A Guide to Printing Your Family History

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To pull together a family history, there are two major tasks to complete. The first, obviously, is the lengthy research and writing stage. After the history has been written, the next task is to make it actually look like a history. To do this, you can either consult an experienced layout design professional, or turn into a designer yourself. Both are viable options depending on your budget, computer equipment, computer experience, willingness to learn, and time commitment. The layout of a family history is often not even considered until the very last. Ironically, this last stage will either provide a glorious finish to years of work or stop you dead in your tracks. While printing a letter on your printer at home may be a relatively simple task, successfully printing a fully formatted family history (with table of contents, page numbers, chapter starts, headers, footers, photographs, etc.) on a publisher’s equipment can be a frustrating experience. There are important technical considerations you must be prepared to face or have someone else face for you.

STEP 1[edit | edit source]

Plan Your Finished Product and Talk To The Publisher[edit | edit source]

It is never too early to plan ahead. A little bit of time spent at the beginning of your project can save hours and hours of frustration later on. As soon as possible, decide who you are going to have print your history. The publisher will be able to tell you what they need to produce the best quality finished product. Things to discuss include:

Print on an offset printing press or electronically?[edit | edit source]

Offset presses provide the best print quality, but unless you are printing a lot of books (500 or more), the cost will probably frighten you. Electronic printing (such as a Xerox DocuTech) is the lower cost option for smaller quantities and generally provides the fastest turn-around time. Your publisher will be able to give estimates of both the cost and the time needed for either option. 

Another option is print-on-demand publishing. This is a technology that allows one book at a time to be printed from a computer file. Most companies charge an up front fee. There are some exceptions such as www.lulu.com which charges a fee for each book published rather than an upfront fee. This is ideal for publishing only a few books. Another option is to have your book printed as an e-book. This can be done free at some web sites such as www.scribd.com or www.docstoc.com. Once your book is uploaded, it can be viewed online, downloaded or printed.

How big do you want your pages?[edit | edit source]

Standard 8.5” x 11” paper is usually the most cost-effective choice. Other dimensions, however, can contribute some added character to your book. Talk to both your publisher and your bindery. Find out what they can do and decide what you are willing to pay for.

What kind of paper?[edit | edit source]

Use a smooth-finished, acid-free white paper—especially if you are printing photos. Slightly heavier or opaque papers are preferable for two-sided printing because they are harder to see through. Speckled papers look nice, but the paper fibers make text harder to read and give photos a murky, washed-out look. Your publisher will be able to suggest good paper to help meet your specific needs.

Who is scanning your photographs?[edit | edit source]

If your history includes photographs, they will need to be scanned and placed into your book. Having the publisher or a designer put your photos into your history is more expensive, but they have a lot of experience making pictures look nice. They might also be able to do special image and cropping effects with your photos. With the right equipment and a bit of patience you can produce great results yourself and at a much lower cost.

Hard copy vs. disk—What best serves your needs?[edit | edit source]

A hard copy is a printed, paper original that the publisher uses to make the final books. A disk copy is a computer document stored as either an application file or a printer file. Consider bringing your history to the publisher as a hard copy if: -You are computer phobic and/or don’t want to deal with compatibility problems between computers and you are willing to accept photo reproduction that may be slightly lesser in quality. - You want the easiest and simplest option. Consider bringing your history to the publisher on a disc if: -You don’t have a very good printer at home and therefore cannot create a nice hard copy. - Your family history layout uses clip-art containing shades of gray. - You are scanning and placing photos into the layout yourself, -You want the best possible print quality. A Guide to Printing Your Family History

STEP 2[edit | edit source]

Layout Your Family History[edit | edit source]

This step is where your history will start looking like the nice book you want to give to people. The easiest way to make your book look professional is to let someone experienced with graphic design do it for you. They can put in the chapter starts, scan photos, or whatever you feel your history needs. They may also have good suggestions about other ways to improve the history. Of course, hiring someone costs money. The cheaper alternative provided you have the right software and equipment for your computer, is to do the layout yourself. For those planning on doing everything on their own, the following tips will be helpful:

Fonts[edit | edit source]

USE EASY-TO-READ FONTS (use easy-to-read fonts). To avoid a cluttered appearance, don’t use more than two or three different fonts. Don’t let your artistic side get the most of you. Remember, the purpose of a book is to be read—which is hard to do with many of the fonts available today. If you are bringing your history to the publisher as an application file on disk make sure you only use fonts that your publisher has installed on their computer systems. If you use fonts your publisher doesn’t have, their systems will automatically substitute the “Courier” font for the fonts in your history. Talk with the publisher about your options.

Spelling and grammar[edit | edit source]

Take the time right now to read through your family history looking for spelling and grammar mistakes. Have other people not involved with the history read through it as well. Objective opinions are always very helpful. The closer you get to printing, the harder and more costly it is to fix mistakes. All proofreading for content should be done before the history is submitted to the publisher. Get the history as good as you can get it and then accept the fact you are human. There will almost inevitably be some mistakes nobody will catch until everything is printed.

Margins[edit | edit source]

Be sure to leave enough room in the margins for binding and trimming. An inch on each side is usually good. The inside margin COULD have an extra 1/4 inch to allow for the binding, but that is not necessary. Depending on how you are getting the book bound, binderies may trim a little off each side.

