you can transfer the names to a preferred layout. We make hundreds of photo calendars each year for people and we would love to help you if you don’t have a source already. (click here)
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Even the best of writers have particular grammatical weaknesses in their writing that need to be corrected before their books are printed. If your word-processor has a grammar checker, it is a great idea to use it before you finalize your book. It will help you spot potential problems like over-long sentences, awkward syntax, missing verbs, and other errors. The latest versions of Word have very good grammar checkers which I find very helpful. One warning, just because the word processor suggests it, don’t accept it on face value because they don’t work with certain technical manuscripts. But even with their limitations they can be a very helpful tool. Keep writing!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
When transferring files from one computer to another, it sometimes changes the page layout of the book. The most common problem is called text re-flow. Re-flow is the sliding or shifting of text and pictures from the page that you had them on to a different page. Different font settings for various printers are usually the cause of this shifting, but there are other software reasons also. Sometimes the typist may insert several hard returns to finish a page and move to the next chapter instead of using a hard page break at the bottom of the page. Hard page breaks are inserted by positioning the cursor at the bottom of the page and pressing the Ctrl and Enter keys together. It is highly recommended that this be done when you reach the end of a chapter or want some extra white space at the bottom of a page. Hard page returns are not necessary when submitting a PDF file because PDFs won’t re-flow.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
It was one year ago that I started this blog. I had several people suggest to me that I record many of the tips that I have learned over the 30+ years that I have worked on family histories. So from those suggestions came these helpful tips. My passion is to help people record and share their life stories; therefore my hope is that this blog has been helpful to you.
Keep reading and I’ll keep writing.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
If your book is done in columns or with a small page size, then it is usually better to hyphenate words. Your right hand margin will be more even and your page layout will look better. Most word processors will automatically hyphenate words for you, but you need to proofread your book carefully to be sure that the hyphen didn’t end up in an unfortunate place. There are a few words that when split in the wrong place make two separate words, like ‘the-rapist’ and ‘thin-king’. While these “howlers” could be funny to some people, they could be upsetting to others. It is better to be safe than sorry, so look for the hyphenation howlers before you approve that final proof copy.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
In laying out your pages, avoid creating paragraphs which start on the last line of a page or which finish on the first of the next. These isolated lines of text are called ‘widows and orphans’. The solution to this problem is to set your word processor to control the number of lines on a page so as to push the text forward (turn on the widows and orphans feature). You can also move the paragraph to the next page manually, but do this last thing before you publish the book. It will leave an extra-large gap at the bottom of a page but that will look better than an isolated single line of text.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Your chapter titles should stand out on the page. It will make it easier for someone flipping through your book to find the chapter they are looking for as well as add a visually appealing layout to your book. Select a font that is relatively easy to read, but is different from the body font. Don’t go too crazy with the font for your chapter titles, you want them to add to the appeal of your book, not be distractive. Newspapers usually use San-serif fonts for the headlines and serif fonts (like this font) for the text. (Click Here for Wikipedia about serifs.)
Here are some samples of pages that I like:
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
One of the most cleaver ideas that I have seen is a family history cookbook. There are several designs but the one that I like the best has a picture of the person whose recipe it was and a little quote or history about them next to the recipe. It takes a little work to gather, but everyone loves family recipes and what better way to keep a family connected than to see a picture of the ancestor each time you make a dish. Start typing up all the great recipes that you have in your family. Add to it the foods you loved when you were young. Then go though the same process with each of your relatives, especially the older ones. As you visit with them, ask what recipes were handed down and if they know who first created it. Just add a few pictures and some quotes from journals or histories and your cookbook will be a great success and a treasure for years to come. (Suggestion: Coil bind it so it will lay flat on the counter.)
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Some people love to write and then there is the rest of us. Writing isn’t my favorite part of producing family histories, but I really enjoy producing and sharing them. This is where hiring a writer can be extremely helpful. The challenge then becomes in finding the best writer for your history.
Here are my recommendations based on your desired outcome.
1) If you want to decide every word of the book but can’t type very well, then record your history on a tape recorder or digital recorder and hire a typist to transcribe it for you. They will take the frustration out of the project and you will still have control of how it ends up. Check with young married relatives or neighbors, they often can use a little extra income and have time to type your book.
2) If you have a lot of written journals, stories, histories, and genealogies but need help editing out what doesn’t need to be included, then you can hire an editor to help you with that process. You can often find a good editor by contacting an English professor with the local community college.
3) But if you don’t have very much information that is already written and need help getting started, then you will need a Personal Historian or ghost writer. A good historian or writer can walk you through the whole process by asking questions, doing interviews, sorting through documents and pictures, and eventually writing the book. This method requires the least amount of work on your part, will cost the most, and will usually produce the most professional book. You can find personal historians in your area by checking the Personal Historian web site and searching by your location.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
There is one more tip from the Thurstons that I wanted to post before moving on to other subjects. These ideas really helped me and I hope that they will help you. At first, I couldn’t think of what to write from my life, but as I did the following activities a whole flood of memories came back. Try these and see if they help.
- Browse through old photo albums. Notice the friends you played with, the vacations you took, the houses you lived in, the furniture in the background, the clothes you wore, the way you wore your hair, the cars you drove, the pets you owned. Jot down memories that come to you.
- Look through school annuals. Note the clubs you belonged to, the sports you played, the dances you attended, the friends and teachers who were important in your life. Read the notes your friends wrote to you on the end pages.
