Publishing Services: Lulu

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.

Lulu screen shot
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

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.

Ulysses Updates

This month Ulysses issued a major update which takes advantage of a number of features included in the iOS 11 release. The one that caught my eye first was the image previews. When you add an image as its own paragraph, you will see it as a black and white thumbnail. Images within a text paragraph will still appear as the standard IMG-bubble. This lets you see what the images look like without distracting users from the text. Yes, text is king in Ulysses.

The new drag and drop feature allows you to pull in images, attachments, text and sheets. Along with that, you can now quickly move paragraphs up or down within a sheet. Place the cursor anywhere within the paragraph then use control-command-up arrow or control-command-down arrow to move the entire paragraph to a new spot.

Ulysses is now a subscription-based platform. The apps – both on the Mac and on your iOS devices – are all free downloads, but you will need a subscription to unlock all your apps on your devices. That’s one subscription, not one for each app. There is a 14-day free trial available to see if Ulysses is for you. The US subscription is $4.99/month or $39.99/year.

This article was written in Ulysses and posted here using Ulysses’s publishing tool. What you see here is the article as it appears in the Ulysses app.


Build A Book On Your Phone

We spent most of the month of June wandering across the country. The main point of our trip was to watch our oldest grandchild graduate from high school – in California. We took advantage of this event to see as much as we could on our way there and back. It was an amazing trip with plenty of time to hang out with the California clan and visit many of the national parks across the southern half of our country. Of course we took loads of pictures and now it’s time to turn those photos into a book documenting this great adventure.

Blurb is an impressive photobook platform giving you the ability to incorporate photos and text into a beautiful book. Their free Bookwright app [Windows and Mac] provides all the tools to create professional quality books, magazines and even ebooks. My project is much simpler and I’m taking advantage of their Blurb app for iOS. This app is also free and it is amazingly easy to use. That’s because there are limited features for including text and other embellishments you may want to include in your book. Yes, you can add captions to your photos, but sometimes you need more.

Embellished photo Photo book cover page

The answer to that concern came from an old copy of Somerset Memories magazine. One article discussed how the artist “embellished” a photobook project much like mine. She “photoshopped” some of the images to add text layers, titles and emphemera before including them in her book project. She even intentionally designed photo pages with enough white space to add hand-written text once the book was printed. The result is delightful!

I’m using the Supermatic app [iOS – free with $2.99 in-app purchase for additional features] to embellish my photos before moving them to the Blurb app for printing. In the example above I added a box and reduced the opacity so viewers can see the sky behind the box. Title text is added in the box. Natchez TraceHere I used the banner shape to add text over the photo. There are a number of fonts available and the in-app purchase adds several more. You can also add your own fonts if you are so inclined. It’s well worth the $2.99 price.Pig Out Inn

Supermatic also includes a broad range of frame templates with tools to add color and texture to them. I’m still in the experimental stage . . . playing with different frames, fonts, overlays and colors to find a style to use throughout the book.

Speaking of “the book”. Blurb’s iOS app is also free and available for both iPhone and iPad. There are only two options for book sizes when using this app. The mini square book is 5×5 inches and the small square book is 7×7 inches. Each book starts at 20 pages for a fixed price – $12.99 for the mini and $29.99 for the small. After that it’s pay-per-page.

While each of the examples shown are designed as squares, I’m also working on some portrait and landscape layouts to see how they look just in case I want to do some post-printing embellishment when I get the finished book.

Since these are both mobile apps, they would have been even more useful for capturing people, places and special moments while we were on the road. Unfortunately, I didn’t put two and two together until after we got home. It’s still fun going through all the pictures and telling their stories, but it also means I’ll be ready the next time we hit the road.

Follow-up – Day One Book Printing

I have now created and received two books published from Day One journal entries. The first book was a “sketchbook” of photographs I had taken and edited using some photoart apps. There was no text other than the date/time/location information automatically added by Day One. It’s a delightful little book with one image per page. The image quality is quite good. My only complaint is that I didn’t include any text with the images so there’s a lot of white space. That’s my problem, not the printer.

My second book is a book of family stories – with lots of pictures. Some of the stories were originally written on my Moultrie Journal blog and copied to Day One while others were written directly on Day One.

Here is an example from the Family Stories book. Each story represents a Day One entry. Stories are automatically presented in date order. With the latest version of Day One, I can now maintain multiple journals. This book was created from my Family Stories journal.

Sample book

Book content can also be collected by using tags or date ranges. There are all kinds of options. You do not have control of the page-by-page layout so you should expect to find a lot of white space on your pages.

Book coverThis is the cover to the book. The cover art is printed directly on the front cover with the spine and back done in a color of your choice. On the back you can select four photos/images to be displayed along with the book’s “stats” – the number of entries, days, photos, words, cities and journals contained in your book.

If you want complete control of the layout and design of your printed book, Day One Books isn’t for you. There is no bookstore – not now anyway – where you can send family to buy their own copy. What Day One does is create an easy, attractive and affordable book printing service where you can build and buy printed copies of your family stories to keep yourself and share with others.


A timeline is a very useful research tool. It helps us see our ancestors’ place in history. There are a number of timeline templates to help us build a timeline, but they all pale when compared to Twile. This amazing platform will transform a GEDCOM of your family tree into a gorgeous presentation of each person’s place in history.

A marriage shown in context with WWII.

In this timeline, you see a wedding that took place in the middle of World War II. Each family event is called a milestone and the basic information about that event is used by Twile to automatically create them. You can add photos, documents and comments to each milestone to provide more details. The basics appear in the timeline, but click on any milestone to view its details.

The opened milestone

Here you see the detail view of the wedding milestone. In the upper right are links to add photos, words or documents. In this example, there are more elements that can be viewed by scrolling down the milestone panel. With a bit of effort, each milestone can become a scrapbook page full of interesting goodies.

In addition to milestones and historical overlays, there are also stories. Stories are instantly created when you add one or more photos to your timeline. Once you’ve added the photos you can open the photo panel to add descriptive text. This opens all kinds of avenues for creativity.

Twile is free. Even better, you control the privacy of your timeline. You can invite family to view your timeline and assign permissions if you want to give them editing rights. My family enjoys the family stories I post in my Moultrie Journal blog, but I’ll bet they will really enjoy Twile’s beautiful timelines.

I’m still in the experimenting stage – looking for ways to take advantage of the milestone and story panels. I already see how this effort will help me find new research avenues, but I also hope it will generate interest in our ancestry with the rest of the family.