Claudia Breland: an Interview with an Author

Claudia BrelandClaudia Breland has recently completed her second book, Searching for Your Ancestors in Historic Newspapers. So many newspapers were published, so few of them have been digitized but many are microfilmed. That’s where her book comes in. Let me know if you obtain a copy and if you do, what you think.

I met Claudia at our every-other-monthly meetings of the Puget Sound-Association of Professional Genealogists (PS-APG) chapter of APG. I sought her out for two reasons: I think the issue of finding the one-out-of-many newspapers with the background information your seek is difficult for family historians because and two, I am naturally intrigued by people who write well. And, did I mention that she is just a really nice person? Claudia agreed to answer a few questions about writing and her experience.

Let’s start at the “beginning.” How did you get interested in genealogy?
In junior high and high school I fell in love with historical fiction, especially the books with family trees on the endpapers. When I was just out of high school, my paternal grandfather died, and my father was the executor of the estate & in charge of clearing out the house. One day he brought home a file folder filled with family history material: pedigree charts, typed family stories, newspaper clippings, and even a luggage tag that would be an important clue. I was immediately hooked! I decided to become a professional genealogist after a discernment class at church that pointed out that knowledge and information were particular gifts of mine, and that genealogy was my passion. I sat down and charted a course for myself, which included joining APG, taking the NGS Home Study Course, and attending conferences and institutes across the country.

Why did you decide to write a book on historic newspapers?
I really felt that there was too much emphasis being placed on the newspapers that are digitized and online, and not enough information about newspapers on microfilm, and how to go about getting them. I wanted to inform readers on how to read a catalog entry, how to look up newspapers on WorldCat and Library of Congress, and the strengths and weaknesses of online databases such as NewspaperArchive, Google News Archive, and GenealogyBank. Since the world of newspapers is changing so rapidly, and because I know there will be more links added, I’m intending this to be an annual publication.

What other books have you written?
My first book, Genealogy Offline: A Beginner’s Guide to Family History Records that are not Online was published last December, and was just revised this month. I wrote it because of the many people in my library presentations who believed that everything is online now. I have found some amazing records that are not (and may never be) online, and I wanted to highlight those.

From the point in time where you conceive of the idea for the topic, how long does it take to get to finished product?
My first book took almost a year to write; publication was delayed a bit because we moved last fall. My challenge was having to do additional research to come up with examples (of adoption and divorce records, for example). Once I discovered a format for each chapter, writing went fairly quickly. My second book only took about seven months after I got serious about writing it. Again, it was slowed down by research – especially after I decided that I needed to do a county-by-county survey of libraries and genealogy societies in the United States that have newspaper indexes on their websites. There are over 3000 counties in the US, and this little project took me about 6 weeks in July and August. Also slowing it down were the educational events I attended – a week at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, and an all-day seminar in Eugene, Oregon. I also had client research and lectures going on.

Why do you write?
I write because I have something to say that no one else has said yet. I’m getting started on my next book, which will be on how to become a professional genealogist. I’ve been writing almost all my life; I come from a long line of writers – writing is just part of who I am.

You self-published the book. What has been your experience with self-publishing?
I selected CreateSpace based on the experience of another author, and I chose self-publishing because the royalties are higher. The downside of self-publishing is that I had to do all the editing and formatting myself. With my latest book, I uploaded it to CreateSpace and looked at it in the ImageViewer (which shows how the pages in the book will look) not once, but at least 50 times. I wanted to make it as perfect as I possibly could, which meant fixing a lot of details. Self-publishing, for me, was a much faster process than submitting my ideas to a publisher and waiting for an answer. Although I was passionate about my subject, I couldn’t be sure that anyone else would be. I used experts on Fiverr (http://www.fiverr.com) to create the book covers for me, and that was a great experience – much better than trying to design covers of my own. First time publishers of their own works should be aware that this is a LOT of hard work and concentration. I must have 10 or 15 book on my Kindle, on how to publish to Kindle, all of which proclaim that it’s easy. I guess that depends on your definition of “easy”.

What tips would you give to the first time book writer?
Make an outline. Ask “what do I want this book to accomplish?” “What do I want to teach?” Expect it to take longer than you think it will. Read every sentence, aloud, to catch errors. Don’t expect a huge income.

Claudia, which question did I not ask that you wish I did?
You were probably too polite to ask about the income producing aspect, but that’s what I’d want to know! Sales of my first book have produced about $200 a month for the past 6 months; that amount has gone up significantly with the publication of Historic Newspapers.

Caught me with that one, Claudia! Where can we find your book?
Searching for Your Ancestors in Historic Newspapers is in paper on CreateSpace:
https://www.createspace.com/4887421 (APG members get a 20% discount until Nov. 1; email me for details).
It’s on Kindle at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Searching-Your-Ancestors-Historic-Newspapers-ebook/dp/B00NQ2KQX0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1411326886

Genealogy Offline is in paper at CreateSpace:
https://www.createspace.com/4093605
It’s on Kindle at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Genealogy-offline-Claudia-C-Breland-ebook/dp/B00NQ5NY68/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1411654856

Also, I’ve written a couple of blog posts with page views of my new book:
http://www.ccbreland.com/genealogy-and-life

Claudia, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and thanks for helping the entire community by writing books on the topics that we need to have. Good luck with the next one!

Happy Hunting!

Jill

What I have done since the last posting: I presented at SGS and found my slides did not convey as much information as I wanted so I have started rebuilding the presentation. I had to shorten it, and position the content strategically on the screen for maximum readability. Next, I have to do the animation to “zoom” in on the elements I want to highlight. All before Saturday! I’ll be busy. I ordered Claudia’s book.  I will write about it later.

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