- Rummage through old memory books, scrapbooks, keepsake boxes.
- Call your siblings and other relatives and reminisce about the past. You’ll probably find you don’t remember the same incidents in quite the same way.
- Visit homes where you lived, schools you attended, cemeteries where loved ones are buried, and other locales meaningful in your life. Sit in front of these places for a while and write down memories that occur to you.
- Make lists about yourself: the cars, homes, and pets you owned, the schools you attended, your favorite books, movies, songs, foods, etc. List the major turning points in your life.
- Draw a floor plan of your childhood home.
- Create a chronology of your life. Make a chart with two columns. In one column list events and incidents from your life. In the second column assign a date to the event, however approximate. Make a note of which incidents you definitely want to include in your life story.
These are some very effective ways to bring memories back. Try them!
Thursday, September 2, 2010
As I mentioned in my last post I attended Education Week and one of my favorite classes was taught by Dawn and Morris Thurston. I would like to share another tip from their web site, www.memoirmentor.com.
“Include Suspense and Conflict--Like novels, life stories need conflict and suspense to keep readers interested. Every good story needs an antagonist, something or someone the hero (you) struggles against, whether it's society (prejudice), nature (weather), internal demons (addictions), or other people (your cantankerous spouse). When you dismiss your life struggles with cursory summaries, you keep your readers at a distance. You hide key information that helps them understand you better. So, develop those conflicts. Your life story should be filled with incidents that let your readers visualize your hopes, dreams, and worries. They'll love you for it and they'll root for your success.”
The example in last week’s post is an excellent sample of adding suspense to the story. As you read that paragraph, don’t you find yourself wanting to find out what happened? Adding suspense can be challenging, but adds so much to your history and will keep them reading (which is the main purpose we are writing these histories). Try it out and see if your readers enjoy the history more with some conflict and suspense included.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
This last week I attended Education Week and one of my favorite classes was taught by Dawn and Morris Thurston called How to Write a Life Story People Will Want to Read. I learned a lot of tips and I wanted to share some of them. They talked about “showing”, not “telling”. Here is a short explanation from their web site, www.memoirmentor.com. “Show, Don't Tell--You can tell someone how to wash the dishes (fill the sink with warm, soapy water, scrub the dishes with a sponge, rinse, etc.), or you can show them by demonstrating what you mean. We all know that showing communicates far more effectively than merely telling. The same principle applies to writing. You can tell your readers that your sister was depressed or you can show the depression by describing your sister's messy house, her inattention to her appearance, and failure to answer the phone--all examples that illustrate depression. Try to avoid summary statements. Use plenty of illustrative details to demonstrate how things look and feel.”
Here is a good example of showing from a story called The Hessian by Carol Enos that I found on Dawn’s blog: “Johann’s chest heaved; his breath came in desperate gasps. He had been running all night only steps ahead of his pursuers. Eight hours earlier, he had slipped out of his bedroll, crept silently at first, and moved from tree to tree, taking advantage of the early March nightfall. There was no moon and the trees were a dark curtain that could hide a fleeing soldier. He feared his pounding heart would alert the sentries, but they seemed unaware that a threat was behind their lines, not in front. An easy escape seemed assured. And then the feral dogs that had attached themselves to the army began to howl. Johann bolted. He was young, fast, motivated and angry. He had been caught trying to get away once before. He would not face the gauntlet of cat o’nine tails whips ever again. He would die first.”
By showing instead of telling I see pictures in my head. Great tip Dawn and Morris. Thanks for teaching us.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I went to a family reunion on Saturday for my Porter relatives. It was great to get together again, but there were several people that usually come but who were missing. Most of them pass away during this last year. It really hit me hard that several of them had not recorded their life stories and now they are lost for ever. Then I remembered about my neighbor, Dwaine H. Another friend used his video camera to record about three hours of interviews of his life and then just a few months later he passed away. Dwaine’s family were extremely grateful for this recorded history before it was too late.
So today’s post is to encourage everyone who reads this to contact the older members of your extended family and help them record their unique life stories before it is too late. Use a video camera, a digital recorder, or computer to preserve their histories. Do it this week. You will be so glad that you did.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
One of the challenges of writing your own history is figuring out what to put in and what to leave out. When we read someone else’s history, it is very easy to pick out the things that are interesting to us. When we are looking at our own life experiences it is much harder choosing those things that will be of interest to others. Usually, we just think of the unusual or spectacular things in our life. But the regular, day to day activities at different stages of your life will be very interesting to others. Then when you share something unusual it will stand out. For instance, when you are sharing about your youth you could write about the time that you got a ride to school because you broke your foot. But it would be better to first explain that you normally walked to school each day and what it was like and then share the one week that you got a ride and the next three weeks that you walked on crutches. This will make the experience stand out more, but it also gives the reader a better understanding of what your life was really like each day. Paint a clear picture of what life was like in a normal day and do this for each of the stages in your life. It may not seem to interesting to you (because it was normal for you) but it really will be interesting to your readers and help them to know the real you. Keep writing!
