Category Archives: Personal Publishing

Managing Fonts on Your iPad

Your iPad comes with a standard set of fonts which are very nice but . . .

If you want to have additional fonts available for use in presentations or other storytelling projects, you can do this with the AnyFonts app [iOS – $1.99] and an easily accessible cloud storage service (I use Dropbox). AnyFonts makes it easy to install fonts you already have on your  iPad. It also offers an in-app purchase (99¢) to add a bundled collection of fonts to your device. These fonts will work in any app that allows you to change fonts (including the Microsoft Office apps for iPad). This instructional video shows how easy it is to add fonts with AnyFont.

If you are a font fanatic like me, you’ll need to watch yourself. Fonts take up space on your iPad and can easily get out of control. Since I use my iPad for presentations, I’ve developed a basic set of fonts that I use in my slides and have them installed on the iPad. I also keep a collection of “creative” fonts in a Dropbox folder so I can install them when I need them and remove them when the project is finished.


Vellum for Ebook Building

One of my projects for this year is to update Future of Memories with new technology and new projects. When the first edition was published, there were few applications to support custom book layout for ebooks. I found the booksellers’ automated conversion results very disappointing – especially for a book with lots of graphics. Since then we’ve seen a lot of improvements to both book conversion and reader apps. Although PDF remains the best option for custom layouts with lots of graphics and images, there are a lot more options available for ebook formats today.

Recently I stumbled onto a lovely app called Vellum [Mac – free]. Its purpose is to provide a visual method to work on your book’s layout and preview the results. It is NOT a writing platform although you can add and edit content in the app. Once your manuscript is finished, the text is imported into Vellum and you begin styling. Using Vellum, you can assign headings, block quotes and alignment. You can also add images, ornamental breaks and links. At any time, you can use the preview panel to see what your project will look like on an iPad, iPhone, Kindle Paperwhite and Simple NOOK (see the gallery below for examples).

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When inserting images, Vellum provides a panel for selecting options and will warn you if your image is too small for the display size you’ve chosen. You can also assign a link to the image.

Image Panel in Vellum

In addition to your manuscript and any added images, Vellum includes a title page form where you input the title, author and other needed information. You can also add additional elements like forward, copyright, dedication, about the author and more.

Once everything is ready, click the Purchase icon at the top of the screen to begin the build process. Although the app is free, Vellum charges $29.95 to make the generation process accessible. Once your in-app purchase is completed, the generation feature is activated for this book. You can use it to create book packages for Kindle, NOOK and iBooks. (Note: you will need to install the Kindlegen app from Amazon before generating the Kindle version with Vellum. See Vellum instructions for details.) You can proof your books, make corrections and regenerate as needed. When everything is the way you want it, you upload your book packages to your author accounts at Amazon, NOOK and Apple.

Vellum is a gorgeous app and quite easy to use. It gives me control over the conversion process – especially proofing the conversion results – and I can insure that my book will look great before I send it to the booksellers. My manuscript is still has a long way to go before I’m ready to start working on the layout, but Vellum will definitely be part of that process.

Telling Stories with Keynote and Scribd

My favorite layout tool is Keynote – Apple’s presentation graphics app. It gives me the flexibility to build publications that are part story and part scrapbook – my favorite format. Keynote is not a writing tool and it doesn’t handle the linked text boxes that flow from one page to another like Pages – Apple’s word processing app. It does make it easy to place and arrange photos and other graphical elements and I can create some interesting text effects. In this particular publication, most of the stories come from blog articles I’ve written over the years, so I’m taking that “finished” text and styling it with layout, fonts, graphic effects and photos to get the look I want.

The Scribd online library and publishing platform makes it possible to publish my stories in this unconventional format, letting others read it online or even download a PDF if I choose to make that feature available. The built-in revision system makes it easy to upload a new version when I have more stories to add. One of my family history projects, Behind the Alligator Farm, is posted at Scribd. You can view it via the embed below. Like most family histories, this is a work in progress. As new stories are completed, a new version replaces the previous edition. Currently, you are looking at the second edition.

Update: Both Lulu and Smashwords support distribution to Scribd’s membership service where members can read as many books as they want for a single monthly fee. Author/publishers earn royalties for each time their book is read by a member.

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.