Recently I disappointed a couple people by telling them their stories would not sell to the public. Many (probably most) people do not realize what a harsh world publishing for commercial sales is. Everyone has interesting stories, but most of us are not skilled writers with stories that will capture the attention of strangers who will pay money for them. Then there is the marketing part, where authors have to get out there and make their books known to the world through social media (without spamming), by getting news media interested (really difficult), or by public speaking (OMG!). Many authors fail at marketing, and their books then drown in the Amazon.com river, taking the money spent to produce them down the river, too.
How much does publishing cost? If you can find a publisher, it will cost nothing. But publishers want already edited (you pay for that) manuscripts with a reason lots of people would buy the story. They want a sure thing, and they expect the author to be a salesperson. The self-publishing route has a big learning curve, and you must spend your own money for editing and for manuscript text layout and cover design. This is not cheap, and few of us are talented enough to do this very well ourselves. Not doing it well risks getting no sales beyond your friends—or worse, bad reviews. If you have some writing talent, a fascinating story and a passion to share it, and some sales skills, then learn all you can about writing and publishing and go for it. Have a spare $1000+ if you need to publish it yourself. Maybe try the e-book route first. Beware of companies that call themselves publishers but are in reality selling you their publishing services (editing, design, printing). Being “accepted” by them does not mean they think your manuscript is great, that just means they will accept your money.
I have published two historical and cultural memoirs that have made a net profit, but I know my own memoir would not sell to anyone outside my family. I am not disappointed. My family would like to have my stories, and their appreciation is what is most important. Family-only stories will not need to be perfectly written or published in an expensive, professional way. If money is an issue, an MS Word document with simple cover page can be taken to the local copy shop and inexpensively bound. If you have some money to spend, work with a publishing services company to pay for a cover design and standard book binding, maybe even a simple edit, and only order the number of copies you need for your family (with some to spare for future generations).
Isn’t your family worth the time and effort to write your stories? Someday a grandchild or great-grandchild may think they are the most interesting stories they have ever read—priceless.