Organizing is something I do pretty regularly. Several times a year, I’ll get a little tired of certain areas and I’ll start sorting. Sometimes I force myself to go through each item and make decisions. Other times, I just organize the stuff that’s there, only getting rid of the obvious. As I’ve been organizing in February, I’ve been trying to make decisions about each item and take action on it before I simply put it back neater than I found it. The result has been so refreshing. Less stuff, more space, and it’s so much easier to find things. I’m gathering like things together, getting rid of what we don’t need, and working on projects that have been on the to-do list for a long time, sometimes years. One of those action-items included creating a Blurb book of my great-grandma Rosa’s recipes.
I only knew Rosa when she wore her thin white hair tied back in a little bun, wore special shoes to compensate for dramatically uneven hips, moved slowly on a walker, and had to be reintroduced to us several times during a visit. When you’re a kid, it’s just a boring obligation to visit a great-grandma, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found a real connection with Rosa through the stories I’ve been told about her.
She had grit and was always eager to laugh. She did beautiful crochet work, including an intricate queen-sized bedspread that I am fortunate enough to own. And she was an amazing cook. When my mom asked my dad where he wanted to have their wedding reception, he said, “Rosa’s kitchen.” My dad was already smitten with my mom, but Rosa helped her cook a picnic lunch including fried chicken that sealed the deal.
During the holidays, generations of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren make Rosa’s cheese spread, Rosa’s fruit salad, Rosa’s tea cakes, and other favorite family recipes. Her handwritten cookbook was a coveted heirloom.
Since there is only one cookbook, my mom borrowed it from my uncle and scanned it a few years ago, so she could share the recipes with everyone else who wanted them. She took the time to sort them into categories and to type up recipes that were tucked into the book or were difficult to read. The work that she did years ago made creating a Blurb book easy for me.
I’ve wanted to put the recipes in a book for years, but you know how it is. There’s always something else to do that’s a higher priority. But, as I was scanning old photos and letters, I decided it was time. I’ve had the recipes on a thumb drive, on a disc, and even saved on my computer, and I still kept losing track of where they were. I couldn’t interact with them in a meaningful way and I certainly wasn’t browsing through them to find a recipe to make. I needed the collection to be in a physical book to be able to really enjoy it. While I was making it primarily for myself, I thought her two living children, as well as some of her grandchildren, might be interested in purchasing the book.
I decided to create the book in Blurb, because I’ve heard some good things about the quality of their books. I had never actually created a book on my own to be self-published, but, as I do with many endeavors, I just plowed ahead, confident I could figure it out.
Here are a few things I learned along the way…
Creating a Blurb Book | Resolution is Key
The book is only going to be as good as the photos and scans you have to work with, so it’s very important to check the resolution. If the picture/scan isn’t large enough, it will be pixelated and won’t look very professional or sharp. The software I used would warn me if the resolution was too low and would resize the photo or scan so it would be clear.
When scanning photos or documents for a book, scan them as a high-resolution 300-600 dpi, JPG file. Most of the files I had to work with were PDFs and you can’t upload them into the book layout software. I had to convert them to JPGs and the quality wasn’t as high as the ones that were scanned as high-resolution JPGs. The good news is that even the PDF-to-JPG files turned out fine. I just couldn’t use them as a full-page photo.
Doesn’t my great-grandfather look a little like Ernest Shackleton?
Creating a Blurb Book | Using Book Wright
I used the Blurb-recommended software to create the book – Book Wright. You can also create your book as a PDF, in Lightroom, Photoshop, etc. There are a few options, but I went with Book Wright. It’s a free download from Blurb that makes it easy to drag and drop files, add text, etc. The only downside is that if you decide to print it up yourself, there will be a disclaimer at the bottom of each page noting that it’s not a print-quality resolution. Of course, the idea is that if you use their free software, the book needs to be printed on Blurb. That wasn’t an issue for me since I was going to print it through Blurb, anyway, but it limited my options if I wanted to share the file with a family member who didn’t want to pay the price of a Blurb book.
As far as creating the layout of the book itself, I found it to be pretty intuitive. As I said in the first tip, you can’t upload PDFs to Book Wright, so take the time to convert everything to JPG first. You also can’t upload Word documents, so I had to copy, paste, and format all of the typed recipes. (There might be a way to do this that I just missed.)
So, it was tedious and took a bit of time, but it was so fun to start to see the book take shape!
If you are putting together a family photo album, the software will automatically arrange the photos by date to make it easier to create a chronological book.
