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A Genealogy Journey, Writing and Self-Publishing an eBook about my Ancestors and their Decendants.

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

In Search of Writing Tools to Help with Self-Publishing my Family History


Researching Genealogy

In 1983, Linda, my 1st cousin took me on a drive to a hillside cemetery in Drytown California and introduced me to some of my ancestors. Andrew Henry Hinkson, Matilda Willits Summers Hinkson, Richard Hinkson, Mary Frances Sharp Hinkson, John Sharp, Amanda McCall Sharp, Ralph Hudson Convers, and Ruth Summers Hinkson all of whom are my direct ancestors, were buried in the Hinkson Family Plot. As we stood there surrounded by all that history, my soul was filled with a strong sense of connection to my family. A sudden feeling of being a part of something much bigger than myself washed over me and it was then that I became fascinated with genealogy.


Linda and I, over the next 40 years researched, drew family trees on large rolls of paper, made insane charts with Post-it notes on walls, filled countless file folders, and found many new family lines. We visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and went to cemetery after cemetery in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania on our "Genealogy Road trips." With the discovery of generation after generation, we fell madly in love with our family history.


Linda's death in 2020, left me lost in grief and faced with the records we collected together. The stacks of research that Linda and I studied, developed, and cherished for so many years are more than worthy of preservation. I am certain of this. This time in my life and the knowledge of how quickly plans to spend our retirement years researching full-time can come so quickly to an end, has made me keenly aware of what I need to do.

Self-Publishing Family History

This collection of blog posts will be the first of a few that follow my learning journey through the process of writing and self-publishing my family's history. If you'd like to self-publish your family history or are just curious, I invite you to follow my journey and see how it all works out. Wish me luck! The first thing I need to do is figure out how and with what application or website I will write, edit, and self-publish the family history that I am writing.


I look at the following options for self-publishing my family history:

(Note: CuZens Genealogy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a way for websites to earn advertising revenues by advertising and linking to Amazon.com)

Learning about Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

I decided to learn how to self-publish my family's history on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I found a bunch of books on Amazon about KDP.


I also looked at videos on how to get started on KDP and found an online course that was free. It wasn't exactly what I wanted so, I decided to check out the KDP website myself and found some instructions. First on the list was to turn my Google Doc into a Word Doc so it would be accepted by KDP. After working to change the outlined version of my manuscript to suit their requirements, thoughts about whether or not I really needed my Family History Book to be on Amazon began to clutter my focus. I don't intend to make any money off it, so was being on Amazon necessarily my best option? The purpose of the book is to make sure it is online and available to future genealogists and hopefully, my descendants. So, I took a break from KDP and started researching other ways to self-publish.


Which eBook creator should I use, Aurelius?

My first stop was a video on YouTube. I have seen several videos by Aurelius Tjin. He simplifies tech and helps my 63-year-old brain understand it better.

I watched as Aurelius went through several different options, and ultimately landed on Designrr. What I liked about that option was that I could pay $27 for life and have access to their tools for writing an eBook. They offered a pro version, but I didn't feel that it was what I needed. I paid the $27 and then started trying to figure out how to use it!


Genealogy eBook Visions Dancing in my Head.

Feeling optimistic with visions of creating a fabulous eBook dancing like a ballerina in my head, I began. I've got to be honest. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. It didn't transfer my manuscript over in the same format. I, however, preserved and started the process of formatting it in Designrr myself. My optimism was there to keep me ready for the challenge. The formatting took some time because I was still on a steep learning curve, but I remained determined.

Time passing

The Struggle was Real.

A while later (okay it was hours later), it was dinner time and I walked away from my computer to start cooking the spaghetti. After dinner, feeling the effects of the pasta, I was too tired to return to formatting my manuscript. I didn't come back to my computer that night.


My efficient computer had an update and closed itself down. Yes, Designrr saved my text. It did not, however, save the project that I was using the text in. All the formatting I did was gone. I know. I take responsibility for not saving my work. It's certainly not the first time that has happened. Please don't mention this to my son! I sat myself down and readied myself to get back to it. Ugh. I just couldn't commit that much time and effort again. So instead, I started researching other options. There had to be something I could use that was easier than this option. With Google at the ready, I searched. Then, I searched some more.


For Crying Out Loud!

All I want is something simple that will allow me to create an eBook in PDF form on my family's history that I can put out there for my descendants to find at some point in the future. Is that really too much to ask? I'm not getting any younger here. My optimism was crying out loud. Crying like a baby. It wasn't pretty.


I looked through several options, all of which were expensive and complicated. Most of the options were geared towards someone who wants to earn money from their books. Great for them, but that's not my goal. After a while (yes, hours later), I went back to what I knew how to use and thought maybe I could put together some system that would work to get to my desired outcome.


Going with what I know, Adobe Acrobat.

I turned to something I already have, Adobe Acrobat. It was relatively simple enough and so I started trying it out. I had used it earlier to combine PDFs and share files, so I had a basic understanding of how to use it. I thought I could do a workaround and make it function the way I wanted. I was making some progress, when this message popped up in Acrobat suggesting I try Adobe Express. I was intrigued, so I tried it out. It was almost like Adobe was sitting there waiting for me to figure out that they have a tool I could use that is designed specifically for what I want. Was this the answer I was looking for? My optimism was beginning to get new life!


Adobe Express?

Let me be clear upfront, this is not Adobe Designer I am referring to, which is the one for more serious authors or money to spend on it. Adobe Express reminds me a lot of Canva, which I use a lot. I remember seeing Adobe Express a long time ago and thinking I didn't need it because I already had Canva and liked it.


Canva?

So why am I not using Canva for my eBook? Canva has no system for creating page numbers, which would hinder my ability to keep my eBook organized. I also couldn't have a table of contents without doing a lot of work. It turns out that Adobe Express doesn't have page numbers either, but Adobe Acrobat does. My optimism couldn't survive another hit. I'm thinking at this point, maybe this is just how writers do it and there is no magic program out there that doesn't cost way more than I want to pay.

The plan for writing and self-publishing my family history.

I think the conclusion I am coming to is that I can write in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides or Canva or Adobe Express or all of the above, and then put together the eBook in Adobe Acrobat where I can put the pages together and make the eBook myself. Have I taken too big a bite when thinking I can pull off self-publishing an eBook? It is feeling complicated.


Speed Dating with Self-Publishing Choices

So far, this experience leaves me feeling like I've been on several dates trying to decide who will be the best prospect in the long run. My dates, however, are all lacking in certain qualities and may not be what I need to be happy.


I think I will see how it goes with Google, Canva, and Adobe Acrobat. Adobe Express is great, but I have much more experience with Canva. I am going to put Adobe Express on the list but focus on the other options.


Wait a minute, what is this?

A website called Reedsy just crossed my internet search path.


"Where have you been?" I asked my computer monitor's display of the free writing tool. Yes, it is truly free. Reedsy.com promotes the use of editors and writing coaches for a fee, but the writing, editing, and formatting are all free. As an added bonus, they give free writing lessons, sent right to your inbox. I checked it out and it is quite helpful. Here is their video that gives a good demonstration.


So, here I am. I have started writing the first portion of my family history on my Hinkson and Convers family line in Reedsy. I hope this is the one! Please let this be the one. I'll let you know how it goes.





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