A Personal Publishing Primer

We are in the middle of the Information Revolution where technology is generating opportunities for individuals to share information with few restrictions. One element of this revolution – self-publishing – has had a significant impact on the genealogy community. Not only are we scanning and sharing photos, letters and other documents from our personal archives, but a growing number of family historians are publishing their family histories.

For discussion purposes, I’m defining this as personal publishing rather than self-publishing. Why? While we are using self-publishing tools and platforms to create, distribute and even sell our works, for most of us this is a labor of love rather than a business endeavor. And, while I would be delighted to see a family history publishing project become a run-away best seller, I don’t see many family projects starting with that as a goal. That being said, we all want to be taken seriously and need to create a professional-qualtiy publication in order to do that. This primer introduces the basic elements involved in a publishing project. Other articles discuss specifics on tools, services, platforms and other publishing elements that support our efforts.

The steps in publishing project include:

  • Research. This is where we’re most comfortable. We’ve already been doing this for some time. That won’t stop me from discussing useful tools and services, though.
  • Writing. From idea to manuscript, there’s a lot of time and effort in between. In addition to organizing and writing the story, you also have photos, charts and other graphics to manage. And don’t forget those source citations! There are tools and resources to improve your writing skills as well as manage the actual writing process.
  • Editing. There’s more to editing than a good spell-check. You can develop your editing skills along with your writing skills, but it never hurts to have more than one set of eyes look at your manuscript. Discussions in this area offer resources for both self-editing and getting outside help.
  • Layout. Turning a manuscript into a publication requires skills beyond basic word-processing. There are tables of content, footnotes and bibliographies along with typography, page design and book covers to be created and managed. You can format a manuscript into a professionally-formatted publication once you know what is required and develop the necessary formatting skills. If you don’t want to do it yourself, there are a number of affordable services to do it for you.
  • Publishing. It’s not just hard cover or paperback any more. Now there are ebooks in a number of different formats. As your own publisher, you control those decisions. Understanding how the publishing world works these days helps make those decisions easier.
  • Distribution. Where do you want your published project made available? Once again there are a number of options and your choice(s) here will influence which layout, publishing and promotion options you will have.
  • Promotion. How will you get the word out about your published project? Whether you goal is to generate revenue, attract cousins or both, you will be using the same services and platforms to make those goals a reality.

It doesn’t matter whether you do all the work yourself or farm out tasks to others, you are the publisher and you make the decisions needed to complete your project. The more you know about the options available to you, the better those decisions will be.

Tell a Story with a Photo Slideshow

Do you remember the Christmas Tour of Blogs? What a fun project that was! This post is about taking advantage of your photo-editor’s slideshow capabilities to tell a story with pictures and as I was browsing for appropriate photos to use in my example, I stumbled onto my photo “cards” that I used in the tour. So, of course this project gets a Christmas theme!

Just about every photo-editing platform has some form of slideshow feature. If yours doesn’t or it’s too clunky for you, then put your Power Point/Keynote presentation app to work instead. Either way, you can build a fascinating story to share with family and friends. Let’s start by taking a look at the finished slideshow.

Tell a Story with Pictures – The Christmas Tour of Blogs from Moultrie Creek on Vimeo.

There’s no rule stating that a slideshow can only be made from photographs. Why not use your scrapbook skills to create graphic images – which can contain multiple photos – and use them in your project? I’m using iPhoto’s slideshow feature with the Vintage Prints theme. This theme worked best with my portrait-oriented images and it did the least bit of auto-cropping. The background music is Deck the Halls by Richard Freitas – a $1.99 purchase from Vimeo’s Music Store. It’s license lets me use it for public projects such as this without worrying about the DRM-Nazis screaming for my head. The track runs right at 90 seconds so I set the slideshow to time itself with the music. That gives the viewer time to read the captions as well as look at the photos. Once the slideshow was finished, I exported it to video and uploaded it to Vimeo. The entire slideshow part of the project took less than 30 minutes to complete and much of that was experimenting with the various themes to choose the right one for this project.

While the slideshow only took minutes, the cards took a bit longer. They were built in Photoshop Elements. The card background was created using a layer of my red background color, then placing a stylized line graphic over the background and adjusting the graphic layer’s opacity to have it fade into the background. The background was saved as a template file. Photos then had to be selected, each cropped to the same size, placed on the background template and saved as a separate image file. The light colored border around the image gives the look of a beveled edge to the card and the text color matches it. Once each of the cards was finished, it was saved and imported to iPhoto. The toughest part of the original project was cropping and sizing the images to fit in the template.

iPhoto lets me export the slideshow project in sizes ranging from small (fits an iPhone screen) to large (tv and large monitor screens). Nothing says I can’t export multiple copies – each in a different size. I can then email one size, share another on Facebook, post to my family blog or display a larger version on my tv using Apple TV or a Roku box.

Whether simple or complex, a photo slideshow is a great way to tell a story.

Side note: I don’t know about you, but I import a “finished” copy of just about every graphic/scrapbooking project I create into iPhoto. Not only is it inspiration for future projects, but as in this case, it can become the content in a new project.

Finding Your Waze

I fell in love with Waze [Android & iOS – free] long before I got my iPhone so I was delighted to find it also available for iOS. Waze is unique in that it depends on its users to provide information on traffic and road conditions, accidents and related news. Your view of Waze will show other Waze users around you and you can even make a direct connection with them. It may look too cute to be serious, but it does its job beautifully.

Waze offers both audio and visual turn-by-turn navigation and, on the iPhone 4S and 5, Siri can be used to provide limited voice controls for tasks like reporting traffic conditions or accidents while you drive. You can set set up a navigation route with multiple stops. We put that to work recently while on a junk store tour and it worked beautifully. I just plugged in the addresses of the shops we wanted to visit and arranged them in the order we wanted. Waze got us there with ease.

It can be used to find nearby gas stations (and offers crowd-sourced gas prices), banks, restaurants and more and, if you have someone else in the car, you can even chat with other Waze users nearby from within the app. But it doesn’t stop there. If you notice an error in the map, you can edit it yourself. No, not in the mobile app – you’ll make your changes from you desktop using the online map editor.

It’s the crowd-sourced content that makes Waze so special. Those of us who live away from large metropolitan areas are often left out of the whistles and bells built into location-based apps. Waze users are reporting from everywhere. I’m in no rush for the new and improved Apple Maps because Waze meets my needs beautifully. I don’t see myself changing anytime soon.