Passing on your family’s life stories is a priceless gift. One story might heal a relationship, another influence a grandchild’s career path. Your stories and those of loved ones have the power to teach,  mend, and inspire.

Though the value of a person’s stories is inestimable and their effects unknown, the tasks involved in creating a personal history book are no mystery. There are two stages—the first has to do with language and second with design and production.

Stage 1: The words

A. Gather memories and stories.
B. Transcribe the recorded word to the written word.
C. Edit the stories so that they hold the reader’s interest and flow from one to the next.

Stage 2: The design

D. Supplement the stories with photos and illustrations.
E. Design the book. This includes everything from the cover and chapter headings to the photo layout and fonts.
F. Print and bind the book.

Hiring professional interviewers, transcribers, editors, writers, graphic designers, and bookbinders ensures that your stories will be preserved in an attractive, durable book and that your stories will engage generations to come.

The cost of each stage can vary widely. For example, conducting interviews for a book about your mother’s Peace Corps experience in Africa will likely take fewer hours than a book about your great aunt’s forty-year career. Printing and binding your family’s favorite holiday recipes without any images in a soft cover will cost less than the same book in hard back with a photo for each dish.

As you consider how you want to capture and preserve the past, you will have many decisions to make, some of which will  be governed by taste, others by cost. After discussing your goals with you, Tell Your Stories will design a project that matches your goals and budget.

Below are descriptions of a variety of personal history projects. Read them to get a feel for the possibilities and price.

One Story at a Time

Share one story from your life.

  • A preparatory phone conversation to help you decide which story to tell. Mary will email questions that will help you recall the story in greater detail.
  • A one-hour interview transcribed and lightly edited
  • One printed copy and an electronic file emailed to you

An Oral History in Audio and Print

Preserve stories as well as the storyteller’s voice.

  • A preparatory phone conversation to help you decide which stories to tell. Mary will email questions that will help you recall the stories in greater detail.
  • Two hours of interviewing–transcribed and lightly edited
  • One round of revisions
  • Two spiral-bound books and one CD (additional books and CDs available)

A Slice of Life

Honor a career, capture a childhood, celebrate an anniversary.

  • Four hours of interviews
  • Transcribed, edited, and thoughtfully researched
  • Two revision cycles
  • Up to thirty photographs, drawings, and maps
  • Professional layout and design

A Life Story

Capture the trajectory of a life.

  • Six interview hours*
  • Transcribed, edited, and thoughtfully researched
  • A narrative divided into chronological or thematic chapters
  • Two revision cycles
  • Up to fifty images—photographs, drawings, and maps
  • Archival quality paper
  • Professional layout and design

*Or course you can add any number of interview hours. Usually after a few interviews it becomes clear how much time will be needed to cover the material that the storyteller would like to share.


Preserve a collection of special recipes, letters, or poems.  Take photos and include detailed captions about heirloom paintings or furniture.

Starting cost depends on the size of the project.