Lesson 1 – Never attempt to be writer and editor. It does not work. You cannot write your book and edit it. You will have looked at it so many times you will never see your errors. Plan to have an individual or better yet an editing team to do the dirty work. This can be friends or family members or if the budget allows you can hire a professional editor.
Lesson 2– Prepare from day one for the editing process. The first day you decide to write your family history book, you need to set up a binder titled Primary Sources. In this binder, you will have a section for every person in your family history book with copies of all their primary sources. Whether that is a birth certificate, a marriage licence, a page from a bible or diary, or a family group sheet, a living family member has completed. This book will later be your editors go to source to ensure all information has been transposed accurately from their primary source.
Lesson 3– Do not take corrections personally. The entire idea is to have another set of eyes objectively read your book. If a page layout is confusing to them, if a story doesn’t flow, a sentence structure is awkward; it is not a personal attack but an opportunity for growth. You want your family to enjoy and get the most out of your hard work and the editing process will bring your work to the next level.
Lesson 4– Regardless of whether you are self-publishing, or using a printer, don’t shy away from paying for a proof or purchasing an advance copy. This allows you to an opportunity to see the final product, check facts again, colours, spacing, quality of pictures etc. It is well worth the investment.
Lesson 5 – Resist the temptation for your book to be “a surprise for the family.” Allow the current family to preview the book, and correct any possible errors prior to going to print, particularly if it contains personal information about themselves.
Lesson 6– There will be mistakes. Despite all your best efforts, be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. It is inevitable, based on the sheer volume of information alone there will be an error or two. If you keep your book small your most likely to have fewer opportunities to make mistakes. However, if you have one shot at a grand book then the volume of information you are handling leaves more room for problems.
Lesson 7 – Family members are very understanding of the work that goes into writing a family history book and are very generous with their praise, and less worried about mistakes. Send out a corrections page that family members can slip into the book, so that both current and future generations cannot be mislead by a transcription error or an oversight.