At the time of writing this, genealogists are spoiled for choice when it comes to publishing their family histories. Your research can take the form of a book, an e-book (e.g., Kindle), a series of website articles, a movie, a family history newsletter, or a documentary, or an audio podcast. If you decide to write a book, you have the option of self-publishing.
Traditional Publishing & Self-Publishing
Self-publishing will mean you will either edit your book yourself or pay an editor to do this work. You will also be responsible for your book’s distribution and marketing. The NY Book Editors website has excellent introductory guidance on how to self-publish a book: A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing via https://nybookeditors.com/2017/04/beginners-guide-self-publishing/
On the other hand, a publisher will edit, print, market, and distribute your book.
If you decide to approach a publisher, I have some advice:
- Do some research on publishers. Do your short-listed publishing companies release genealogy-related books? Does the publisher have a good industry track record and reputation? You can find these answers via a simple online search;
- Familiarize yourself with the publishing process, and the duties an author and a publisher have to each other;
- Familiarize yourself with the various kinds of publishing contracts; and
- Research attorneys who are familiar with publishing contracts.
However you decide to publish, the platform you choose should support your needs and requirements…and not the other way around. You will find a list of publishing resources provided in the Resource section.
Now is the exciting part. It’s time to research and to get writing. I wish you all the best on your genealogy adventures!
Other Publishing Platforms
1. Turn Your Project into a Documentary
If your project has a lot of action or has a strong and rivetting hook – you might want to think about turning it into a documentary. You can either go the route of pitching your project to a documentary filmmaker, or a production company that specializes in producing and distributing documentary films (services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are strong considerations!), or self-direct and self-shoot your project.
Peter Lee-Wright has produced an excellent guide entitled The Documentary Handbook which you can download here: https://genealogyadventures.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/The_Documentary_Handbook-Peter-Lee-Wright.pdf.
Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies has produced an awesome, practical, step-by-step guide to shotting a documentary entitled Visual Storytelling: The Digital Video Documentary. You can download this guide via: https://genealogyadventures.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Visual-storytelling.pdf
2. Serial Podcast Series
Waaay back in the day, when the golden age of media was the wireless (aka radio), there was a wonderful form of entertainment called radio serials. Serials were adapted from plays or chapters from a book – or they were original dramas, mysteries, etc that were crafted for radio broadcasts.
Today, we have digital services like Quibi (https://quibi.com), which offer up short-form audio entertainment. There is also a staggering array of audio broadcasting and podcasting services like iTunes, Spotify, and more that offer listeners short-form audio entertainment online.
Let’s take a look at some considerations you will need to think about when it comes to producing a season-long exploration of a single story, unfolding over a series of episodes.
Your writing project just might have the makings of a popular podcast made up of a series of 10 to 20-minute audio episodes. Each episode would be a self-contained action point from your project (which will need to be written in such a way to make this process easier!). before we get into the technical specifics, there is another fundamentally important point to consider: the storyteller’s voice. This kind of podcasting requires a speaker with a colorful voice that brings the drama and can convey subtle nuances and emotions solely through his or her voice. The storyteller can be you, a friend, a family member, or a professional voiceover artist. Whoever it is that provides the voice for your project, just ensure they can relay the story in a way that makes your podcast series rivetting and a “must listen to” kind of experience.
David Gerhardt, the producer of The Growth Show, has written a superb guide to producing a podcast: How To Create a Podcast: A Beginner’s Guide via https://genealogyadventures.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/podcast-guide.pdf
Podcasting Today has an excellent guide too which you can download via https://genealogyadventures.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Podcasting.pdf
3. Digital Writing Platforms
If documentaries and podcasting sound a little too daunting for you, you might consider adapting your writing project to online writing platforms. In this regard, you are spoiled for choice:
- Blogging platforms like WordPress or Blogger (one chapter from your project = 1 weekly blog post);
- Join free writing platforms like:
Like anything, you will need to do your due diligence and research how these services’ users feel about the platform.
If your serial really takes off in terms of the numbers of listeners, subscribers, audience engagement, etc., you might be able to earn some mad money. You probably won’t be able to retire on the earnings, however, it’s always nice to earn some money from one’s labor of love. Service providers like Medium have programs that pay content providers (that would be you). However, you should do an online search to see how true these claims are. Google using a search string like “Made Up Company Name, customer complaints” or “Made Up Company Name, member reviews”.
Alternatively, you may also want to sign up for a service like Google AdSense – where you get paid for hosting embeddable advertisements from Google’s network of advertisers.
If your project is solely for your family, you may consider publishing using a monthly newsletter (e.g. one chapter per newsletter) or a nicely designed .pdf file.
Truly, your publishing options are as limited as your imagination!
While there are books that cover the subject of writing and publishing family histories – I hope this 4-part whistle-stop tour has given you plenty of ideas of how you can bring your family history project to life!