Files on disc[edit | edit source]

As mentioned before, there are basically two formats that you can save your history in to transfer it by disc to a publisher: application files and printer files (includes PDF). Talk to your publisher to see which they prefer. Printer files (PDF, Printer files) Because most print shops will require you to submit your work in a print file format, the following information is most important. Printer files are made by your printer’s driver (the software that controls your printer). There are a couple varieties of printer files, but the standard of which is a PDF file. Most Print Shops are setup to accept these files. Printer files are nice because they are platform and application independent (which means they can be printed without any of your software from either Macintosh and PC Compatibles). Printer files also have the benefit of embedded fonts and graphics. As long as the file is made correctly it will print without problems. Printer files can be quite large (at least twice as big as an application file). Printer files cannot be edited by you once they are created. How-to instructions for printer files are beyond the scope of this little pamphlet, but your publisher should be able to help you. If you are willing to learn how to use them, printer files are very nice to work with and prevent a lot of problems.

Break up the book[edit | edit source]

Consider dividing your history into several sections, and making each a separate computer document. This is especially important if you have a lot of photos and other graphics in the layout. Many lower-end programs, such as Microsoft Word and Corel WordPerfect, do not handle large documents very well. They will often crash-leaving you only the memory of all the work you have done, or photographs will move.

Photographs scanned by someone else[edit | edit source]

If you are having someone else do the picture scanning for you, there is still some preparation work to be finished first. You can leave room in your layout for your contractor to drop the photos into. The easiest way to leave room is to simply put empty picture boxes into the layout where you want a picture to go. Set up your layout software to automatically wrap the text around the empty picture box. For best results set the borders to either “0 inches” or “none” (so there are no lines around the box). Doing this will make your contractor’s job of dropping in photos easier, faster, and therefore cheaper. Picture spaces should look like this with any captions already in place. This step is not necessary, just plan for more pages as photos are added.

Scanning your own photos[edit | edit source]

Getting photographs to look good is a little more involved than most people suppose. The following tips will help you successfully produce high-quality scans that will print well. 1. Scan the picture at the same size you plan on printing it. For example, if you are putting a 3”x5” photo in a 1 1/2”x 2 1/2” space, scan at 50%. 2. Never enlarge a photo from within your page layout program. It will look awful when printed. Do all your enlarging with your scanner. For example, if you are putting a 3”x5” photo in a 6”x10” space, scan at 200%. To figure out what percentage you need to scan, use the Scanning Formula: Take the height measurement of the space you want the scan to fit into and divide it by the height measurement of the original. Desired final size ÷ original size = scanning percentage Examples: 21/2”÷ 5” = .5 (50%) 10” ÷ 5” = 2 (200%).A Guide to Printing Your Family History 3. Unless you plan on printing in color, scan everything as grayscale. A color scan takes up at least three times as much disk space as grayscale. They also take more time to print because the printer must throw out all the useless color information before it can print. 4. Scan photographs at the right resolution (ask your publisher what is best for their equipment). Unless your publisher tells you a different figure, set your scanner control at 300dpi (dots per inch) for electronic printing and 600dpi for offset printing press. Resist the temptation to scan at super-high resolution. It will do nothing to improve print quality, it will significantly slow processing time, and will eat up huge amounts of precious space on your hard drive. Notice that 300dpi prints the same as 400dpi, but uses only 1/4 as much disk space. Important Exception: Black and White line-art should be scanned at the resolution of the publisher’s printer. For example, if you are using a 600dpi printer, line-art should be scanned at 600dpi. Line-art is an image that has only 100% black and 100% white values (no grays). Examples of line art include: certificates, ink drawings, handwriting samples, and typewritten pages. Talk to your publisher for more information. 5. Unless your page layout software recommends another format, save your scans in the JPG or TIFF image format (your scanner control should give you this option). JPG’s are generally smaller than TIFF images. 6. If you are scanning a lot of photos, do yourself a favor and buy a flash drive. They are becoming more affordable with time. Your publisher will have the ability to take your files directly from this drive. It is great to scan your own photos, but if you can’t get them to your publisher you are wasting your time. Plan ahead! Remember, scanned photos take up huge chunks of disk space. 7. The final rule about working with photographs is this: Just because it looks great on your computer monitor DOES NOT MEAN IT WILL LOOK GREAT PRINTED. For example, on a computer monitor the 72dpi scan on page 8 looks the exactly the same as the 400dpi scan. Test a scan or two with your publisher before you go too far in order to see if your computer system is set up correctly.

STEP 3[edit | edit source]

Before You Finish[edit | edit source]

Now you are on your way to completing your family history. Before you even think of finishing, consider the following:

IMPORTANT! Run a test[edit | edit source]

Save yourself the stress and heartache of having to start over again because of a technical hang-up. Before you do the whole thing, make a mock-up page that includes a sampling of the different elements that will be in your finished history (photos, clip-art, text, etc.). Take the mock-up to your publisher to test how the printing process is going to work for you. Discover any problems early on so they can be fixed with the least amount of effort.

Make back-up copies[edit | edit source]

Every computer user should be doing this anyway. Some day your computer’s hard drive will crash. Don’t let it go down with the only copy of your family history. The back-up files can be placed on your flash drive, or you can send them to a close relative for safe-keeping on their system.

Save often[edit | edit source]

Along with making a back-up copy, be sure to periodically save your computer documents as you work. Computers have an uncanny ability to crash just before you save a few hours of work.

Proofreading[edit | edit source]

Get several different people to read through your book. They will have a better chance of finding formatting and grammar errors. Because of the time and expense involved, publishers do not like to correct a lot of typos. Make all your corrections before taking your book to be printed.

In Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Pulling together a family history is not an easy task, but it is without question one of the most rewarding activities you can be doing with your time. The end product will provide a wonderful depository for family stories, traditions, and other memories. The fruits of your labors will be appreciated for generations to come...

Questions about printing your family history?[edit | edit source]

There are many ways you can get help with printing your family history:

  • BYU Print and Mail Production Center has consultants that can answer questions regarding formatting, layout, scanning photos, and general printing questions.  They help people from all over the country who have questions about how to set up a book they want to print.
  • Contact a local printing company to discuss your options with them.