You've collected a lot of family history information and now you want to put it in a lovely book to give to your family for Christmas. Or perhaps you've been working for months on writing a personal history. Now what? How do you get your stories and photos into physical form?
Here's a little free advice from our book How to Save Your Life - One Chapter at a Time. "Our advice is to always get help for the parts that make you feel overwhelmed. This way your book will actually get finished, and you will still have your health."
Does the thought of writing your book feel too intimidating? Dictate it to someone and have it transcribed instead. Do the technical considerations of properly scanning your 100-year-old negatives have you stumped? Take them to someone who knows what they are doing. Can’t remember how to turn on your computer? Ask your six-year-old granddaughter. The point is, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It can mean the difference between a finished masterpiece and—well, nothing.
Here are a few things to consider before deciding how much of the design process to tackle:
- Budget. How much can you afford to spend?
- Expectations. How picky are you about the finished product? Do you have the skills to make it look the way you want?
- Available time. How much time do you have to devote to this project? Do you have a deadline for its completion?
- Computer literacy. How comfortable are you with learning new software?
- Temperament. Do you enjoy a challenge, especially a technical one? Or are you anxious to get your book done so you can get back to your grandkids or your golf game?
- Do you have friends or family who have the skills you need? Do they have the time to help you? If your daughter is a graphic designer and can lay out your book using design software, great. How busy is she with her life? Can you get a teenage grandson to help you create an online book? Involving family in your project can be an excellent option; you get the help you need, your offspring feels the satisfaction of helping you, and you both get family bonding. The possible downside is that a friend or family member, for all their good intentions, may not have the time to fast-track your project. You want to make sure your book doesn't get stuck forever at the bottom of someone else’s to-do list.
The pros and cons of hiring a design professional:
- Ease. It's kind of like hiring a professional mover. You point to the boxes and then off you go! Someone else does the heavy lifting, and all you have to do is hold your can of Diet Coke and point once in a while. Worth it? You decide.
- Expediency. If you have a deadline, you can usually get your book designed faster than waiting for your nephew to put down the remote control and fit it into his busy schedule.
- Control. If you have a vision for your book that includes double or triple justified columns with text wrapping around the photographs, headers, footers, sidebars, and pull quotes—in other words, you want it to look like a book you would buy in a bookstore—you are better off having your book custom-designed.
- Price. There's no denying that hiring a professional to do anything is more expensive than doing it yourself.
- Finding a good designer can be tricky. (Sadly, some of our clients came to us after they had already paid someone else to design their book, but they weren't happy with the results.) If you don't know where to start, ask your book printer for a recommendation. Some printing companies have in-house professionals that can lay out your book for you. You can also check with your local college's design department or print shop; hiring a design student might be an economical option. You can also find book designers online, although you need to have your material quite well-organized to work with someone outside your local area. Make sure the designer has good communication and responds promptly to your inquiries. And it's always a good idea to ask for references.
If you need help with a project, we are always happy to answer questions, and we provide a free consultation for anyone who wants one, either in person or by phone/email/carrier pigeon. You can see some of our books here, or call us at 801-906-0609.