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Here is a short reminder of how important it is to publish family histories. Think back to all the things that you learned from your family growing up. They passed on to you many great (and some not so great) habits, information, and attitudes that have made you who you are today. This was a huge investment of time and love from your parents and other family members who helped raise you. Now, you are in a position to pass on to future generations the important events, stories, and feelings from your family before they are lost forever. It is well worth all of the time and effort to write and share your family history. I strongly encourage you to keep going until it is finished. You’ll be very glad that you did.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Here is a short explanation of the different kinds of hard binding and the materials used. Case or edition binding, the most common type of binding for hardcover books, involves sewing the individual signatures together, flattening the spine, applying endsheets and a strip of cloth to the spine. Then the hard covers are attached.
Some of the materials used for hard bound books are cloth, buckram, paper products, and leather. Until the mid-20th century, covers of mass-produced books were laid with cloth, but from that period onwards, most publishers adopted clothette, a kind of textured paper which vaguely resembles cloth but is easily differentiated on close inspection. Buckram is a stiff cloth that is often coated with acrylic and is a very durable cover. Clothette and other paper products are very common and can be made to look like imitation leathers or given linen textures. These are quite durable and cost effective. Leather is rarely used because it is challenging to work with and very expensive.
If you are still confused with some of the book binding terms, here is a great glossary of bookbinding words.
Here is a link to my post last year about book binding that you might like to read.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
When you are publishing a book with descendants of a common ancestor, keeping everyone straight is a challenge. There are several numbering systems that greatly assist the reader (and you) to know how each person is related. The one that I like the best is called the d'Aboville number system. It was developed by Count Jacques d'Aboville in 1940. It start with the common ancestor being number 1. The oldest child of person number 1 is given the number 1.1, the second child the number 1.2, and so on. In the third generation, the oldest child of person 1.1 is assigned the number 1.1.1, the second child of that person is 1.1.2, and so on. The oldest child of child number twelve is 1.12.1, the second child 1.12.2, and so on. It is an simple system to learn and to follow from generation to generation. Here is a sample of what it looks like in the book.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Pictures add so much to family histories. I love pictures of people and places in the histories that we publish for people. Occasionally I am asked about preserving photos. Here is a great web site for different aspects of photo preservation. It includes organizing tips and a history of photography as well. There are a few tips concerning videos, too. If this is something that can help you, check it out. Here is the link:
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Summer is traditionally vacation time and so my thoughts are on getting away with my family. I thought that I would make a post about the adventures that can happen on vacations. I think that it would be great to include some of these in your family histories. Often when we talk about our vacations we mention the fun and normal parts of the vacation. But I think that the most interesting parts are when there are problems that we face and overcome. I can think of the time when our family went camping at Bear Lake (a place that we love to go every year). We enjoy the beauty of the lake and playing on the great beaches. But the story that I think is the most interesting (and the one that my kids love to repeat) is the time when a neighbor told us of a different way to get there and we got lost. I was driving and everyone else was asleep in the van when I missed the sign that told me when to turn. I kept going, not knowing that I had missed the turn. It took us twice as long to get there because we ended up going all the way around the lake. It was quite an adventure.
The point of this story is to include problems, challenges and hardships in your histories. You will be glad that you included the real adventures in your family’s lives.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Many family history books contain a great deal of genealogy data (names, dates, and places). There are a few different ways to display that information in your book. The first way is to use a family group sheet. This method is convenient for the reader to find the information that they are looking for, but it takes up a lot of room in the book. If you have just a few pages of family group sheets, then you could go ahead and use this method. But if you have more than just a few pages then this could add quite a few pages to you book making it more expensive than it needs to be. Another way to display the data is to put all the information into columns. This works but is difficult to fit all of the columns onto each line and can be hard to follow on the page. The method that I like best is called “modified register.” Many genealogy programs can organize and print the data in this format. This is especially useful for descendents and families. It is very easy to read the information and yet it is compact and fits on the page very well. Here is a sample of what it looks like.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
I have found that I can do some computer processes much faster by using keyboard short cuts. These work with almost any windows programs. Here are my favorites.
CTRL + C will copy text after it has been highlighted.
CTRL + V will paste text that you have copied.
CTRL + A will highlight all of the document for copying.
CTRL + X will cut text after it has been highlighted.
CRTL + Z will undo any change that you have done.
CTRL + ESC will bring up the Start Menu.
SHIFT + F3 will turn all capitalized text into lowercase.
SHIFT + DELETE will delete an item immediately without placing it in the Recycle Bin.
ALT + TAB will bring up a Window with a list of icons representing programs which are currently running on your computer. While holding the ALT key, press and depress the TAB button to cycle between each icon task.
ALT + ESC will switch to the next task running on your computer. Hold down the ALT before pressing and depressing the ESC key to cycle to the next task.
CTRL + ALT + DELETE will bring up Task Manager and allow you to end a process (terminate a program) if it has crashed or has stopped responding. Select the process which has stopped responding, and then press "END PROCESS''.
SHIFT + INSERT will paste any text that is in your clipboard. Your cursor must also be placed in an area that will accept keyboard input for this to work.
Try these out and see which short cuts will help you. I hope these help you to not only produce your book faster but make all of your computer interactions easier. If you have another short cut that you like, add it in a comment.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
One of the first pages that I look for when I pick up a book is the table of contents. It quickly gives me an idea of what is included in the book and where it is located. It is like a map that provides easier navigation within the book. The table of contents is very handy for the reader not only when they first pick up the book, but each time they are looking for specific information or a certain story.
