Planning to Publish…the Easy Way

By Ann Hege Hughes

Gateway Press, an offshoot of, specializes in helping people publish family history books. If you’re working on a family history project – even if it’s still years from completion – here are some simple things you can do NOW to make publishing your book later far easier.

1. Start looking at other people’s family history books. For the time period that you’re researching, take notice of the features you like about other people’s books.

a. What ways of organizing information do you like? What mix of facts and narrative do you prefer?

b. What about the book size? What appeals to you? What book size do you think will best fit YOUR material? (If you have a lot of large charts and documents, you may want to use the larger 8 ½ x 11 book size.)

c. Notice how people lay out their text. Do you like a particular style or size of type? Do you like a heading across the top of each page? Where do you prefer to find page numbers? Do they use bold type for key names? Do they space between sections? Are paragraphs indented or double-spaced? What about generations? Are they indented or handled some other way? How is the index formatted? How are footnotes handled? Chapter headings? Subheadings? Long quotes?

d. How have other authors treated illustrations? Do you have an illustration you’d like to use opposite the title page, as a frontispiece? A coat of arms? Is there a need for color illustrations? How will you arrange charts, documents and photographs? Scattered throughout the text, on separate photograph or chart pages, or in photo or chart sections? How many illustrations are “too many?� How many are “just right?� What treatment works well for photo captions? Would you prefer a book without illustrations?

e. Do you have a personal preference for hardback or paperback binding? Do you want a dust jacket?

TIP: At some point, you or your typist will need to make decisions like these about your book layout. If you have ideas ahead of time about your preferences, it will be helpful. One way to keep track of your choices is to make a photocopy of pages you like and keep them in a file marked “book pages I like.�

2. Gather free general information about the publishing process and read it. Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t take long to read and it will give you an overview of what is to come. Gateway has two free brochures that you can order at any time, without any obligation. The first gives an overview about how the publication process works – what comes first, what comes next, what are the standard book sizes, printing and binding choices, what you will need to be thinking about when. Our second brochure, “The Roadmap,� gives technical information about how to prepare your files for publication. Be sure to order “The Roadmap,� before you begin to lay out your final pages.

3. Ideally BEFORE you get started with your final formatting, I’d like to talk to you on the telephone. It’s easier to discuss things such as the right book size, which printing method to use, and how many copies to order on the phone, as there are a lot of factors that go into those decisions.

a. The first issue to settle is the issue of book size. Which size is the best choice for your particular project? The four standard sizes are 8 ½ x 11, 7 x 10, 6 x 9, and 5 ½ x 8 ½. I can price several options and advise you after I know a little more about your particular project.

b. Once your book size is selected, we can discuss typing area and layout. I always like to review sample pages before you get started. Often I can point out inconsistencies you may have overlooked.

c. I can also answer technical questions if you’re using software with which we’re familiar. (MS Word is acceptable software.)

d. You will need to decide if you will do the final preparation work yourself – or if you would prefer to use a professional person. We can recommend several excellent editors, typesetters and indexers who are expert in working with family history authors.

For more free information, please check our website: You can also order our free brochures by e-mailing me at or calling me at 800-296-6687, extension 204.

Ann Hege Hughes runs Gateway Press, Inc. Since 1975, she has helped thousands of first-time and repeat authors publish their family histories. Ann lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and exhibits at the annual National Genealogical Society (NGS) and Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conferences.

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