It’s been a busy couple months with a lot happening but I managed to produce two (short) family-only memoirs! They both turned out beautifully through Lulu.com. I have several older blog posts about using Lulu but Lulu has changed some since then. I use Lulu for these family-only books because I can still (so far) upload a .pdf file made from a Word document rather than one made with Adobe InDesign publishing software as most printers require. I have an article in my blog’s Resources section about formatting in Word to look as professional as possible. With Lulu you do not have to order a minimum of 25 copies and Lulu will ship copies directly to your relatives who do not live near you. Of course I choose the option NOT to publish for commercial sales else Lulu would send the book to Amazon. It is not cost effective to use Lulu as a go-between, not to mention selling to the public requires professional formatting and cover design or you look like an amateur – don’t let anything betray you!
Lulu also has cover templates, not many choices anymore—especially no font choice for the title and no title placement choice—but they work for simple covers. For one memoir I uploaded one of my photos to fill the entire cover, picking an image where Lulu’s no-choice title placement would work okay. For the other cover I had to use (free) Canva to make a 8.5×11 cover with a background and inserting a small photo that would show up underneath where Lulu would stick the title. Of course you can hire someone to format your manuscript and design a nice cover to upload to Lulu, but for my casual family-only books all that expense of professional work is not necessary.
One of the books I put together and published was my father-in-law’s stories and his genealogy. He did not have many stories but I wanted to save them as his history and legacy, and with very old family photos and genealogy they made a nice 8.5×11 booklet. We only needed ten copies. I had them printed in premium black & white so those really old photos would show up nice and clear. I took cell camera photos of the old print photos and had to use the free photo editing program with MSOffice to remove the spots and small discolorations and fix lighting as best able.
The other book was a mini memoir of my first (and likely only) trip to Japan with my sister and our daughters. That trip was back in 2015 and, haha, I’m still recovering from the exhausting challenge. But, I saw everything on my big bucket list except for Ueno Park and certain Kyoto temples. The trip was almost two weeks long and each day was a story of mishaps. Since we took just one tour and stayed in Airbnb “apatos” we were on-your-own tourists in a land of language we couldn’t read or speak—except for me a little after a limited time of lessons. Fortunately I took brief notes and had kept an itinerary that we mostly followed and that was enough, along with copious photos, to jog my memory. Shockingly, my family members were no help in remembering much, so good thing I wrote this travel memoir for us.
I made copies of My Crazy Trip to Japan for me and my fellow travelers (so four copies, and one .pdf emailed to my world-travele niece who has not settled anywhere). I used premium color—the color photos I thought would turn out fine using regular color printing did not turn out fine. Always order one proof copy to check! My dad found out about the book and wanted one so Lulu shipped one to him. He called me halfway through reading to tell me how much he was loving it, and he loved my writing style. I posted about this on Facebook and included a photo of a fortune cookie message I’ve saved. I got plenty of requests to read the book! A future project may be to scrub identifying personal family details out and upload an ebook to Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon).
Note: Your perfect trip (or life) is not so interesting as a trip (and life) of foibles, mishaps, and troubles. It’s the imperfections and struggles that make you human, interesting, and relatable, so don’t be afraid to write about them.
PS: Japan really is an amazing country to visit!