Self-Publish Your Genealogy

Self Publish Your Genealogy

Do you have a story that needs to be shared with an audience beyond the walls of your home? Are you hoping to sell your educational or research material to earn a side income (or potentially replace your income)? Considering self-publishing your manuscripts.

Several years ago I ventured into book writing. Author was never on my Bucket List. I just wanted to share a few ideas with a friend. My husband noticed that I had enough material to make a book. Following his suggestion, I formatted my thoughts into chapters and then was puzzled how to make the information available to others.

We live in an amazing time when technology has simplified out our ability to share our ideas with the world, and earn a few dollars in the process. But, I never expected to make millions with my books sales, and I still don't. But I did sell a few. In fact, here's what I wrote on my Facebook page to my friends and family!

Celebrating my self-published book
Facebook status after launching my first book

So, I haven't made millions as one of the least known authors in the world. And it's possible you won't either, but I'm okay with that. And you should be too. Why? I have inspired and encouraged many others to preserve their stories through scrapbooking and now to embark in family history. This year, I'm encouraging others to write their memoirs as well. You should share your knowledge and stories and touch the lives of people who need to hear your contributions.

My husband did the grunt work in discovering how I could publish my first book. He found a book by John T Reed, How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Own How-to BookHe simplified the self-publishing process and encouraged me on the journey.  Originally, he started with publishers and selling in bookstores and eventually converted to publishing and selling everything himself, and has done that for 15 years. He began in print format and has done well for himself. He and I diverge in preferred distribution methods. But let's take a look at how most people attempt to publish their works.

After getting your manuscript ready, most people send their books to traditional book printers.  These aren't the big publishing houses, but actual printers. The major advantage with these is that the printers can produce large quantities of books for a nominal cost per unit. In many cases, a 250-page book will probably only cost $2-$3 to print. If you are selling it for $10 or $20, there is significant profit to be made. The downside is there is usually a minimum order of 100, 200, or 500 books. Since most authors sell less than 500 copies of a book, it may not be wise to use this method unless you are known entity.

Too often I hear people going a costly publishing route and I hope you'll avoid vanity printing like the plague. Vanity printing is when a "publisher" will print and market your book, but you are under obligation to buy X number of copies. X is usually in the neighborhood of 500-1000. Lower amounts are available, but the cost per book to you is much more than a traditional book printer. Another twist on this plan is you're still required to pay for the 500 books, and you're required to promote your before the printer starts marketing your books. It seems like you'd want them to help you advertise and sell the first 500 more than the books after that point, right? 

So, what can you do? 

I'm glad you asked. You can self-publish your book, and I would recommend eBooks over print-on-demand services when you're starting out 

On the surface, print on demand publishing services cost 50%-100% more per book than a traditional printer, but there is a huge advantage. What happens if no one wants your book? What happens if you can only sell a third of the books you ordered at the lower cost per unit rate? You're still stuck with the other two-thirds of inventory and the money spent on your paperweights.

Print on demand does not have any upfront expenses. That makes this risk adverse frugal girl happy. If my books don't sell, I'm not out money I should spend on my kids. If the books sell well, I can stuff the funds into a college savings fund. Win-win!

Available at has printed my first physical book, 21st Century Family Historian. The quality of the books are comparable quality to most trade paperbacks. What's most important is CreateSpace integrates their distribution with Amazon. Amazon is the largest retailer of books. I honestly didn't want to have to work at marketing my book. Getting on Amazon is a key to that.

But formatting for a printed version is a headache and a half. Seriously! You could pay more for a pro to layout your book, but that's added expensive which can drive down any possible profits.

That's why I recommend creating an eBook if you have dreams of selling your genealogy related books. Formatting is less technical and frustrating. And if it's less intense, you just might finish this "Someday" item.

Available at only as an eBook

You have two options for eBook printing. First, Amazon simplifies publishing on the Kindle. All you need to do is save your digital file into a Word document or a PDF file. Then you upload it, check to make sure it appears correctly, and press publish. It is available to buy in the Amazon store within a couple of days. 

The second service I have used was They also have an easy interface and can make your ebook available on other brands of readers besides Amazon's Kindle. After trying my first couple of books for six months on Kindle Direct and Smashwords, I have decided to use Amazon exclusively. 95% of my sales were coming from Amazon, and by being exclusive to Amazon, I could be part of the Kindle Unlimited program. The Kindle Unlimited program has boosted my revenue by 15% (more than selling on Smashwords).

From a success standpoint, I have sold about 3,000 books for three books in 4 years. That is collectively more books sold than most people sell for one title (again, less than 500). While it's fewer copies than will make me a millionaire, I feel amazing that I can educate and inspire others with my knowledge of family history and scrapbooking. And I can do it without the stress of peddling and handling physical books. Which means I can earn money while I sleep!

"You want to do what?" Was my father's reaction when
tomboy teen Devon Geiszler said she wanted to enter a
pageant for the first time. Did I have what it takes to ever
be named a beauty queen when I was so fashionable clueless?
Find out in   From Metal to Rhinestones.
In 2017, publish your books. Your book might be the answer to someone else's question or be an enjoyable look into an ancestor's life. Consider printing the books but then consider creating eBooks. There are other advantageous and disadvantages to paper vs. digital, so make the decision that is right for you.


  1. Great insights into self-publishing, Devon! Thanks for sharing. This has been something I have been considering and your article gives me some direction.

    Melissa Corn Finlay

    1. I'm so glad. If you have further questions that I can answer having published a number of books, I'd be happy to answer.

  2. Devon, I agree with you about being exclusive to Amazon, which is where so many people turn first when they want a book. But I also think it's worthwhile having a printed book as well as an e-book, simply because a lot of readers prefer print. Yes, it's a challenge to format and get the book into print (even with CreateSpace, as I learned when doing my book) but it lets you reach more people and gives them a choice of which type of book to buy!

    1. That's true. Paper books let you reach more. And with my newest book, "From Metal to Rhinestones: A Quest for the Crown" I've been asked by friends to make it an audio book. I'm sure that would reach more people as well!

      The real trick is cost. My scrapbook How To books were too expensive to produce in print. So, I went digital. My beginner family history book and my memoir, I made in print and digital. I wanted anyone to have this book, no matter their preference. Plus, I would have a keepsake for my family.

      Honestly, I love that there are so many options. I also love that print-on-demand has made self-publishing EXTREMELY affordable.

  3. Devon,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!


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