What’s the first step in creating a family history book?

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

I get this question all the time from people who want to make a book but don’t know how. The first step is so simple that I’m actually sharing my 3-steps for getting started! But do them in order.

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1. Define your book scope

Maybe you know you have a lot of family history, so you need to decide: is this about an individual? An entire family? What perspective is this from? What time period does it cover? That’s your very first baby step.

This will help you ignore the content that is interesting, but ultimately, not a good idea for your own book.

If you decide that your scope is so large that this is a multi-book project, that is fine! Just get started on your first book, and save the scope of future books for another time.

As you move on to the next steps, you may find yourself realizing that your scope is too broad and you need to narrow it. That is ok! Just start with your best gut feeling about your scope and move to the next step.

2. Catalogue visual content

Visual content is so important to a book that people want to look at. A book without pictures is much less likely to be read and enjoyed by lots of family members. Decide what visual content (letters, documents, photographs, maps, etc) that you want to include that directly pertains to your book scope.

Then begin cataloging it in a list. A spreadsheet, a word document, doesn’t matter! As long as you know which visual content you’re talking about.

Give each visual item a caption or explanation. Number them in the order you want them to appear. Provide any notes about the item or any mysteries to solve.

But Emily, I don’t have any visual content!

Do you have very little visual content to start with? Sometimes that happens with ancestors who lived a long time ago. Look on FamilySearch Memories or Ancestry or MyHeritage in their databases to see if others have uploaded content about the individuals you are interested in writing about.

You can also use free image websites like Pexels.com or Flicker.com to find beautiful images of locations pertinent to your family members or ancestors. Just be sure to use freely-licensed images so you aren’t infringing on anyone’s copyrighted materials.

Then when you feel confident you’ve gathered as much visual content as you have access to, you’re ready to craft the narrative.

3. Craft the narrative

The actual words of your book matter! So get writing, or interviewing, according to the scope and visual content you’ve already got on hand. Don’t worry too much about it being polished, just do a brain dump and you can edit and refine it as you go along.

Use Microsoft Word or Google Docs, whichever you are most comfortable with. But don’t get fussy with layout or images yet!

Anyone can get started with these three things. Once you’ve got them, you can then design the book yourself, or if you want to hand the project off to someone else! I’d be more than happy to work with you! See what I offer by clicking on the link below:

I like to hang out on Instagram and share more in-depth tutorials on everything I make, create, and organize. Come be a part of my Organized with Emily community!

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