Category Archives: Publishing

My Top 10 Posts of 2011.

It’s the end of the year and time for list making.  These are the posts from 2011 that were the most popular with readers.  If you’ve missed some of them, now’s  your chance to catch up over the holidays. Enjoy!

  1. The 50 Best Life Story Questions.
  2. 25 No Cost or Low Cost Marketing Ideas for Your Personal History Business.
  3. How Much Should You Pay a Personal Historian?
  4. 15 Great Memoirs Written by Women.
  5. 5 Top Sites for Free Online Videography Training.
  6. The Top 3 Prosumer HD Camcorders Under $2,500.
  7. How to Boost Your Interviewing Skills.
  8. Three Crucial Steps to Starting Your Personal History Business.
  9. 5 Print-On-Demand Sites You’ll Want to Consider.
  10. 12 Top Rated Family Tree Makers.

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How to Start and Run a Personal History Business.

Disclosure. I’ve contributed one small item to this book but I will not be receiving any renumeration from its sale.

I’ve just finished Jennifer Campbell’s recent book  Start and Run a Personal History Business published by Self-Counsel Press. If you’re thinking of making personal histories a business, you owe it to yourself to get this book. Jennifer knows her stuff. She’s been a professional personal historian since 2002 and prior to that had a 25 year career as an editor, writer, and interviewer.

This 180 page book is packed with the kind of information I wish I had when I was starting out. The 16 Chapters cover:

  • the world of personal history
  • the business of personal history
  • getting started
  • business foundations
  • pricing
  • producing a sample
  • a guide to producing a personal history
  • interviewing
  • marketing
  • an online presence
  • publicity and promotion
  • sales
  • client relations and customer service
  • time management and project management
  • growing your business
  • accelerating your success and managing growth

In addition, the book comes with a CD-ROM which includes all of the sample templates used in the book as well as resources to help you in your business.

If you buy Personal History Business for nothing else than the chapter on pricing, it’s well worth the investment. For personal historians who are starting out, determining what to charge clients is a challenge. Jennifer’s detailed step-by-step approach will give you the help you need to ensure that you keep your business profitable.

What struck me about the book is that Jennifer makes it clear that running a personal history business takes more than just a love of people and their stories. Her book is like a splash of cold water.  After reading it, if you’re still enthusiastic about establishing a personal history business, you’ll  go into it with your eyes wide open. A word of caution. Don’t become overwhelmed by the content. There’s a lot to digest. Read it through once for an overview and then come back to chew on smaller portions.

I like Jennifer’s candor. For example, on business plans she says, “Like a lot of small business owners, I resisted doing a business plan for a long time. I think it was a psychological block…I finally got some serious business coaching…”  In my eyes, her honesty makes her more credible because I know that she’s writing from personal experience.

The book is also sprinkled with useful tips. They’re terrific. And I wish she’d included more of them and highlighted them so they stood out from the surrounding copy. This brings me to my only real concern and that’s the overall layout and design of the book.

My personal preference is for some breathing space around blocks of text. I found the information on the pages visually congested. I longed for more white space, bolder titles, and little sidebars with tidbits of information, like her “tips”.  I would have found it easier to absorb the wealth of material with more visual help. Having said this, I’m aware that there are production costs to consider when designing a book. And Self-Counsel Press, the publishers,  probably have a standard layout from which there can be  little deviation.

Layout and design aside, this is an excellent book. If you’re serious about establishing a personal history business, you need to do two things -  buy a copy of  Start & Run A Personal History Business and join the Association of Personal Historians.

My Top 10 Posts of 2010.

In the past twelve months these are the posts that have ranked as the most popular with  readers.  If you’ve missed some of these, now’s  your chance to catch up over the holidays. Enjoy!

