Category Archives: Personal Publishing

Building Family History

I’ve been blogging for over ten years and one of the results is that I have a nice little collection of family stories. I had been copy/pasting them into a Scrivener project and taking advantage of its easy reorganization features to use those stories for small family history projects. Recently I’ve been using Byword [Mac – $11.99, iOS – $2.99 plus $2.99 per platform to add publishing capabilities] as my blog editor. I can post from Byword to just about any blog platform and work from just about anywhere.

Writing Workflow

Writing workflow . . . Scrivener to Byword to blog.

Since both Byword and Scrivener support Markdown, it recently dawned on me that I should put Scrivener into the center of my blogging workflow. Once I thought about it, the advantages became quite obvious:

  • I can pull research notes and ephemera into Scrivener where they would be easy to reference while I’m writing.
  • I can write in Markdown. I like this for several reasons. First, it allows me to add basic formatting, hyperlinks and even images to my text without taking my fingers off the keyboard. That may sound a little strange these days, but for an old touch-typist like me it means I don’t break my typing rhythm – or train of thought – just to add a link or some formatting. As any old WordStar typist (a popular word-processing app from the ’80s and ’90s) knows, it makes a difference.
  • Because Scrivener syncs with Byword, I can work on my stories just about anywhere and then publish to any of my blogs with just a few keystrokes using Byword’s publishing feature. Even if I begin a story on Byword, as long as I save it into the appropriate project folder in Dropbox, it will be synched back to Scrivener the next time I open the app.
  • The stories in my Scrivener project continue to grow and at any time I can reorganize my story collection and export selected stories for publishing projects.

Thanks to Scrivener and Byword, I can spend my time researching and writing stories and let my tools handle the posting, organizing and saving chores. The result is a family history collection that continues to grow. Now, when inspiration or family events suggest a publishing project, I have those stories in Scrivener just waiting to be selected, exported and published to meet that project’s goal.

Blurb – A Full-Service Publishing Platform

If you thought Blurb was just for photo books, think again. With its recent acquisition of MagCloud, Blurb has now become a full-service publishing platform offering tools and services to layout, publish and distribute not just beautiful photo books, but magazines and ebooks too! And, they have just announced a distribution agreement with Ingram so your books can be sold at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones and many other outlets.

The updated BookWright app offers the flexibility to create bookstore-quality print books as well as magazines and your choice of fixed-layout or reflowable ebooks. You can still use their online book design platform, Book Smart or InDesign as well.

If you want to create a photo-rich family history, these tools and services give you a broad range of construction support along with a full-service distribution service. There are no up-front costs to use Blurb’s tools or services. For print books, there’s a base cost depending on the size, binding and number of pages. You choose your retail price and keep all the profits from books sold directly from your Blurb bookstore. For books sold through distribution, you set the retail price and the wholesale discount. Blurb tracks sales and handles payments from all these sources right in your Blurb account.

Need a little inspiration to get you started? I think Janet and Charlotte can do just that . . .


Find Creative Commons Images with Photo Pin

Photo Pin

If you’re looking for photos to use on your blog on in a publishing project, you need to add Photo Pin to your bookmarks. This delightful search engine will search Flickr for Creative Commons images matching your search criteria. Search results are displayed as thumbnails which link to a larger preview of the image and a panel with download options and attribution information.

Photo Pin is a delightful way to find just the right photo for your project. Warning: It can also be very distracting.

Scrivener for Geneablogging?

Have you considered Scrivener as a blogging tool? For geneabloggers, it becomes not only a workplace for blogging but a local archive for your growing collection of articles which can then be easily repurposed into any number of other publications.

Scrivener workspace

Here you see my Family Stories project in Scrivener opened to a story in the Published folder under the Drafts section. Look down the Binder (sidebar on left) and you see I have set up this project with sections for Graphics, Research and Notes. I’ve been pulling in the family stories I’ve already published on my blog into the Published folder and I’m just beginning to flesh out some new stories in the Draft section so I don’t yet have much in the Research section. I expect that to grow significantly as I work on new stories.

You’ll notice that this story includes images – two actually. You’ll see how Scrivener handles that in a moment.

Scrivener compile panel

Once your story is ready to publish to your blog, click the Compile button in the top toolbar. A panel similar to this one appears. The only thing I want to publish is the one story so that is the only thing checked in the Include column. Since this is going to my blog, I want to compile it in HTML format so I selected Web Page (.html) in the Compile For: drop-down menu. Now all I need to do is click the Compile button.

