Society Publishing

Electronic publishing is a win-win situation for societies large and small. Not only can you afford to offer both electronic and print editions of your publications to your membership, you can generate additional revenue by selling previous editions without the problems of storage, shipping and collecting money.

These opportunities allow you to reach an audience way beyond your local community and to attract new members from all over the world. And, because these publications are so easy to produce, you can expand your library to include cemetery inventories, biographical sketches, books of scanned historical documents and quarterly journal archives. This will in turn attract more people to your society.

Invest in scanners such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap [$430/Win] sheet-fed scanner and the Epson Perfection [$80/Win & Mac] oversized flatbed scanner to scan and convert your journal archives to PDF documents. The online genealogy community has turned scanning into a social event with Miriam’s monthly Scanfest. There’s no reason your society can’t do something similar. Not only is it an opportunity to digitize items in the society’s archives, but it’s a great opportunity to teach proper scanning techniques to your members.

Take advantage of publication platforms like Scribd to present and sell your digital documents online. Scribd provides the tools to upload and present your documents and provides your own storefront. You set the price and Scribd handles the rest – creating book pages in your storefront for each of your publications, providing marketing tools, collecting the money, downloading the files and providing customer service. There are no up-front costs or monthly fees. Scribd deducts a 20% commission plus a 25¢ transaction fee from each sale and sends you your profits every quarter. If your profits don’t reach the $100 minimum required to mail a check, they will be rolled over to the next quarter until the minimum is reached.

For print books and publications, take a look at the Lulu publishing service. Lulu offers a wide variety of sizes in both soft- and hard-bound books. Like Scribd, you can “publish” a book with no up-front costs if you’re willing to do the editing and layout yourself. Lulu also offers a free ISBN for all published books, however you will need to purchase a distribution package[$75] to have your ISBN submitted to Bowker’s Books in Print and Nielsen Book Data and to be listed with Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Lulu also offers various for-pay services for editing, formatting, cover design and ePub conversion.

Even if your society isn’t ready to expand its publications effort, you may want to consider how to support those members who are creating publications on their own. Organizing members to provide peer review and editing support to those who are working on writing projects can add prestige to your society. Having those peer-reviewed projects include a society logo imprint as part of the published work will extend your society’s visibility. If nothing else, cataloging and showcasing their works takes little effort while providing additional resources to all your members.

Society publishing is no longer a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. Thanks to today’s technology, it’s a much easier process and can provide many rewards for your society and your members. It’s time to take a look at these opportunities and see how they fit into your society’s future.