  1. How Much Should You Pay A Personal Historian?
  2. Your Photo Restoration Resource List.
  3. 15 Great Memoirs Written by Women.
  4. 5 Print-On-Demand Sites You’ll Want to Consider.
  5. #1 Secret to Getting More Clients.
  6. 5 Top Sites for Free Online Videography Training.
  7. How to Interview Someone Who Is Terminally Ill: Part One.
  8. How to Salvage a Damaged Audio Cassette.
  9. Warning: Using Copyright Music Without Permission Is Illegal.
  10. How to Make Your Life Story Workshop Memorable.

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6 First-Class Short Run Printers.

Are you looking for a reliable, quality, short run printer? These six  all come highly recommended by my colleagues at the Association of Personal Historians.

If you have other printers that you’ve had a good experience with, let me know.  I’ll add their names to a future list.


“In 2010 a book is no longer just a book. A book is a paperback, a hardcover, or, of course, an ebook. It needs to be in the form the reader wants it, when the reader wants it. As a publisher you see opportunity in this epochal change. As BookMobile, we see the vision we created in the ’90s being realized.”

Custom Museum Publishing

“Custom Museum Publishing specializes in the creative design, production and printing of full-color books, exhibit catalogs and marketing materials for artists, galleries, museums and historical societies. Located in beautiful mid-coast Maine, our newest printing technology makes your showcase-quality products affordable in either small or large quantities. In addition to perfect-bound and hard-bound books and exhibit catalogs, we offer calendars, note cards, post cards, brochures, and large-format signage.  We also offer experienced exhibit photography and copy editing.”

Family Heritage Publishers

“Utah Bookbinding Company is the binding division of Family Heritage Publishers.  It has been in continuous operation since its establishment in March 1952. It has been owned and operated by the same family since the beginning. It is the premiere library binding company serving the Intermountain West. Its experience is unsurpassed in the industry with employees having a collective experience of over 100 years.”

First Choice Books

“Book publishers, small publishing presses and independent authors who wish to self publish will find our self publishing  company affordable, trustworthy and dependable. Quotations are provided within 2 to 3 business days and a hardcopy proof within 2 weeks. Our high tech book printing equipment and experienced, friendly team of professionals will make your publishing experience enjoyable and informative.”


“Our company will be successful only if our customers are successful.”  Those were the words of D.W. Friesen who started our company in 1907, in Altona, Manitoba. What started as a small confectionery store has grown to become one of Canada’s leading independent companies, specializing in book manufacturing and printing.”

Gorham Printing

“We are a Pacific Northwest book printer specializing in book design and book printing for self-published books. At Gorham Printing, it’s easy to turn your manuscript into a professional quality book. If you are looking for exceptional book design combined with quality book printing, you’ve come to the right place!”

Photo by John Biehler

“If You Write It, They’ll Buy It.” Just Ain’t So!

The following guest article is published with the kind permission of Susan Owens of Tales for Telling.

For all but a few famous authors, whether a book is self-published or published by a big name like Random House, “selling” books is in a very real sense up to the author. What sells books is buzz, getting people excited about the topic, the author, or both, marketing, and the author being willing to push the book at every opportunity. Some people are great at this; others think that once their book is printed and on Amazon, they’re done. Sadly, “If you write it, they will buy,” just ain’t so!

Of course it’s important that a book be well-written, well-designed, and attractively presented. But the sad truth is that a lot of good books  have languished on the shelves while a lot of bad books have sold very well. Why?  Because they’ve gotten the right publicity, or because the author is famous.

Distributing books, on the other hand, is a different matter. Self-publishing houses like iUniverse and others do make certain that the book gets on the list to be distributed by places like Ingram (most bookstores order from this source) and that it can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Some houses arrange for the book to be made available electronically for Kindle or other e-book sources. As important as these logistical steps are, I don’t think it can be said that these houses are “selling” books. What they are doing is facilitating the process so that when the author sells books, people have a way to get them in their hands. That said, here’s an interesting article about self-publishing: The Basics of Self Publishing

Here’s what to do to get a book into the distribution channel so that when the author generates that buzz, the book is out there to be had.