Finder screen showing files

As you can see, Scrivener has converted the story text to an HTML file and exported my two images into an images folder.

What happens next depends on the blog platform you are using. I’m using WordPress so the first thing I’m going to do is upload my images into the Media section of my blog. Once that’s done, I open the HTML file in a text editor that will support HTML. I’m using Text Wrangler [Mac – free] in this example.

Text editor screen

Scrivener has compiled my article into a complete HTML page, but I only need the “body” so I’ve only selected the story text. Next I copy it and paste it into my post editor screen – using the Text panel, not the Visual panel (a WordPress feature). Then I saved a draft and previewed the post. The imported HTML code doesn’t adjust the links to the images I’ve uploaded to my blog so I need to fix that manually.

Once that’s done and everything checks out, I publish as normal.

If all you want to do is create a post, this Scrivener workflow probably isn’t for you. However, I’ve found the writing effort is much more pleasant in Scrivener – especially with my research and notes within easy reach. And, since I’m also using those blog posts to build other kinds of family history publications, it’s nice to have them all within easy reach. Instead of just selecting one article to publish to my blog, I can just as easily select several to compile into an anniversary booklet or some other family project.

I have this project synching to a Dropbox folder so I can easily write and edit stories on my iPad too using my choice of apps like Byword [iOS – $4.99].

Right now my Family Stories project is organized into working items and published items. As the collection grows, I will reorganize the Binder – both stories and research sections – to make it easier to keep track of what I’ve done and what I want to do. Scrivener makes it easy to reorganize things and gives me a great view of what’s done and what still needs work. The few extra steps it takes to publish an article from Scrivener are more than compensated with all the other advantages Scrivener provides.


Tumblr Experiment

I have found Tumblr to be a delightful news service – both for reading and aggregating news and other items of interest. Some time back I created a Tumblr to support a weekly genealogy workshop I’m doing at our local Council on Aging. For me, it is an easy way to collect articles, videos, links and other relevant online information. Although my workshop participants have varying degrees of tech skills, they seem to be able to navigate the blog and find it useful. It’s the perfect tool for this project.

Below is another experiment using Tumblr as a news service. Here I’m using two WordPress plugins – Widgets on Pages and Tumblr Widget. The Tumblr Widget makes it easy to display the latest posts from a Tumblr on my blog and Widgets on Pages lets me put a widget into a page or post – not just the blog’s sidebar or footer. In the experiment below, you’re looking at the latest posts on my Personal Publishing Tumblr. Why is this an experiment? I want to learn two things: 1) the best way to format my Tumblr posts for display here at WordPress and 2) how the widget will display in both newsreaders and email.

So here for your viewing pleasure (I hope!) is a look at my Tumblr experiment in news-gathering.

    Smashwords Update

    Smashwords continues to expand its reach for ebook distribution. Ebooks published via Smashwords are now becoming available in public libraries thanks to an agreement with OverDrive.  They have also signed agreements with both the Scribd and Oyster subscription services. Not only do these services provide the reader with affordable access to a growing catalog of books, they also add to the author/publisher’s revenue stream.

    OverDrive is the service used by a number of public libraries to make ebooks available to their readers. OverDrive provides the platform that manages the discovery and lending functions while the library chooses which books it wants to purchase for lending.

    Both Scribd and Oyster are direct-to-consumer services. For a monthly fee, members can read any of the ebooks in their collections. There’s no checkout or return – you just find a book and start reading. And you can read as many as you wish at the same time.

    None of these platforms currently allow self-published authors to submit their own books so the Smashwords agreement is our only access. And, while Smashwords will get its share of revenue from your books in addition to the commission each book store takes, it saves you time and effort by providing one dashboard to manage all your publishing and sales.

    NOTE: Smashwords does not support print publishing nor is Amazon distribution included in Smashwords’ services.

    Mark Coker, Smashwords’ founder, is also promoting the idea that libraries are in a unique position to encourage and support self-published authors. I would carry this idea a step further and include local historical and genealogical societies.


    Personal Publishing

    First, let me define what I mean by personal publishing. I see personal publishing as a way to share the stories of my family – both yesterday’s and today’s. It’s more like a technically-advanced version of the scrapbooks, diaries and photo albums of my ancestors. Thanks to technology, it has a broader reach. And, it’s not necessarily a solitary occupation either.

    I’ve been blogging for more than ten years now and my fascination for this platform continues to grow. It’s easy to use, yet serves not only as a journal but also a magazine, scrapbook, photo album and even a movie theater. In addition to written stories, I can create photo documentaries with presentation programs such as Keynote or PowerPoint, audio or video interviews with Skype and even home movies with my digital camera – all “published” through my blog site.

