A Quick Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Family History

With the world going digital, it may seem old-fashioned to print a book about your family’s history. But the truth is, a screen can never replace the experience of flipping through pages of pictures and stories about your loved ones.

We know this on a gut level, but it’s also backed up by a lot of research—we form strong emotional connections with print books, not so with screens. Consumer behavior proves it too: sales of print books continue to rise (especially among Millennials!) and sales of ebooks have flatlined (check out Revenge of the Analog for more on this topic).

But how do you write a book? It’s a daunting task. In this post, we’ll explore a few options that will make it easier for you.

Hire a Writer

This is by far the easiest option for you, but it will also be the most expensive. Ask friends, family, and colleagues if they know a good, professional writer. Personal recommendations will usually lead to the best working relationship.

If that doesn’t work out, you can use a site like Upwork.com. On Upwork, you post the specifics of your writing project, writers respond with price quotes, and you pick the one you want to work with. You can see the writers’ ratings, reviews, and testimonials. Prices range from $20 – $100+ per hour.

Hire an Editor

This option is less expensive than hiring a writer, but it’s a bigger time investment on your part. You’ll need to present the editor with a finished book. Thankfully, your book won’t need to be perfect. It’s the editor’s job to whip it into shape for you, so if you give them something to work with they can take it from there.

Just like hiring a writer, tapping into your network is the best way to find an editor. Use Upwork.com if that doesn’t work out. Prices range from $15 – $50+ per hour.

Pay to be Prompted

For $79 (as I write this, there’s a holiday special price of $59), Storyworth.com will send you a story prompt each week for one year. You’ll write or record your response. At the end of the year, Storyworth will put your responses together in a hardcover, black & white book, which they’ll print and ship to you (all included in the $79 price). You can buy as many additional copies of the book as you’d like, and you can upgrade to a color book for an additional fee.

The questions they present are interesting, and aren’t things you would think of on your own. Buying a year of Storyworth for someone else (like Grandma or Grandpa) is a great way to prompt them to tell their stories and get it written and/or recorded for posterity.

Write It Yourself

This is the hardest but most fulfilling option. You may think you’re not a writer, but as famous PBS painter Bob Ross said, “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything you’re willing to practice, you can do….I really believe that if you practice enough, you could paint The Mona Lisa with a two-inch brush.” I think he’d apply that sentiment to writing too.

Let’s say you’ve finished your book, how do you get it printed? I recommend Amazon KDP or lulu.com. They both offer great pricing and lots of size options. Pricing per book can be as low as $2.15/each (100-page, black & white) up to about $14/each (for a 200-page book in color).

Setting your book up on these platforms can be a bit technical. Lulu.com will offer more customer service help than Amazon. But don’t let this stop you—you can easily hire someone to do the setup process for you. Once your book is published, anyone in your family can order their own copy and have it shipped directly to them.

In the end, all your hard work will be worth it. There’s nothing quite like pulling a copy of your family’s history right off the bookshelf. (My grandfather left us such a gift.) It’s a priceless experience for you and generations to come.

For more on preserving your family’s legacy, check out this blog post: Recording and Transcribing Family Conversations on Your Smartphone.