Currently I have another book almost ready for printing. I'll be using Blurb again, and in this case I am prepared for the book to be perfect-bound because it's well over 120 pages, Blurb's limit for side-sewn binding. I promise I won't be traumatized by that this time (unless the glue fails again!). It's a less personal book than the one about my mother. Let me tell you a bit about it.
Reverend Samuel Stone, one of the Pilgrims who founded Hartford, Connecticut, appears on my pedigree chart as a ninth great-grandfather. In trying to learn more about him, I didn't find a biography, per se, but I did collect a generous selection of materials written by, for, and about him. I thought, ever so briefly, that maybe I should write the missing biography myself. But I don't have the time, the money, or the attention span to spend months trying to ferret out original documents and such, nor do I know enough about history to really understand the significance of things I might find, much less organize it. What I do understand at this point is that history is like a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle on fertility drugs. Nope! I'm not goin' there!
And why should I, when others (better suited than I) did much of that research and writing centuries ago? As I read about Rev. Stone in one book and then another and another, a sort of biography of the man began to emerge from the pieces. At this point, I'm surprised to say I know him pretty well for a guy who was born over 400 years ago. I know his core beliefs, his career, his habits (both bad and good), his personality traits, who his friends and associates were and how they interacted, and some interesting anecdotes about events in his life.
Google Books and Internet Archive made finding all this information infinitely easier than it would have been even a decade ago. It still took considerable time though, and I wanted to bring it all together in a way that would make it readily available to my descendants. A Blurb print-on-demand book made perfect sense to me, and I began work on it as soon as I completed the book about my mom.
I thought I could put it together pretty quickly--just choose the materials, copy and paste, write an intro, and voilà!, a book! However, it turns out I haven't totally gotten over that perfectionist thing... so the project is taking quite a bit longer than planned. Still, it will be a cool book when it's done, which I hope will be no later than the end of this month.
As I spent time working on the Stone book, I began to wonder whether there might be other Stone descendants who might like to have these materials in book form. To date, none of the books I've made are available to the public in Blurb's bookstore, but this one may have a bigger audience than just my immediate family.
Yesterday I posted a bit about Blurb's pricing structure. The prices I mentioned are base prices; i.e., they represent only the cost of having the book printed. Blurb offers discounts during promotional sales, and discounts for purchases of more than ten copies of a book in one order. They also feature a bookstore on their website where, at no cost to you, your book can be listed for sale to the public. As the creator of a book, you have the option to adjust the price upward from Blurb's base price if you wish to make a profit from sales.
If you decide to make your book available for public purchase, you'll have to consider how to price it. Before even thinking about that, you might want to read this article by author Scott Butcher. Although the article is about traditionally published books, not print-on-demand books, it's still a good reality-check.
At the moment, my book has 174 pages. If I edit it down to 160 or less, Blurb's price for printing would be $39.95 for softcover, $49.95 for hardcover with a dust jacket, or $52.95 for a hardcover with image-wrap. Reader, when is the last time you spent that much for a 160-page book? College? I admit, I'm more of a penny-pincher than most people, and honestly, I'd have to be highly motivated to buy a book at those prices, never mind another dollar or five added onto that. So I have to ask myself, do I think my Stone book is going to motivate the masses highly enough to get out their wallets? Well, let's see:
- How many Stone descendants do you suppose there are?
- Of those, forget the ones who are not reading at an adult level.
- Of those who are left, how many of them have any idea they're Stone descendants? Forget the rest.
- The market is shrinking! Of those who are left, how many are actually interested in family history, or in reading 160 pages about Samuel Stone? Forget the rest.
- How many of the remaining people have computers and access to the internet?
- Of those, how many are likely to stumble across my book?
- Among those who do, what fraction will have and be willing to spend some money to have a copy?
- And in the case of my particular book, this number will doubtless be reduced further by the fact that the materials I've used are out of copyright and already freely available online.
I think most family historians will agree: doing your family's genealogy has never been a way to make money. Heck, it's not even a real good way to get your family's attention! Your best bet is to do it for the pleasure of doing it. And I think the same is true of creating print-on-demand books about your family history. The market for your book is extremely small to begin with, and there's no way you'll ever be fairly compensated for all you put into it. Maybe it's better to genuflect, whisper a thank-you to all who made it possible for you to create the book, and consider it your pay-it-forward.
All of which is to say, if I decide to make the Stone book publicly available, I'll be pricing it at the cost of the printing, nothing more. And if the only copy sold is to myself, that's okay too. That's who I made it for, and I've had a great time doing so.
Reader, what are your thoughts on creating and pricing a family history book for sale?