Here are some tips for a good table of contents page. Keep the style of your table of contents (margins, fonts) consistent with the rest of your book. Include all of the chapter titles and as many of the important stories or documents that would be helpful. I like to have a dot leader (several periods in a row) before the page number, but they aren’t necessary. By using a right tab stop with dot leader in your word processor, the page numbers and the dots will all line up. If you want, you can make a separate page that lists all the pictures in the book and their page numbers.
It is possible to “mark” your chapters in your word processor and automatically generate the table of contents with the page numbers on them. Some have been successful at this, but I suggest the manual method of making the table of contents. It is usually much faster and easier. Here is a step by step guide for the automatic generation in Word. Microsoft has templates that you can use. Here is a link to the template.
Here is a link to Wikipedia’s more detailed explanation of the table of contents for those that would like to read more.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
There are so many fonts available so you can really have some fun with the design of your book. There are decorative fonts, plain fonts, and everything in between. So, how do you choose? Do you go for the “look” or “readability” or both? These are great questions that don’t have simple answers.
Don Campbell has done a great job of explaining (in easy to understand terms) the intricacies of fonts. I would suggest that you read it. Here is a link to his page:
Don’s suggestion is a great one and I would agree with him to do the following test of the font that you want to use in your book. “Print a full page of text in the format of your book and at the page size of your book. Cut those pages in their final book size and place them into a book that is about the right size to see how they look and “feel” in a book. Scan your eyes back and forth and see how readable the text is. Test how easy it is to rapidly scan from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line. If you carry out this kind of text, varying the font, the font size, the leading and the book formatting you will start to realize that fonts which look fine in a small sample may be tiring or unpleasant to read in a book. In the end, the choice is yours and may actually affect whether your book gets read all the way through.”
The most common font that we see in the books we publish is Times New Roman. It is a very readable font. When you have chosen the fonts that you want in your book, you will need to make sure that the publisher can print those fonts or you can make a PDF of the file so it will print correctly. (See my post on File Formats for more information about this.) Happy font hunting!
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
As you work on your book, it is a great idea to contact several potential publishers. Talk with them and determine early on who you want to work with. They will be able to give you guidance and ideas to help improve your book that you can do while you are still in the editing process. This will help you produce the best book at the best price. If you wait until you are finished with your book to talk with them, it may be too time consuming or costly to make the changes to get the book the way you really want it. By making friends with the publisher, they will be a resource for you that you can call on when you have a question. It will give you one more person that will help you bring your family history to completion.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
This post is a continuation from part 1. Here is my suggestion if you are trying to sell your book to cover most of your costs.
I suggest that you include the family in several communications as you work on your book which will help a lot when it comes to collecting the money for the books. You don’t want to surprise them with a phone call saying that you have written a book and are going to print it next week and need $125.00 tomorrow for the five copies of the book for their family. Most families won’t be in a financial situation to react that fast and will decline the books even though they really would like to have them. But if you communicate with them several times along the way, everyone will be much happier and better prepared. Contact them in the information gathering stage and let them know what you are doing and the scope of the book (who and what will be included in the history). Ask them if they have any information or pictures that could be included in the book and let them know that they will be given the opportunity to buy some copies for their family when it is done. Then contact them again when you are writing and nearing the completion stage. Tell them that you anticipate printing the books in a few months and that the cost of the book will be about X dollars (you can get a ball park estimate from most printers that will help with this part). The next contact can be when you have finished the book and have the bid in your hand. You now know how much it will cost to publish and can estimate the shipping costs. Contact all of the family letting them know what is included in the book, the number of pictures and number of pages of the book. Let them know some of the key stories and important information that is included; this way the can see the value of the book. Then tell them the price of the book and the shipping costs. Let them know what date you need the money to be included in the advance orders. Then, here is a tip that I learned a long time ago, tell them that there will be a few extra copies of the book that will be available to purchase after they are printed and the cost is $5.00 or $10.00 more per book. People love to save money and they will be more willing to meet your deadline so they can save. You will still need to follow-up after the deadline with those that don’t order to see if they just forgot to order the books or if they really don’t want some, but you will have a much better response with this tip. (Be sure to read my post about printing a few extra copies.)
I hope you find this helpful as some of my other clients found in overcoming the financial hurdle that may be keeping you from moving forward.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
There are three schools of thought when it comes to financing a family history project. First, you might be publishing it to sell for a profit. Second, you could be financing the whole project and are going to give copies away as a gift. And third, you are going to sell the copies of the book to try to break even or recover most of your expenses. I have worked with all three categories of people, but the most common by far is the third category, so that is the focus of this blog.
First, let’s take a look at the expenses of a family history book. They will include costs for gathering the information, such as buying certificates or mailing expenses writing to people who have the information that you need. There are expenses associated with writing the history like the paper and ink cost for printing all of the editing copies or maybe you bought a scanner to scan the pictures. Then there is the expense of printing and binding the book. And lastly there are the shipping or distribution costs. (You probably noticed that I left out the value of your time spent on the project. That is because if you are producing the family history to get paid for your time and effort then you would fall into the category of selling for profit, so I’m not covering that in this post.)
Typically, most people that I work with are only trying to recoup the cost of printing, binding and shipping. All of the preparation and writing expenses are a gift they give to the family. It isn’t too hard to figure out the amount of money that you need to cover the cost of printing, binding and shipping when your book is all ready to print and you have bids in your hand. But the problem is when your book is all ready to print you will want to do it right away and you will need to pay the publisher to produce the book.