    That being said, the blog isn’t the only form of personal publishing. Today we can publish books ourselves using tools we already have and are comfortable using. And, those books can be beautiful bound volumes or e-books read on an electronic reader. We can broadcast our own video and audio productions and even serialize them in the form of podcasts. Projects in electronic formats have a world-wide reach if you choose to make them public and many family historians have made connections with distant relations as a result of their online efforts.

    Personal publishing has many rewards – connecting with other family members is just one of them. Thanks to Internet search engines, a blog post from a personal blog has instant worldwide reach. As a result, a worldwide community of family history/genealogy publishers has developed. Known as Geneabloggers, this community is both inspirational and supportive. Here you’ll find you’re not the only person fascinated with dead relatives and you can share your research brick walls and triumphs with others who know and appreciate your efforts.

    Although I don’t see personal publishing as a commercial endeavor like publishing a novel, I’m not against getting a little return for my effort. Once again, there are many online services that will not only help us produce our family stories, but also provide a platform where family members can order their own copies. These services will collect the money, print/produce the story product and provide all the shipping and customer service functions for you. And, if you have chosen to add a bit of profit to the cost, the service will send those profits to you as your sales generate them. All of this is done with no upfront costs and no project is too small.

    I’m fascinated with the many publishing opportunities available today. The popularity of book readers and tablets have given us the ability to bring our ancestors to life in ways we couldn’t begin to imagine just a few years ago. Things are happening so fast, it can be hard to keep up.

    Here at the Gazette you’ll find articles discussing the tools and resources now available to us along with project ideas to show you how to take advantage of these opportunities. And, if you’re working on a personal publishing project, tell us about it in the comments section. New ideas are always welcome.

    Family history as art

    Genealogy databases are wonderful, but how much time will you – much less your family – spend perusing its family group sheets? You’ve got to attract their attention before you can generate their interest. As you can see, a family group can become a work of art and with today’s graphic options it’s easier than ever to make your own. Who knows . . . it might even become a treasured artifact in a museum collection someday.

    Scribd for Family History

    Scribd’s new subscription service has been a reading delight. Even if I never got past the cookbooks, it would be well-worth the $8.95/month fee. My latest discovery is The Food, Folklore and Art of Lowcountry Cooking which is not only full of great recipes for the dishes I grew up eating, but it also looks at the history behind them. The nice thing about this subscription service is that the books don’t have to be returned by a certain date. As long as I’m a subscriber, I have access to these books any time I want them. The cookbooks alone make this a great deal, but they are just one category in this huge collection of books. Yes, there are even genealogy books included in the subscription service – just not as many as I’d like.

    One of the very nice things about reading books on Scribd is that for the most part you are reading the books as they were originally designed and laid out. Take a look at one of my Moultrie Creek Guides below. This guide was built using the Keynote presentation app and is designed to be read on a tablet. Even scrunched to fit the available space on this blog page, it’s still quite readable. On an iPad even the example images are very readable. Many of those examples are from actual family history projects and, combined with Scribd, my family can enjoy them online via a Scribd app or downloaded as a PDF and read on whatever device they prefer.

    Anyone can set up a free account on Scribd and use it to post their own books and documents. Your publications can be freely available to all, privately available only to select users or included in the Scribd store to generate revenue. Did you notice the difference in the tools available in the toolbars on each of the examples above? My Moultrie Creek Guide offers tools to download and share the publication where the subscription service does not. That’s because I chose to make those features available when I posted the publication. Scribd has free reading apps for iOS and Android devices and has just released one for Kindle Fire tablets. Using these apps you have access to the subscription service as well as the free collections.

    There are also a growing number of books and other publications on sale at Scribd. Anyone with their own original work can publish at Scribd. When you offer a book for sale at Scribd, you set the price and you take home 80% of that price with each sale. What makes Scribd even more attractive is that your publications can be full of photos and graphics – and created using the word-processing apps you already have.

    For those who prefer to download a PDF version when available, the free Documents app for the iPad not only reads just about any kind of document file, but also has an amazing file management system that can hook into just about any cloud storage or online repository as well as download directly from a web site.

    Scribd is a great platform for publishing family history projects, giving you the ability to include the images, charts and tables that are so difficult to include in most ebooks. Not only is it free to use, but you can also make publications available for sale through the Scribd Store. And, for your own reading pleasure, the Scribd Subscription service is hard to beat. Don’t you think it’s time to take a look at Scribd?