There are many different types of genealogy books. I have no idea what it's like to self publish any book. Nor do I have any idea what it's like to publish a family history book, an all-my-ancestors book, or a single-name study. Although for the last one I have some idea having written extensive articles on the Pinkhams and Yeatons. I can't believe it would be fun.
In 2006 upon our return to Massachusetts I decided in lieu of a job to compile a book I had wanted to see for a long time. In 1997 I had written an article for the 75th anniversary of TAG on the state of genealogical research from a librarian's perspective. In this article I said that what was needed was a reference book that indexed all-my-ancestor books as well as journal articles and other compendia. PERSI didn't do it. Library catalogs didn't do it. In 2006 I did it. I actually rather like my book. Those in the know, regard it highly which pleases me. However, it was a painful experience and a truly disappointing one as well.
I never actually counted the hours I spent researching the book and thank God, I didn't. I'm sure that I ended up working for much, much less than minimum wage. I'd be appalled if I knew the precise figure. I made up my mind to not go back further than 1980 because I didn't want older works to be in the index. I was afraid I would index some article or book that had been proven wrong. Thus the years covered were articles and books published from 1980-2005. That may have been a mistake. Certainly, now I would have probably gone back to 1950 so there would be continuity from Donald Lines Jacobus (who did such a work) and my work. My work overlapped the book by Meredith Colket (who went to 1985), but his work was for the Founders and Patriots Society and their focus was too narrow to include the amount of people who came over in the early 17th century. I realize now that you can't kill bad genealogy. It's on the Internet and will live forever, so every researcher for him- or herself.
I did the work and I wanted a few things "my way." One was: I wanted a reasonably priced book in soft cover. The NEHGS has a bad habit of publishing everything in hard cover at a starting cost of $40+ per volume (and many times more than that). My last purchase of the Great Migration series was $60+. So, I got my soft cover and price of $19.95. I thought that was important.
Next I wanted a title that reflected what I thought the book was. Sadly, the NEHGS gave that title to a collection of Gary Boyd Roberts essays: The Best Genealogical Sources in Print. That's certainly what my book was, but it was too late. I was then advised not to use the word index in the title. I'm not certain if that was a mistake or not. The title ended up as New Englanders of the 1600s, with the subtitle: A Guide to Genealogical Research Published Between 1980 and 2005. I'm not sure if that was correct or not either.
Certainly, I should have done the marketing myself and that was my fault. I allowed the NEHGS to do that, because I thought they knew what they were doing. Certainly I would have given review copies to all the journals I indexed, and I don't think that was done, since the work was reviewed in only four journals. I also would have tried to place it in librarians' journals as well, because it did (and does) have a use for historians as well as genealogists. These things were not done.
So, as of this date, I think the sales of the book is somewhere slightly past 2,000 copies, which I'm told is good in genealogical standards. It was reprinted five times, the last time in 2009. It was not at all what I had hoped. Don't get me wrong. I was thinking J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown. However, the membership of the NEHGS was/is 20,000 to 25,000 members. I was hoping that 25-50% of them would buy this book. According to WorldCat only 83 libraries have this book. There must be more than 83 genealogical society libraries, historical society libraries and public libraries than that.
So, I had hoped back then to sell about enough to reel in $10,000 and then write the next book. I had in mind something that indexed all the vital records contained in New England journals. Then I would do for New York what I had for New England, and so forth southward through the original 13 colonies. I thought that over time I would be able to earn a living wage when enough books were going at the same time. However, to date, I have yet to hit my original goal [that's four years of waiting]. Thus, I'm working again. During the last two years of unemployment as many times as I tried to compile another book, I just couldn't do it. It was too much work for too little payoff. That's how I saw myself working in genealogy. Writing. I never liked doing other people's genealogy. I'm not sure why. But I enjoyed writing articles and compiling that book.
Now the next problem will be what to do about a second edition. That threshold is likely after 2011 when the last volume of Great Migration will have been published. But will I? Is it worth it? I don't know. It will be exceedingly more difficult if I have a full time job this time. On the other hand, the pressure will be off. I can't help thinking that the Internet has killed off genealogical book publishing. More than a few (and I would think more than half) of so-called genealogists want their ancestry for free or for little money. I've read these things in rootsweb postings years ago. I thought that making the book a reasonably priced book would be the way to go and start a trend. Wrong on both counts!
In any case, someday I probably will do is write an all-my-ancestor genealogy, but privately print only a dozen copies or so for immediate family members. My original research is already published in 30+ articles now [all of which I did on my own dime with no renumeration, as all scholars do.] It's the question of what to do with this thing that exists now. I wanted to be a professional genealogical writer and am no longer. What responsibility do I have to this work?