In the next post I’ll give some suggestions to overcome this challenge that have worked well for others. (I’d include it in this post, but it would be too long. Besides this gives you something to anticipate for next week.)
To be continued …
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Some days “change” seems like a bad word. It seems to me that things are changing at a faster and faster rate. Don’t get me wrong, I like the changes and the convenience of the newer software programs and the easier to use devices. I’m glad that smart people are figuring out how to make my life easier. The problem is not only learning the new programs (I understand that they are called apps now) and devices but converting all the old files to the new formats. (You may have guessed that I am going to focus on computer file changes for this blog.) Every now and then I need to look at an old file that I used years ago. The information is still valuable and it will save me a bunch of time if I can open the file and modify it instead of retyping the file. For word processing files, most of the time I am able to open the file and convert it to my latest version. For instance, years ago I used WordPerfect for word processing. I have hundreds of files in WordPerfect file format. Today I use Word 2007. If I need to open a file that is in WordPerfect 5.1 format, Word won’t do it. I first have to open the file in WordPerfect 9.0 and save it in that format, then I can open it in Word. My worry is, someday my future computer might not allow my WordPerfect to work with the operating system, so I won’t be able to access the information. The exact same problem could happen with my genealogy program. If I have a data file that is from PAF 2.31, I might not be able to open it in RootsMagic which is what I am using now.
The solution is to migrate the files with you as you move forward. I know that it may seem like a waste of time and you might be thinking that you will never need the file again. If that is the case, then delete it. But if you think that there is a chance of needing it, then set up a routine for changing all 0f the files to your newest version of software. My suggestion is to do this every time you get a new computer or each time you get new software. After you get used to using the new program or computer, then plan a time to methodically go through all of your old files to delete them or convert them. This is an investment in the future. Especially if you have gathered information for years for a family history that you want to eventually publish. If you are like most people who bring in their old program files to us and ask if we can still open them because they can’t, then you will be very happy that you spent the time moving the old to the new.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
How many pages can I fit into one book? This is a question that I get asked every now and then. They usually have a very long history and need to know at what point it would need to be split into two volumes. I think there are two different principles involved. First, is there a logical split because of the content? If you have two different family lines then it might make sense to split it into two different books. Second, if the book is so large that it is going to be hard on the binding as well as uncomfortable for the reader to hold, then two volumes makes sense. The general guidelines that I use for hardbound books is a minimum of 100 pages (50 sheets) and a maximum of 700 pages (350 sheets). If your book falls between these two numbers then you should be just fine. If you are less than 100 pages, then you might consider changing the binding to a soft bound book. The harder situation is when you are over 700 pages. There are a few things that you can do to make this fit into one book. You can change the margins to a smaller number and you can change the point size of the font to a smaller font. Both of these will decrease the number of pages in your book but will also make it a little harder to read. Hard choices. If your book is still too long, then you should decide to separate it into two volumes. Oh, and by the way, good work gathering and writing all that information. That many pages represents a huge effort.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
When you go and visit your publisher, it is a great idea to ask to see samples of books that they have printed. Since there are many different quality levels it is easy to be expecting something different than the publisher is quoting. This will ensure that you both have the same product and quality level in mind as you discuss your book. May I share a very sad story about this? I had a very nice lady come and visit with me. She told me that a year earlier she had gotten a quote from us and another local printer. The other printer was a few dollars cheaper so she went with him. After months of trouble and reworking her book with that printer she found out that this was his first book and it turned out very poorly. She said that it actually cost her more than if we had done it in the first place. It wasn't nearly the quality she wanted and her emotional cost in tears and hassle was huge. She wished that she had us print her book. I felt for her and told her that I would pass her story on to spare others this same grief. Save yourself a similar experience by asking to see a sample so you can get what you expect.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I use a computer most of my work day and there are several tasks that I do over and over again. I have found that it is very easy to remember how to use these programs. But there are several computer tasks that I do less than once a month. I have a really hard time remembering the easiest way to do them (or how to do them at all). I’m not sure if it is because my memory isn’t as good as it used to be or if it is just overload with so many different pieces of information that I am trying to store in my brain (I could blame it on “chemo brain” or “half-timers” but I won’t). Whatever the reason for my laps in memory, I have learned a good trick from my Dad. Dad started to use computers when he was in his 70s. It has been said that it is much harder to learn new things at that age, and I guess that it is true. Anyway, he would write down each step of every task. He would then put a title on the top of the page and file it alphabetically in a three-ring notebook. It does take a little extra time to do this, but it helps him so much that it is worth it. He doesn’t refer to his custom computer help book every day, but it is a great help when he needs to do something that he hasn’t tried for a while. My help book is electronic that I keep in a word processing file because that is easier for me. But either way, this can be a real time saver (not to mention the frustration it saves) when you don’t have to figure out how to do something all over again. Try it. Make your own computer help book for any task that you don’t do at least a couple times per month. See if it doesn’t help you, too.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Occasionally I have someone ask me how to put pictures in their book using Word 2007. Here is a little step-by-step “how to” for doing that. Once you learn how it really is easy so keep at it until you have figured it out. Hopefully this will help you with your book. (Note: there are several ways to do the this in Word, but this is the method that I think is the easiest. If you know of a better way, please share it in the comment section.)
