Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Creating a Blog to Book from A to Z Posts : Guest Post by Pauleen Cass

        Publishing a book does not always mean producing something to sell on Amazon or in the book stores.  There are publish on demand and other publishing services that will print limited quantity or even single editions for family members, friends, or other specific audiences.  Some of you have compiled your blog posts into keepsake editions.

         Today we hear from Australian family history blogger Pauleen Cass who can be found at Family History Across the Seas.   When Pauleen told me that she was going to publish a blog-to-book based on her A to Z Challenge entries, I invited her to share her story with us.   In this post she tells about the process that she used to publish her keepsake editions for her family members.

A to Z Becomes Family Treasure

        My passion, and the focus of my main blog, is family history so it was inevitable that this would carry through to the A to Z challenge 2012. Family history usually discusses the people and their lives, this challenge would focus on place as a character in its own right.

        The theme I decided on was a dollop of travelogue combined with what I called a genealogue: a travel tale of the places important to the stories of our families (past and present). 
        My goal was to write something interesting for my fellow bloggers (the geographical/travel underpinning) but mainly to preserve the stories behind the places which might otherwise be lost from our family history.

         My plan was to publish the posts in a blog-to-book thereby preserving the stories for my children and grandchildren.

         Throughout April the blog toured many places in Papua New Guinea, Australia, England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. My fellow tourists included some of my regular readers and some newbies. Their comments encouraged me to reach the finish line.

        In terms of my planned book, I decided that I would combine the A to Z posts with another series, 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history from 2011, as this also contained memories I wanted preserved beyond the digital world.

       I’d used Blurb previously and been very happy with the standard of the publication I received. The benefits of using Blurb are:

1.       It’s possible to bring in footnotes as well as the web links from the posts. This is important in family history where citing sources is critical.
2.       The file is auto-saved as you work, so you can work at it progressively.
3.       It provides different photo/text layouts per page so you can choose what suits that particular story.
4.       The photos you’ve used in your posts are imported and placed into the photo boxes of the layout you choose per page.
5.       You can select which posts you want from your blog.
6.       It also imports comments if you want them included.

      Because I’d decided to combine two hefty series, the initial book length was quite long. I think this affected some of the issues I had in preparing the book. So what do I see as the downsides of the Blurb blog-to-book process and what would I do differently?

1.       In retrospect I would ensure my book size was smaller as I think some of the problems I had with this book arose from its length.
2.       While the importation of footnotes and citations is automatic, it doubles up the citations, cross-referring to your own post, so some editing is required.
3.       Some of the comments flowed over many pages, with blank spaces, again requiring editing.
4.       The photos come in at what seem much lower resolution than that of the original photos, presumably they’ve been reduced to web-standard, and some have to be reduced further –a helpful exclamation mark tells you when it’s not up to print quality.
5.       To ensue you have good quality photos throughout you may wish to re-import the photos you used in the blog post. This certainly gives a better quality final product, but is surely tedious.  If you get stuck and can’t find the image you used on your computer, check its title on the blog and do a search.
6.       If I was doing another long series I wanted to publish in print, I would copy all the photos from my post at the time, and put them in one folder. With the A to Z, I used photos from different file directories so it’s another challenge to go back and re-import them all.
7.       Blurb didn’t cope with the fancy google maps I’d used or the slideshows. Again, more importing.

        Based on my previous Blurb book I expect that I will be very happy with it once it’s completed. Only the individual writer can decide whether its worth the preparation and editing process of getting it print-ready. Because recording these stories is important to me, I’ve deemed it worthwhile, though I’ve had to take a break before finishing upgrading all the photos.

          Have you had any experiences with limited run book services such as this?    Have you ever published your blog posts in book form?    Let us know your thoughts or experiences. 
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Karen Baldwin said...

Interesting. Guess I never thought of my blog posts as anything else but Internet fodder. I like the idea though of a book of my best posts. I do write essay style and it might work. Hey, now you got me thinking.

Dave said...

I have thought about maybe making a book out of all my posts on a specific topic like my Top Tens or These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things...

Dave Wrote This

Jo said...

I have been using Blog to Book or Shared Books for a number of years, have every blog I wrote stored in three ring binders. I just go with the least expensive form of making a book as they are only for me. But I do like to have 'hard copy' just in case.

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

Dave and Em-Musing, definitely worth a try and don't forget you can order an e-book at the same time for about $5. Jo, how did you find Shared Books to use?

Jo said...

