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Back in 1928 at age 17, my Aunt Sara and a friend stuck out their thumbs on a Cleveland roadside and hitchhiked all the way to Yellowstone National Park.

I never would have known about this astounding adventure if a cousin hadn’t unearthed an essay in which my aunt recounted the trip and used an online self-publishing company to transform it into a slim paperback book called Westward Ho!  The book was published in honor of my aunt’s recent 99thbirthday and features a bobbed-hair teenage photo of her on the cover. (She’s the one on the left.)

And a distant cousin self-published an autobiography last year, giving me a window on my extended family in the early 20thcentury.

I only discovered these books after we began work on Beacon stories about self-publishing. Here at the Beacon, self-published books arrive in the mail every few weeks. Often, like the books my relatives published, they are memoirs. Some explore African-American roots, while others recount harrowing experiences during World War II. Some authors have found a means to publish novels that have languished in desk drawers when traditional publishing houses weren’t interested.

Print-on-demand technology and online booksellers like Amazon have transformed the way budding authors can get into print. The Beacon’s cover stories , “Do-it-yourself publishing arrives,” in both the Washington and Baltimore editions look at local authors who have taken advantage of these changes and the books they have produced.

Do you have a book in you? Are you exploring self-publishing? Use the comment box below to share your thoughts.