After you have scanned, cropped and adjusted your picture so that it looks just the way you would like, the you can insert the picture using the following steps. (For info on scanning, see my post A Picture is Worth …)
1. Click insert on the ribbon, then Picture. Locate the picture on your computer and double click (or select and click insert).
2. In the Format tab of the ribbon, change to the desired size. Then click on the Position icon and select where you want it on the page. I suggest that you change it from “in line with text” to a position on the page with text wrapping. If you do this than the picture can be easily moved to a specific place on the page. (There are other things that can be done to the picture such as change the brightness and contrast but I won’t cover them here.)
Inserting the caption:
1. With the picture selected, click on the References tab on the ribbon. Click on Insert Caption. This will open a little pop up box for captions. Type or paste your caption in the “Caption” field, and click okay. (Note: If you have a long caption, just type the first few words in this field, click okay, and then finish typing the caption in the text box.) This will put the caption in a text box that is below the picture and is already sized to the width of the picture.
2. The captions are usually set to automatic numbering, so to remove that information just click in the text box and delete it.
3. Now is a good time to format the text. (I like to type my text first and then do the formatting. To select all of the text in the text box, press Control & A at the same time.) You can center the caption in the box, change the font to your desired caption font or set it to bold italics so that it is set apart visually from your book text.
4. Next we want to group the picture and caption together so they stay connected. Click on the picture and then hold down the shift key and click on the caption below it. Their should be blue circles and boxes around both the caption and the picture. Right click on the picture and a little box will pop up. Select Grouping and then click Group. Your caption and picture are now grouped as one object.
5. Now we have to account for a bug in the Word program. You will notice that the text wrapping changed to “in front of text” when you grouped the picture and the caption. This can easily be changed back. Click on the Format tab on the ribbon, then select Text Wrapping and change it to square.
There you have it. The picture has a caption that will stay with it as you continue to edit your book. If you need to adjust the picture, you can “ungroup” the caption, make the changes to the picture and then follow the steps 4 & 5 again.
Here are some links to web pages that cover some things that I didn’t and for different ways to deal with captions. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word/HP012289821033.aspx
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
The life of your book will depend you your choice between ink and toner. Throughout history ink has been made from many different materials. (Here is a link to a brief history of ink: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ink#History_of_ink). Because black ink was made from archival materials (often carbon based materials) they lasted for hundreds of years. Today we have basically three types of “inks”: printing press ink, toner, and spray inks. The small printers that many of us have hooked to our computers are usually dye based ink jet printers. They are inexpensive to buy but the ink cartridges are not. The other challenge is that dye inks are not archival and they are not water fast and will run when they get wet. Fortunately, they have developed pigmented inks that can be used in a laser jet printer. Pigmented inks are archival and when dry resist running and smudging. These inks are even more expensive, as you would expect, but they will last. (Here is a link to a good comparison between dye and pigmented inks: http://www.oddparts.com/ink/faq19.htm).
Toner is a great material that lasts. Black toner is made from carbon materials which is archival and should last as long as the paper does. Toner costs a lot less than ink cartridges on a per page basis. Ink that is used on a commercial printing press is almost always archival, so it works great for books. Printing press ink is even less than toner, so this method is very economical for long runs.
Ink verse toner. The debate continues on. Hopefully this will be helpful as you decide which method you want to use for your book.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
A picture is worth 1000 words, or so they say. But a picture without a caption isn’t worth very much. Identifying all of the people in a picture is of great value to your reader. Include when the picture was taken or the age of the person, even if it is only approximate. If the place is important then include that also. The information in the caption creates more value and interest in your book. Captions can be done in a different font style from the text so they stand out when they appear close to the text. A font that I see used frequently and looks very nice is bold italics in the Times Roman font.
Here are some links to web pages that explain how to use captions correctly in Word 2007: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word/HP012289821033.aspx
Remember the captions!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
You have finally finished your book. (Yea!) It has been a time consuming effort and now it's ready to be published. There is just one more thing to do first. Don’t forget to have someone else proofread the manuscript before sending it to the publisher. It is amazing, but true, that another set of eyes will see things that you didn’t notice. They will be able to catch typos or confusing sentences that you missed (probably because you were so focused on the information). It has helped me and many of the people I have worked with, so don’t forget to have another set of eyes look over your book before you have it printed.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Margins and white space add a nice feel and a good visual image for your book. I usually recommend that you have about a one inch margin on all sides for letter-size books. Feel free to fudge on those margins with pictures and graphics where the information on the edges isn’t as important. You can enlarge a picture to fill the whole page with very small margins if the main subject of the picture is in the center. If your book is more than 500 pages and you are trying to reduce the number of pages (to keep it from being too heavy), then a 0.5 to 0.6 inch margin will work.
Depending on the binding you will lose a little of the page to the gutter (the inside margin of the binding edge). Most word processing programs allow you to compensate for this in page setup. Set your document for mirror margins for the whole document, and make the gutter 0.1 or 0.15, depending on the thickness of your book. This will shift the pages left (even pages) or right (odd pages) away from the gutter so it is easier to read.
You can also add a nice look to your book by moving the beginning of the chapters down on the page. Move the text a couple of inches down the page and it will stand out and be easier for the reader to find the beginning of the chapter. Test this out with a few different margins and spacing to see which you like best.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Each year for the past five years I have created a DVD that has pictures and video clips. My family loves watching them over and over and I enjoy making them. They take some time to make, but the end product turns out so good that it makes all worth it. I edit the video quite a bit so that it is interesting and I put the pictures into a slide show with musical background.