Its easy enough to use. Originally the pictures tended to be all over the place, but that seems to have improved these days. I am not unduly fussy about it, but you can edit to a certain extent depending on what you are after. You can spend a little or a lot on the production of your book. Mine I just download and then print when I am ready - of course I still have the books on my PC as well.

Sharon said...

Thank you Pauline. That was very inspiring. My hobbies are travel, photography and genealogy. What a wonderful idea to combine them all into a book. I'll definitely do that one day. Thanks again :)

Tina said...

GREAT informative post! Would you mind sharing the cost with us? I've been thinking (and have been encouraged by several friends and family members) to put the memoir posts from my blog (a great majority of my posts are) in a collection. Though I love the simplicity of Jo's three-ring binder idea, I also like the idea of being able to hand a family member a gift in a nicer format. Do you pay a set up fee, and then a per-book fee?

Tina @ Life is Good
Post A-Z Road trip!

Sharon Hamilton said...

I love this idea, Pauleen. A wonderful, lasting chronicle of the year past.

In this time of watching our pennies, something crafted nicely, and then given to family during the holidays would solve the age-old problem of buying things for people who don't need them. Giving something of ourselves is even rarer. Never goes on sale, no crowds and shows love and foresight.

Thanks for this great idea.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this - it certainly is food for thought. I am in the process of trying to finish my first novel and my blog was created as a marketing tool/platform for this: get followers and people might be interested in reading what I have to say!
But blog posts to book - hmmm...

Kristin said...

I have thought a lot about turning some of my blog posts into a book. You make it sound doable.

Unknown said...

This looks pretty sweet - I'll have to give it a shot, though I don't think I'd have much decent content to add to it :)


Most of my poems were blog post until I decided to put them in book form. My first went well so I did a second with Alex J. Cavanugh writing the last part of the blurb.
The book was released just before I flew to LA, met up with Arlee Bird and gave him the two books.
What a day that was, actually meeting the brainchild if the A to Z, he made us so welcomed.

The Poet said...

I've just come across Pauleen's blog from my Road Trip Travels.
I think a blog-to-book is a fascinating idea. I don't have any children, but it would be nice to have a blog book to show my mom and other family members who have never seen my poetry. Thanks to my highly organized Assistant (wife), all the images I used for the A-Z Challenge are kept in one folder, so finding them wouldn't be an issue for me. Perhaps I'll make this my next challenge! I've already bookmarked Blurb's website. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

Thoughts Of Beauty In The Stillness Of Dawn...

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

Okay, lots of comments to address here. I'll try to write to each:
Andy -with a good PA you'll have no probs!
Jamie, Kristin and Bex -definitely worth a go.

Yvonne, what print mechanism did you use? Great fun to meet Arlee I imagine!

Sharon Hamilton, yes it's a bit expensive but worth it as a special gift and very personal.

Sharon we're on the same page with travel, genealogy and photography!

Jo, thanks for the feedback -I'll have a look at it -always good to know about the competition.

Tina, this one cost me about $110 but it was 350 pages long. So it is on the expensive side, but it is a special gift and I hope it will be an heirloom and investment in preserving family history.

I think I've answered one. Give me a nudge if I missed a reply.

Thanks for the interest everyone.

Nicole said...

I've read good things about Blurb so I tried it to convert my crafts ebook to print form and after three attempts at getting it right, I decided to not print any books for sale because the Blurb experience was too much of a hassle.

The interface and system that is used to upload content and edit pages, etc. kept crashing and sometimes didn't save my work....even when I saved it manually...which caused me to have to start over each time.

I like the concept and offerings from Blurb, however, I do not think that it is a user-friendly service.

Jolie du Pre said...

I've never considered turning my blog posts into a book. I think it's a great idea for those who have the time. My main focus when it comes to books is writing my novellas. So I don't have the time right now.

Jolie du Pre
Precious Monsters

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

Your experience is interesting Nicole. I rarely found that the Blurb process crashed, and that only with this book not the previous one. I put that down to the fact it was 350 pages (initially over 400 prior to editing). After a while I did save it manually but even when it crashed I rarely lost more than that page's edits.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee and Pauleen .. great thoughts here .. I tried one of the Shared Book formatters .. and because my photos are left and right .. they were placed all on the left - and then the captions got muddled - but I wanted to see what it was like ..

Certainly some editing is needed .. and I'd probably try a different version next time - perhaps Blurb ..

Thanks for the interesting info though .. Cheers Hilary

Jarm Del Boccio said...

I never thought publication of a blog was possible...thanks for addressing the idea. We seem to have the same focus on our blogs....family and travel. I was a missionary in PNG for two years. I must head over to your blog right now for a peak, Pauleen!