Why You Need a Blog Editor

Those of us with a treasured family journal, scrapbook or collection of letters have a window into the personal side of our family’s history. That one or more generations of people took the time and effort to protect and preserve those treasures makes them even more precious. Today, we have a large community of bloggers documenting and sharing their research and family stories. It’s amazing how quickly these “little stories” become impressive historical collections.

That’s the good news.

What happens to all that work when the blog platform you are using shuts down or has a server crash? There are all kinds of disasters that can impact your blog and its content. What are you doing to protect your work?

While most blog platforms include an online editor to make it easy to write and publish your posts, you may want to consider using a desktop (or mobile) editing app instead. There are a number of advantages to using an editor. Besides the obvious backup advantage, an editor will also make it easier to repurpose your posts into other family history publications.

I found two wonderful apps (for Mac and iOS) that support both my blogging effort and my writing projects while protecting both. I use Byword (Mac – $10.99, iOS – $5.99) as my blog editor. Its publishing feature supports posting to WordPress, Medium, Tumblr, Blogger and Evernote. I use iCloud to save copies of each post. I also use the Ulysses writing platform (Mac – $44.99 and iPad – $19.99) to manage my writing projects. Ulysses supports an “external folder” option that allows me to connect those Byword folders for easy access to my blog posts. Copies of any post is easily dragged into a writing project.

Even better … both Byword and Ulysses support Markdown so not only am I protecting my posts from disaster, I’m future-proofing my stories – saving them from the scrapyard of obsolete software.

What is Lulu.com?

If you are considering any kind of publishing project – print or electronic, family history or photo book – you need to know about Lulu. Lulu offers a comprehensive collection of services at a cost anyone can afford.

Lulu provides a platform to help you create your own publication – a family history, local history, wedding or reunion photo book, family cookbook, society journal, magazine, e-book and more – with no up-front costs and no minimum purchases. You have a large selection of book sizes and bindings and many projects include an online production area that walks you through the production process.

If you need help, Lulu is there for you. Online support includes a huge help area with documentation as well as video tutorials. You can download word processing templates for each available book size. This gives you the correct page sizes and margins to format your manuscript. There’s also a marketplace of fee-based services available for proofreading, editing, cover design, marketing and much more.

My Lulu project page

Once your project is published, Lulu offers a storefront where you determine the selling price and Lulu manages the sale, collects the money, prints and ships the book, provides customer support and then sends you the profits. Even if you’re publishing a family history for only four or five people, you aren’t stuck with a large number of copies just to meet a minimum order. If you only want one, you only order one.

There’s more to Lulu than just books. They have a great calendar creation app that will pull your photos in from Flickr, Smugmug and Photobucket and even allow you to include your own special dates like birthdays and anniversaries.

Cookbook listing at Lulu.com

A book published on Lulu has reach far beyond the Lulu storefront. Sometime back, Lulu and Amazon penned an agreement to make Lulu books available on Amazon. My family cookbook from 2006 can now be purchased at both Lulu and Amazon. The only thing I had to do to make it happen was say yes when Lulu asked if I would be interested. Lulu also has agreements with Apple to convert your book to ePUB format and list it in Apple’s iBookstore for you. Lulu does the conversion, provides the ISBN, lists your book, provides sales reports and sends you your check.

Lulu offers good quality products and the support and services to help create them. For the family historian and local genealogical and historical societies, it’s a publishing service too good to ignore.


Digital Scrapbooks

A digital scrapbook is created using digital tools like scrapbook software and digital photos, images and design elements. The results can be printed on you local printer, sent to a print service, published as a book or presented online. Online scrapbooks can include additional media like music, narration and audio clips and video.

Scrapbooking Software

  • Memory Mixer [Win – $30] is a delightful platform for scrapbooking. Kits are well-organized and easy to browse, the work area is quite intuitive and the sharing options are impressive. You can use design elements from outside kits, but it will take a bit of effort. Make sure you subscribe to their blog or newsletter to keep up with both some great tips and sales on kits or services.
  • Craft Artist 2 [Win – $40] intrigues me. It looks to be in that sweet spot between the simplicity of a scrapbook program and the flexibility of something like Photoshop. Unfortunately for me, it’s Windows only.
  • iScrapbook [Mac – $50] is a very nice app, but they hide the contents of their kits so you can only find them from inside the app and make it difficult to use design elements from outside sources.
  • Keynote (Mac) and PowerPoint (Windows) are not designed for scrapbookers, but do make a very good platform to create scrapbook-style pages. Both make it possible to export your “pages” as a PDF document for easy distribution.

Scrapbook Elements

There are a number of online stores for purchasing digital scrapbook kits and design elements. The terms of use for these sites often limit use online or embedded in PDF documents. The sources listed below have terms of use that support digital family history projects. Note that individual artists may have their own terms of service for their work. Make sure you read and understand the terms associated with any product before you purchase it.

  • pixelbooking.com offers lots of kits and elements packages. They appear to be expensive until you realize that many kits have two or three times the elements found in most kits. (See license page for details.)
  • Memory Mixer kits and packages are designed to work with the Memory Mixer software but can be used in projects created using other applications. They automatically install inside the app system, but it’s quite easy to find the graphic files for use in other projects. (See TOU.)
  • Scrapper’s Guide provides tutorials, templates and design kits for building scrapbook pages using Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. (See TOU in FAQ page.)
  • There are a number of scrapbook design shops at Etsy offering interesting design elements and kits – often with quite favorable terms of use.
  • Font Squirrel offers free fonts that are licensed for commercial use. Many font designers do not allow embedding their fonts in PDF documents which limits there usability in most family history projects. Each font has a text page included in the download stating the terms of use for that font.

Media Resources

When working on multimedia projects, background music and sound effects are always a plus. However, to stay out of legal trouble, you’ll need to stay away from a lot of popular music. Don’t worry, you’ve got options:

  • There’s a growing market for affordable royalty-free music.
  • As more and more artists decide to bypass the big recording companies and do it themselves, you’ll find they are offering more flexible licensing of their music. Check out Creative Commons. You might be pleasantly surprised.