Creating a Blurb Book | Each Decision Affects the Book Price
When you first set up the template for the book, you make a few decisions about the trim size, the cover, the page sheen, and weight, etc. All of those decisions will affect the final cost of the book. It’s important to note that before you start the layout process and end up creating a book you can’t afford! I knew that Rosa’s book was going to be expensive because it was large (over 250 pages), I selected Premium Matte paper (+$19.99) and other upgraded options like an image-wrapped hardboard cover (+$29.99). This is a family heirloom, though, and a way I can pass recipes down to my children and their children. I wasn’t going to cut corners.
Creating a Blurb Book | Layout Tips
In my opinion, the layout is where a lot of these books can go wrong. Putting together a book layout isn’t as easy as you think! Not only are there so many layout choices, but there are choices about fonts, graphics, etc. My advice would be to keep it simple. Simple is better in this case. It will look cleaner, timeless, and more professional if you don’t go overboard. (Unless you’re a graphic designer and really know what you’re doing.)
Creating a Blurb Book | The Uploading & Printing Process
During various stages of the creation of the book, I downloaded a proof and sent it to family members for their input and comments. This helped me correct typos, remove duplicate recipes, and make sure all of the people in the photos were identified correctly. Once the book was finalized, I uploaded it to Blurb for printing. At this point, you make a few more decisions about the book, like the color of the end sheets, adding a free ISBN number, etc. It also spell-checks the book. In addition to the hard-back book, I created a digital version at this time, so people who didn’t want to buy the physical book could buy a digital version (compatible with Kindle and other readers) for $10.00.
The total retail cost of the book was $140.00! They are so expensive because it’s small-batch printing. I’ve had a few non-family members ask if they can buy one, but I doubted anyone who didn’t know Rosa would want to spend that much on a cookbook! I was able to use a 40%-off coupon code, so the book ended up being just over $100 with shipping and taxes. For family members, that was well worth it.
I ordered a book and my mom ordered two and they arrived in about a week.
Creating a Blurb Book | Review
Let me tell you, I was so nervous that I just spent all of this time and over $100 on a book that would look cheap. The first thing I noticed when I picked the box up off the porch was that it was incredibly heavy for containing three 8 x 10 books. That was encouraging. I held my breath as I carefully cut into the cardboard. I removed the plastic from my book and tears started to well up as I turned the pages. It was absolutely beautiful. It was good, worthwhile work and money well spent.
The photos mixed with the recipes, Rosa’s handwriting and notes, the comments from family members about specific recipes… It was all a moving tribute to Rosa’s legacy and a part of the story of our family. Even though I had seen it on a screen, it was a different and more emotional experience holding it in my hands.
I love how the scans of her recipes, splattered, stained, and yellowed with time, look almost like art framed by the border of clean, white paper.
And her notes and comments about the recipes are priceless. She writes if recipes are “fantastic” or “excellent” or even “not good.” I love how she labels any recipe she got off of the TV, which I’m sure was a novelty to her, as “Television”, like “Television Biscuits.” Some of them will be a riot to make because there are no weights, measurements, cooking temperatures, or cooking times. And the measurements that are listed are questionable since her measuring cup was an old teacup with a broken handle! I’m going to cook as many recipes as I can, though, and just experience the fun of trying to figure it out. I might skip some of the seafood/gelatin recipes, though!
We didn’t want to edit the recipes, so they would be true to her handwritten book. Those quirks are a part of the charm and the story.
So it would be easier to find the recipes, I created chapters based on how my mom sorted them years ago.
(This MISC recipes include her pattern for crocheted glass socks/cozies, homemade starch for crocheted placemats, and DIY throat gargle!
And my mom also helped me make an index. I read the order of the recipes to her and she typed them up and added the page numbers. This was also a final step to catch any duplicate recipes. And, I have to admit, it was fun, too. Mom and I laughed together about some of the names and recipes.
I was so happy with the Premium Matte paper. It has a nice sheen to it, so it’s not dead flat, but it’s not shiny. It was perfect for these old scans and photos. And it’s thick! It’s very nice, quality paper.
And the binding is high quality as well…
It really looks and feels like a professionally-printed book. It fits right in with my store-bought books…
I love the book so much that I’m going to make another one with my Opa’s WWII letters and photo album. I’m fortunate to have his letters…
…photos that he labeled with notes, and his dog tags and ribbons that I can photograph to include in the book. It’ll be a big project, but I’ve already started working on it and I’m so excited to get it done.
Once that book is completed, I’m going to make a few books out of the photos that have been taken and stored on our phones for the past few years. That is long overdue as well since my photo-album making fell off a cliff in 2009!
I’m not an affiliate with Blurb, but I have used a refer-a-friend link in this post. If you use that link, you’ll get $30 off your first book. If your book is similar to mine, I would also wait until there is an active 40% off coupon code!
Did I cover everything? Do you have any other questions about creating a book on Blurb?