Just released! In time for my family reunion: The Chong Family in A New Millennium, by James H. Kim On Chong-Gossard and edited by yours truly (Chong Hee Books, 2012). This is the project that kept me busy in the studio for the past several months!
Author Chong-Gossard is my first cousin once removed and the family genealogist, the keeper of the family tree. He wrote the main text that tells the family story beginning with my maternal grandparents emigrating from China to Kohala on Hawai‘i island and how they reared 15 children. Other articles, anecdotes, essays, family photos, genealogy charts, and a memorial section round out the story to bring the reader up to the present day.
PUBLISHING NOTES, OR THE MAKING OF . . .
A family reunion and another book seemed right for 2012, Jim Chong-Gossard and I agreed. We would plan both for the 20th anniversary of The Chong Family History that he authored and that launched Chong Hee Books in 1992. (Chong Hee means long-winded in Chinese. )
Cousin Jim was and still is the most literate person in publishing I’ve had the pleasure to work with in my career. We simply speak the same “language,” and he can read my mind or even answer my next question before I ask it. I don’t have to blue-pencil his manuscripts much.
We started by discussing what we wanted our book to accomplish. I had some concepts and visions swirling in my mind that Jim was able to merge with his own insights, giving them focus. As author he’s quick to grasp the ideas and articulate them. We spent two long weekend evenings during Jim’s faculty leave, separated by about six weeks, working together at the studio to set up the direction of the book. We had lunch with a few other relatives to test our method.
I was looking for a story that was fresh, candid, current, spontaneous and loving. Then Jim went back to Australia to teach at the University of Melbourne, and I began to scour my cousins’ Facebook albums for images and postings that told a story.
The technology of Facebook and blurb.com have changed publishing, and The Chong Family in A New Millennium is an example of how. I wanted to try an e-book as well as the usual ink-on-paper. I did enough research to decide the book did not have to be an e-book per se; I just wanted readers to have access to it from the internet. If I could create Rebekah’s Studio using wordpress.com, then I could use the same free blog service and software — something I was already familiar with — for the new book.
I created the genealogy charts on Excel with the data Jim collected from family. No need for fancier software. To have a family tree appear as a chart on the screen and not a link that viewers would have to click on and then leave the site, I converted it to a pdf and then used scribd.com — a tip from the wonderful volunteer techie on the wordpress.com Forum (quick help when you need it).
I picked a simple theme (layout) for the electronic version because I wanted the text and photos to translate easily to print. Somewhere I had read about “blog to book” and I began to research the possibilities. I settled on the book service of blurb.com, mainly because blurb has been around for awhile, and the description of the service was comparatively easy to understand.
I read the entire site before taking a leap of faith and downloading the free software application called BookSmart, one of several to choose from. The software one picks depends on the original format that the book is in. In my case, it was a blog that BookSmart would “slurp” (new vocabulary word) into a layout template that I chose.
The advantage of going this route and not supporting my local printer was the time I saved, especially as I had a hard deadline. I wanted the books available at our family reunion. Once I thought every page was perfect, I clicked the Order button for one single copy—you can order one or more than one—and the book immediately was on the printing press and delivered in about 10 days. This is called “print on demand” for small runs. The single copy served as my proof copy that I gave to my detail-oriented friend Rosemary to read before I made final corrections and placed a larger order.
Understand that there is a learning curve. BookSmart is just an editing and publishing tool, after all, and I was fortunate to be from the old school of cut and paste with rubber cement. But what a tool! The technology is exciting! If the resolution of a photo is not correct, for example, it will suggest that you fix it. Just click on the Fix button and voilà! If it is totally unusable, it will say so as well. The application allows you to drag and drop into your layout, and you can even edit the layout (though I did not take the time to learn how to do that; the choices of existing layouts worked fine for my needs). I am very happy with the results.
Here’s the best part. Blurb.com has an online bookstore and will take care of everything, right down to depositing money into your PayPal account. Now, how cool is that?!