Write-It-Yourself Gifts

The holiday season is approaching approaching like a freight train, and legions of people are looking for inexpensive gift ideas this year. Here’s an idea for you: Give the gift of yourself.

If you have already been writing life stories, this may be the perfect year to compile an anthology of your stories, lay them out nicely in a single document, and upload them to Lulu.com or Amazon’s CreateSpace for printing. You can produce a fully professional volume in your choice of hard or soft cover for a fraction of what it used to cost. For example, a 220 page paperback in the standard “trade” size of 6" x 9" lists right now for $6.25 base price on Lulu.com.

I used Lulu.com last year to publish The Albuquerque Years, a memoir of my life as a preschooler. It is 88 pages, full of photos, a slightly larger, wider page size (7.44" x 9.68") to accommodate the pictures and it sells (without any markup) for $6.29 on the Lulu website. You can also download a free eBook version there.

If you are primarily interested in creating books for your own use as gifts, or for order at cost by family members and friends, I recommend that you work with Lulu. They will convert your file to pdf format for you (although you can easily do this yourself with the free, downloadable pdf conversion utility, PrimoPDF), they have on online cover creation utility if you need help with that, and they allow you to list the book in their catalog without adding a markup for royalties if you wish. You can even allow people to download your book as a eBook for free from their website.

CreateSpace also allows you to obtain copies of your book with no set-up fee, and they may be even less expensive than Lulu. I say may be, because quite frankly, I find CreateSpace confusing and a bit intimidating. I set up an account, but did not easily find information on pricing and related matters. Even though it is confusing, I do recommend CreateSpace for projects you want to sell commercially with a royalty. The direct link into Amazon is probably worth the hassle, and I have heard good things about the quality.

There are other Print-On-Demand services, but these are the only two I know enough about to comment on.

If you don’t have a pile of stories ready to be compiled, you may prefer to do a cookbook with favorite family recipes. Write a short story with a quick memory associated with each recipe, and include Cooks Notes about menus using the recipe, special modifications you make, who especially likes it, and that sort of thing. I haven’t checked this on CreateSpace, but on Lulu you can order your book bound with a comb binding, a nice option for cookbooks. The advantage of using Lulu is that you can select page sizes other than letter-size as you’d get at a local copy shop.

Since you can include an unlimited quantity of photos and other artwork in a Print-On-Demand book, you could also create an annotated photo album. Lulu can print in color as well as black-and-white, though the cost per page is significantly higher.

If you need help with layout to get your manuscript ready for conversion to a pdf file, I give step-by-step instructions for everything you need to know in the final chapter of The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing.

So, there you have it — ideas for write-it-yourself gifts, and a referral to a production partners to make it happen. Get those fingers flying while there's still time, and delight the people on your list with a one-of-a-kind, write-it-yourself gift.

Write now: an outline of contents for a gift book for one or more people. But don’t stop with the outline. Keep your momentum going and create the file.


Pat's Place said...

Okay, I am working on my manuscript. I have had two people read it over and make useful comments. I want one other person to read it and then I will tackle getting it into Lulu.com and see where I go from there. I need to declare myself off limits for other activities and settle down and JUST DO IT! Thanks for the nudge!

Karen L. Alaniz said...

Fabulous idea. I have considered doing this with my memoir, though I still would like to pursue standard publishing, with an agent and all. But it would be fabulous to see it in print. I wonder how one goes about putting old photos (not digital) in the book? Hmmm...

Thanks for the nudge (to steal a line from Pat). ~Karen

Ritergal said...

Pat, your diligence is inspiring. Nothing like a deadline to keep yourself moving.

Ritergal said...


You scan in the old pics to convert them to digital. Scan at 300 dpi. I give full step-by-step info on how to place them in your document in the last chapter of The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing (link in sidebar) if you need some help.

Tara said...

I am not sure how it is with larger projects, but I did find CreateSpace much cheaper than Lulu.

Ritergal said...

Thanks Tara, you are the only one I know who has finished a project both places. This is good to know. It isn't easy to find that info on Amazon.

Linda said...

Excellent ideas here. Thank you.