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Self-publishing family stories with Blurb

IT'S NO SECRET THAT I AM PASSIONATE about recording family stories. But what is the best way to preserve and share them? In spite of the wonders of the digital age, I am still a believer in print. 

There is something magical about holding a tangible object in your hands, words and photos imprinted on a page. No matter how big or small your storytelling project may be, I think that there is value in having a hard copy to read yourself and share with family members. 

In 2017 I decided to write the story of my 2nd great-grandmother, Renate Fooken Pedersen. She died in childbirth in Sims, North Dakota around 1901, but we had no records to back that up. A few years ago, I obtained a photo of her from a distant cousin; she stands outside in a muddy farmyard, tenderly holding a baby, and gazing out to the viewer. Her photo has sat on my living room side table for many years, and every time I looked at her I wanted to know more. My quest was to piece together the story of her life as best I could, using her photograph as a jumping off place.

I spent several months doing just that, weaving together the facts I discovered into a non-fiction narrative essay, and when I finished writing her story, I wanted to share it with my family members. I chose as my self-publishing choice and was pleased with the results. My writing was essay length with photos, and so a 7 x 7 inch photo book fit my needs exactly.

Sample pages from Remembering Renate, a 7x7 inch Blurb photo book.

Here are some of my tips to help you with your project:

Order one test copy.

Before spending a lot of money on multiple copies, order a test copy to make sure that everything appears how you want it. It is possible to download a draft PDF version of the book, but I find it easier to find layout mistakes when it is bound.

Save money.

Download the free software.

Look at sample projects.

Don’t cram too much on a page.

Small details make a big difference in appearance.

Copy and paste into the software.

Include sources and footnotes.

Make it available for online purchase.

Use the Help Centre.

When I received Remembering Renate in the mail, I was so excited. It is the best feeling to open up your package and seeing the final tangible product of all your research, writing, and design.

Let me know if you publish your family’s stories and how you decided to do it!


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