I thought that I would share some of the lessons that I have learned.
1. I transfer all of the video tapes for the year to the computer and then I make one set of DVDs without editing. I have found that if I make this set first then it’s not hard to cut out a lot of the video because I have a copy of the complete, raw video that I can personally watch if I want to see more. Maybe it is just a psychological thing but it works for me.
2. I work with a PC all day, every day and I love how it makes my life easier. But when it came to making videos, it didn’t work very well at all. I tried many different programs and even bought a new computer, but as soon as I did some video editing it wouldn’t work. I finally came to the realization that it wasn’t going to work on my PC. With my friend’s prompting, I bought a Mac and within a few weeks I had a perfect DVD to share with my family. Maybe there are new PC programs that will work now, but for me, the Macintosh is the only way to go. It works every time and editing is very easy.
3. Videos take a lot of memory, so I would suggest that you get as large of a hard drive as you can afford. You will also want to have an external hard drive that you can use as a back up. (See last week’s post about backing up.)
4. Plan a time of year to do it. For me, it works best to produce the DVD in January.
5. Put several different video clips on the DVD. Don’t try to put everything into one, long movie. If you break it down into shorter video segments then your family can watch the clips they want without having to sit through clips that they aren’t interested in (i.e. the clips they aren’t in.)
6. If you don’t have the desire or time to do it yourself, you can hire someone to do it for you, but remember that the editing decisions need to be yours. A stranger won’t know which shots are the most important to your family.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
We live in a very fast, electronic age. It makes our life so much easier, but there is a little more risk. One of the risks of working with your book on a computer is loosing all or part of your computer files. I know that you have heard this before, but it is especially important to make backup copies each time that you work on your book. Make sure that your backups are on either a flash drive or separate disk so if the computer crashes or gets a virus you won’t lose both original and backup files. Something else that often gets overlooked is the possibility of disaster so occasionally store a backup copy in another location with a friend, relative, online, or at work in case you have a fire or flood. It is hard enough to gather all of the information and type it up the first time; I don’t want you to have to do it all over again.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
If you have finished writing your book you may be wondering how many copies you should have printed. If your book is about an ancestor that has quite a few descendants, this could be a difficult question. It can be very helpful to contact relatives to determine their interest or better yet to get advanced orders from them. If you are giving them as gifts to your grandchildren, it is easier because you know how many grandchildren you have. Whatever method you used to determine the number of copies to print, there is one more thing for you to consider. After several people see your book in its finished form, you will be asked if you have some more copies. These people may be friends or relatives that didn’t show any interest before the book was done, but now that they can see how great it is and they can have an “instant” copy, they are interested. So my advice for you is to print a few extra books. It is less expensive to run a few extra copies when your book is being printed the first time than to start over and print and bind just a few copies at a later date. If your finances won’t permit this additional expense, consider approaching a relative that can finance the few additional copies. Then as you sell the additional books you can repay their investment in your book. I have found that it will save you a lot of hassle and expense if you print a few extra books with the first printing.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Here is something that can be of great benefit to your readers. It can be very beneficial to include, with your book, a CD that has an electronic copy of your book file. If you can, include both a PDF copy of the book plus the original file format (for information about PDF, see my post from Nov. 2009). These files will be searchable by your readers and can be a great aid to them in finding specific info that they are looking to find. You can even include, in a separate file, all the sources that you used to research and create the book. You might make another supplemental document that includes most or all of the parts of your book that were edited out. Then, if there is enough room on the CD, include JPEG copies of the pictures that you have in your book. You may have had other pictures or documents that were left out that you could include on a CD with very little extra cost or effort.
Making a CD to include with the book can even help you in editing your book. If you don’t really want to include all of the pictures you have of Uncle John in the printed book but you want the rest of the family to have all of them, then including them on the CD is the perfect answer. By putting this kind of CD in the back of your book, you will add great value for your readers for very little additional cost.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Is it better to type my book myself or hire it out? This question could be changed to many different parts of the publishing process, but this post is specifically about typing. You might be the type of person that likes to do it yourself. But if you can’t seem to find the time to type up your book, you can easily hire that part out. If you’re not sure where to start looking for a typist, you could start looking in your own family. You can arrange for a relative to do it, if they are willing and have the time. You might check with a young married member of your family who is looking for additional income. Another place to look for a good typist is at a local college. You can find many students that want to earn a little money on the side who are very good typists. Even though you can turn the typing over to someone else, that doesn’t mean that you loose control of the content of the book. With red pen in hand, you can edit to your hearts content and rework the book over and over until it is just how you want. Don’t be shy about asking your typist to make the changes that you want. If you are excited about the end product, they will be happy to help you reach that goal.
Another option is to buy a software program that transcribes from your voice, like Dragon Naturally Speaking. For someone who is a very slow typist but still wants to do it themselves, this is a good option. I tried this program many years ago and it work fair, but I can imagine that they have improved it greatly since then. You could look into it and see if it will work for you and then leave a comment below to help others with this same problem.
