Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Memorial Self Publishing - How to Honor a Lost Loved One's Writing, Art, and Photography

Forgive my oxymoronic statement but self publishing does not have to be limited to producing your own work. Sometimes a legacy of writing, drawing, or photography is left behind by a deceased friend or relative. You may want to preserve this work so it can be shared and appreciated for generations to come.

The self publishing comes in because you would be preparing the manuscript yourself and packaging and distributing it by your own means. You certainly have the option of pursuing an outside publisher for your project but being selected by a publisher is dependent on that company believing your project can generate a profit.

If you don't want to bother with long waits and frequent rejection, then you can use self publishing tools to make your memorial project a reality.

Self publishing a book based on materials created by your deceased relative does not necessarily have to be a commercial endeavor. You can often choose to limit distribution or keep the project entirely private. If you take this route, then the book you produce can be shared only with whom you choose. Friends and relatives of the deceased can buy each copy as needed. Or you can invest in the production of a few print copies to give to your family. You are in control with self publishing.

If you don't want to keep your self publishing project private, then you don't want to, especially if the story could appeal to other people. If this is the route you want to take, there are many ways to distribute self published titles. I'll describe some of these production and distribution options below, but first let's look at some scenarios for memorial projects.

Your late loved one left behind an unpublished fiction manuscript. Or the person had a collection of jokes, poems, songs, or short stories. You decide to edit and proofread and self publish it.

The deceased family member left behind an autobiography, diary, or account from an extraordinary period in his or her life. The same as with fiction, you could edit and proofread such a manuscript and prepare it for publication.

Perhaps the deceased wrote some type of nonfiction manuscript like a how-to book, historical research, a collection of letters, or recipes.

When a portfolio of art or photography is part of someone's estate, you could scan all the images and assemble them into a nice book or ebook to help preserve the legacy.

Producing the book

How to produce your self published book depends on your skills and your time available for the project. You can do everything yourself if you are capable and inclined or you can hire out some or all of the editing and formatting work to freelancers. An example would be to edit it yourself but pay a person experienced with book layout to format the manuscript for publication.

There are many freelancers who service all aspects of publishing. Be sure to shop around and get references and make sure that you are not overpaying. Fees vary wildly. Paying too little will likely get you what you pay for, but paying too much will likely just get you ripped off. An excellent freelance marketplace where you can study the market and assess professionals is Guru.com.

Another crucial decision you need to make about production is if you are going to make the product print, digital, or both. Producing your memorial project as both a print book and an ebook is very typical. I greatly recommend making an ebook version especially if you want to sell it in the open marketplace. You can price an ebook lower than a print copy and it will be easily and affordably available worldwide. However, if you are making a graphic intensive book like a portfolio of photographs you will probably want to create a print version. If you need to produce a book with full color printing throughout the interior, then be aware that the price of each book printed will be high because print-on-demand services cannot give you the same price per unit as a book printer of large print runs can. But a large print run will cost thousands of dollars and a lovely self produced coffee table book might cost you $75 with print-on-demand. This may not be a problem if you just want to make a few copies for family members. But if you want to distribute to the public at large, don't expect many sales because the price point will be high with full color productions.

If you do not need any color printing on the interior of your self published book, then you will likely be able to keep the price of your book within competitive market rates like $10 to $20 retail per copy. You can still have color printing on the cover, but the inside will be black print and black and white images. This will suit many projects just fine. A company I can recommend for full color books or basic trade paperbacks and hardcovers is Lulu.com. I personally use it produce hardcovers. This company is not cheap but it's not overly expensive either. Lulu does allow you to keep a project private if you want to share only with certain people. Lulu does have marketplace options as well if you want to sell your work.

Another company I can recommend is Createspace. This company makes print-on-demand paperbacks with either black only or full color interiors. The quality here is decent and you will get paperbacks at a lower per unit price than at Lulu. However, you won't have the option to keep the project private. If you never approve your project for sale, then every copy you buy will have PROOF in big letters on the back page. The good news is if you approve it for sale through Createspace, then your book will be distributed on Amazon.

There are many print-on-demand companies out there. You can research and choose any one. But be careful. Some companies charge ridiculous fees. You should not have to pay anything to access the system, set up a project, and upload files. The system should be free to use until you actually order a physical product. This is how it is at Lulu and Createspace. They do however have plenty of other services to sell you if you want help. I have not used them so I can't comment on their value. As a writer and publisher I do all the formatting myself so I don't have to pay for it. Even if you want to pay for it, remember you don't have to buy from the print-on-demand service. You can hire your own professional who can give you the files to upload to the system.

What about self publishing ebooks?

Ebooks are a great and affordable way to self publish your memorial project. The two primary companies I use to distribute and sell my ebooks are Kindle Direct Publishing at Amazon and Smashwords. Smashwords has its own retail store plus it will distribute your ebook to Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Sony, and more if you want it to.

You'll have to read the guidelines at each company about how to format your files for publishing. Once again you can do this yourself or pay someone to prepare the files for you. Depending on the quality and appeal of your work and the amount of marketing you do, you might even make some money with your ebook. Or, if money is not your motivation, at Smashwords you can make your ebook free if you simply want it out there to share your lost loved one's creation.

I do want to mention that graphic heavy ebooks can have large and unwieldy file sizes. This does not mean you can't make an ebook with many pictures. You certainly can, but I wanted you to know that it would have a big file size and therefore be slow to download from the internet. Also small screens on ereaders and tablets may not do the graphic material justice if you are publishing an art or photo collection.

I hope this article has given you some good pointers and inspiration if you've inherited a manuscript or interesting collection. However you publish it, I'm sure you'll add value to the work left by your deceased relative or friend. The effort of packaging it nicely for publication will be rewarding and you and others will appreciate the final product.

I've been self publishing my novels and how-to books for years, but in 2012 I stumbled across a collection of recipes from my late grandmother that she had started writing in the 1920s. I knew right away that I wanted to salvage the recipes and publish them. This is how I discovered the possibilities and rewards of self publishing a memorial project. I gained a new cookbook with a meaningful heritage to me and produced a work that meant a lot to my other family members. I even sell a few every month as total strangers find my grandmother's recipe collection. The cookbook I produced is personally very usueful to me. Using the fragile old notebook from 1926 day in and day out in my kitchen would have ruined it. I needed to resuscitate the material and make it new again.

See more about my memorial project My Grandma's Vintage Recipes: Old Standards for a New Age. It's availabe as an ebook or paperback.