  • Determine who the publisher is. To publish a book for sale, you need an ISBN number, which can be purchased in blocks of ten but only by a publisher. Would you be the publisher? Or would the author?
  • Get ISBN numbers and barcodes.  If you have hardback and paperback, each gets a different ISBN. Click here for more information.
  • Register copyright with Washington, DC. This isn’t required but it’s certainly a good idea. It costs $45.  Don’t do this until the manuscript is pretty final; changes of more than 25% of content, I believe, require a new registration.  For more information click here.
  • Figure out what BISAC code you want to use. These are often printed on the back cover. This helps bookstores to shelve the book (for example, Self-Help, Memoir, etc.) See this website for more information.
  • Find a librarian trained to do publisher’s cataloging-in-publication data. This is the stuff on the copyright page that the Library of Congress does for traditionally published books but will not do for self-published books. However, I think it adds a level of professionalism to a book and also helps librarians to add it to their databases. This means libraries are more likely to buy the book if it’s marketed to them. Your local library may be able to recommend someone with this expertise.
  • Register book with the Library of Congress. You also have to send them copies when the book is printed. Click here for more  information.
  • Try to get the book into the Ingram catalog. Check this website for more information.
  • Get the book on the Books in Print list. Here’s a link with more information.
  • Get it listed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also have the book included in the “look inside” feature. For information on selling a book on Amazon click here.  And for info from Barnes & Noble click here.
  • Make an e-book version available (for Kindle users, at least). I know one author I worked with had requests for this almost immediately when he started to give talks and push his book. And fortunately, the publisher we had used was able to comply pronto.

After all of this the work begins. Actually before that, because the author should begin to generate publicity about the book months before it’s released. This should include a web page, perhaps a Facebook page or blog, etc. Once the book is out, there should be press releases, speaking engagements, radio/TV appearances, and so on.

I hope this helps.

Photo by katiew

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5 Print-On-Demand Sites You’ll Want to Consider.

A colleague in the Association of Personal Historians, Sarah White,  has kindly given me permission to reprint her excellent article on print-on-demand websites. I’m  adding another site that I used to produce a book for my mother’s  ninetieth birthday. Memory Press offers outstanding customer service and an excellent product. While I haven’t used the other sites, I can  recommend Memory Press without hesitation. For more information click here.


For a writing class this fall I researched print-on-demand websites, in order to make recommendations to my students. I had in mind users with limited technical sophistication who had a goal of creating books for family and friends, not necessarily for sale on the open market.  After about 6 hours of surfing the different sites, here are my findings:

  • has the widest range of page size/binding options and the best prices if you’re comfortable producing your own PDF page files to upload.
  • was close on price but a bit more than Lulu. Blurb’s point of difference is a nice interface for converting a blog to a book. It has fewer page size/binding options than Lulu.
  • (a subset of Amazon, formerly known as BookSurge) had lower pricing but is intended for people who want to sell to the general market. Starting a job required setting yourself up as a publisher and pages of information to fill out. Prices are a good deal lower than Lulu; publishing wholesale as opposed to retail, essentially.
  • was my best discovery. It has a good range of page size/binding options, and a really nifty online page building tool. It’s a hybrid that allows you to upload files and pictures and do layout online. But it also allows you to upload formatted documents and you can blend both approaches. Pricing is in line with Lulu and Blurb.

In terms of cost, any of these sites were considerably cheaper than going with a FedEx Print Online or Office Depot Print Online option. All the above information will no doubt change over time, but I hope this comparison is useful to you.

Sarah White


Linda Coffin, another APH member,  has added this useful postscript.

One quick addition to Sarah’s fine comments: Whichever online option you choose, think carefully about how you might want to use the book in the future. If you choose an online layout option like Blurb, for instance, then any time you want to reprint or update your book you will have to go back to that service again. If Blurb has gone out of business in the meantime, you will have to start from scratch. On the other hand, creating your own PDF file and uploading it (to a service like Lulu, for instance) gives you the option to revise it easily and have it printed in a different place the second time around if you wish.

Linda Coffin

Photo by Rob Overcash

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