Many publishers will have in-house or freelance people to help you with typing or other parts of the project that are just too overwhelming to you. The important thing to keep in mind is to overcome all of the obstacles that are in your way and successfully reach your end goal of publishing your history! Your history and your unique stories are too important to lose.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
A few of the books that we have published have put a small pedigree chart at the beginning of each chapter. I thought that it was a good idea and for certain family histories, might be very useful. I’ll include a picture to demonstrate how this works, but essentially what you do is to create a small pedigree chart that shows the scope of the book. Then you use bold or a gray highlight to indicate where this chapter’s person is on the pedigree chart. It is a helpful way for your reader to be clear about who the person is that this chapter is about and how they fit in the family. I think that this would be extremely useful for families where names are repeated. You could also use this technique with a family group or a descendant chart. It may not work for your book, but I thought it was a good idea.
Here is an example:
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Here is a dilemma that was again presented to me, so I thought I would address it here in case someone else has the same issue. You might find yourself like this gentleman who published his life history 15 years ago on legal size pages. He now wants to update his history by adding additional pictures that would be inserted into the first history and then adding a few more chapters about what he has done in the last 15 years. The hard choice is deciding on the format of this new printing.
Here are the choices: #1) Format all of the new material the same as the first printing (legal size) so that they match.
#2) Retype all of the first printing so that both the new and the old can be produced in a preferred size (6 x 9 or 8.5 x 11).
#3) Create the new chapters in a self contained book in a preferred size and copy the original book the same (legal) size and give the family two volumes (one legal size and one letter size).
#4) Reduce the original book pages to 8.5 x 11 and then add the new pages in the back so the whole book is letter size.
Here are the strengths and weaknesses that I can see with each method. You might think of some additional reasons, if so, add them as comments below.
#1) This is by far the easiest, but if you don’t like the original size or it is not preferred by the reader then its usefulness decreases very rapidly. Another advantage to this way is that you only need to copy the additional material to give to those that already have the first volume. The main disadvantage is that you don’t really like the old size (or at least your readers dislike it).
#2) This method is the most work but will yield the best finished product. The new book will be all in one volume and can be distributed to your readers as an updated history and will be in a more pleasing size. The disadvantages are that you have to spend a lot of time (or hire someone) to retype all of the text and scan all of the photos from the first volume. It will also be more expensive because you are reprinting the first volume in the new format.
#3) With this method, you are using the preferred size for the new material and not having to retype all of volume one. Volume two will be a friendlier size for the reader and for those that have volume one already, you won’t need to reprint those pages. With this method you will have two different size books, not necessarily a bad thing, but this may bother you or the readers.
#4) With this method you avoid having to retype volume one and your new edition has both the old and new all in one book. The disadvantages are that it will be difficult to read the reduced pages because the type will be much smaller. Also, the margins will be extra large on the sides of the reduced pages. And like method number two, it will also be more expensive because you are reprinting the first volume in the new format.
If you have a similar challenge, hopefully this has been helpful to you. There isn’t just one right answer, so study the advantages and disadvantages of each method and decide which will work best for you.
If you have a question or need help with a history, please let me know. I would be happy to help.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tell a story; don’t just get stuck in the dry facts. Anyone who reads your personal or family history will likely be interested in the facts, but what they'll enjoy most and remember are the everyday details - favorite stories and anecdotes, embarrassing moments and family traditions. Sometimes it can add interest to include varying accounts of the same event from different perspectives. Personal stories offer a great way to introduce new people and chapters, and will help keep your reader interested. If your ancestors left no personal accounts, you can still tell their story as if they had, using what you've learned about them from your research. Look at historical information at the time to see what was happening in their city. Be sure to make it clear that this
information is not from their own writing but is added to give an example of what your relative might have been doing at the time. Use a phrase like "Mary didn't say this in her record but I can just imagine her ..." The stories in your history will help to make it memorable and enjoyable for the reader and satisfying to you. The Stories will make it great.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Ever since YouTube came along, the younger generation want to see it instead of read it. Adding a video DVD in the back of you book could be the icing on the cake to cause your grandchildren and great-grandchildren to really enjoy your life history. Here are some helpful hints if this is something you are considering.
There are professional companies that can interview you with a camera rolling and video some special family events. Then they will take that film and edit it into a wonderful DVD to be enjoyed over and over again. If you want to have a more hands on approach or do it on a smaller budget, you can do it yourself for a simple but effective look. I few critical things to keep in mind when you are doing a video. Be sure that the lighting is good so that you don’t show up as a black blob on the screen. Also, do the taping where background noise isn’t a problem and where you are close enough to the camera to be heard clearly.
Here are some web pages that will be a great recourse for you:
Interviewer tips: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/resources/rohotips.html
Make your DVD fun and interesting and it will capture future audiences for years to come.
Email questions and I’d be happy to help.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Occasionally someone asks if I can take there letter size (8.5 x 11”) book and reduce it to 6.25 x 9.5” size. I can, but the margins will are much too large on the top and bottom so it doesn’t look very good. I would suggest that you decide in the beginning on the size that you want your finished book. Then when you are typing and placing pictures in the document, everything will fit together nicely and your book will have a more professional look.
I would also suggest that you choose a good readable font. Three common fonts that are easy to read are: Times Roman, Bookman Old Style, and Garamond. Try these out and see which font you like best and find the most readable.
Another tip is to include the chapter in the header on the same line as the page number. One caution, don’t number the pages manually, use automatic numbering. This will save you hours of time and the page numbers will stay consecutive even when you add pictures and edit your book.
Email questions and I’d be happy to help.