Let’s Get Social!

14 min read

No I don’t mean you need to get out more.

What I mean is: if you’re a self-published author with a book (or maybe a few books) and you’d like to see sell more copies, you absolutely have to be making use of Social Media.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the most popular forms of social media in use right now, but that can and will change over time.

A benefit of this massively heightened means of connecting with people is the opportunity to share your craft with like minded individuals. Thanks to connectivity, what was once a niche hobby can become a profitable side job. Or maybe even a means of full time employment.

Social Media plays a huge role in facilitating the growth of a new industry built around individuals doing what they love to do and sharing it with the world. Lulu was founded on this principle, that people want stories and want to share their stories. And just like a self-published author, we use Social Media in a variety of forms to get the word out about self-publishing.

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3 Reasons You Should be Using Grammarly

6 min read

If you read our blog on self-editing tips last week, you might have noticed a quick mention of Grammarly, the web-based editing and grammar tool. If you didn’t read that article, you can find it here.

Today, I’m going to look a little bit closer at Grammarly. It’s important for authors of all stripes to know as much as they can about the tools they have available to them. In that spirit, let’s consider what Grammarly has to offer authors.

Rather than tease you with my three reasons you should use Grammarly, let’s get those out of the way first.

3 Reasons to Use Grammarly

  1. Grammarly is free and can provide online and file based grammar and spelling checks
  2. Grammarly can switch between checking for American English and British English
  3. Grammarly serves as an extra set of “eyes” on the document

Of course, you may find other reasons to use Grammarly, and I have to point out that I’m looking only at the free version. Numerous reviewers across the web have reviewed the paid versions, so I suggest checking around Google for those articles. But coming from the perspective of a self-published author, looking to create a high-quality book without investing a ton of money and time into professional editors, Grammarly’s free offering is a great tool to examine.

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Email Marketing for Authors

8 min read

Lulu, Self-publishing, Email, Marketing

How many emails do you think you get a day? Dozens? Hundreds? Looking at your inbox can be overwhelming. Despite the sheer volume of emails sent a day, using email to reach customers is a tried and true means to connect and make more sales.

The “noise” of social media can make it hard to appreciate, but there are nearly three times as many email accounts active as Facebook and Twitter accounts combined. An email will continue to be the most important way you connect with your readers and convert potential readers into customers. Now, before we get into the nuts and bolts of email marketing, remember that no one strategy is perfect or the only answer. Even if you finish this article and have a new urge to emphasize email marketing, you cannot eschew other marketing efforts. Social media might reach fewer users individually, but the exposure from social media means you still have to engage with your audience on platforms like Facebook.

Email has a very specific and potent use in your marketing scheme: email is where you can make a personal case for your book, where you can “get in the door” and get an individual’s attention, even if it’s only for a matter of seconds.

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Give Santa a Break and Do It Yourselfie – Photo Books & Calendars [How-To]

8 min read

Photo Books, Calendars

UPDATE: Scroll to the bottom to learn more about our Calendar Contest!

It’s September already! 2017 is going to be over before you know it. And with the end of the year comes holidays; family celebrations, great food, and gift giving.

At Lulu, we’re excited to help you give the best gifts to your loved ones this year. Sure everyone wants that new Nintendo or iPhone, but think about how happy they’ll be with a personalized photo book full of memories from 2017? Or a wall calendar with your pictures on each month?

The best part? Lulu’s custom calendars and photo books are inexpensive and easy enough to make, you can get one (or a dozen!) for the holidays without breaking the bank! Everyone who receives one of these custom books will remember for years your creativity and generosity. In fact, scientists and researchers have studied our giving habits and discovered in multiple forms that personalized gifts are favored and that a gift buyer will even pay more for a gift if it is personalized to the recipient!

Giving personalized gifts tend to make the recipient happier. And crafting a personalized gift tends to make the giver feel more connected to the recipient. This year make your gifts something timeless and special – give a personalized gift.

Have I convinced you yet that a photo book or calendar will make the coolest and most original gift you can give this year? I’m going to assume I have and in that spirit, let’s take a quick look at Lulu’s Studio Wizard, the software we use to help you create those awesome personalized books!

If you’re familiar with Lulu, you’ve probably seen the Studio Wizard on our site. It’s not a new tool, and it’s not perfect, but it does offer everything you need to create a professional quality photo book or calendar.  Making either type of product is done with the same Studio tool. Obviously, there are a few important differences such as creating a monthly date grid or adjusting the page layout to accommodate the images in the way you’d like.

Preparation

Before you dive into making your awesome personalized gift, you should prepare all your images.

This is easy enough to do, as the only requirement for an image on our site is that it has the proper resolution for printing. We request 300 dots per inch (DPI, also referred to as pixels per inch or PPI) for all images. Any photo editing software (such as Photoshop) will allow you to inspect the resolution, and if the image was created with enough pixels, you can adjust the resolution to ensure it prints well. If an image was created with fewer than 300 pixels per inch, you might not be able to adjust the resolution enough to prevent the warning message.

Image on the left is high resolution, the image on the right is not

 

One other factor can impact resolution – image size. For calendars and photo books, the size of the image will be based on the image frame, which can be changed with the layout options. You’ll want to attempt to size your image files close to the size of the image frame, but you do not need to edit each image to match perfectly. Lulu will resize the image to fit the frame, and give you some controls to adjust the size and position within the frame.

BUT, if your image is much bigger or smaller, or is set up in landscape while the frame is portrait, you will see the low-resolution warning. This can be frustrating, but remember that we do have to resize the image to fit the frame, and an image with a different aspect ratio or size will impact the resolution.

After you’ve got your images approximately sized correctly and all the images set to 300 DPI or higher resolution, you’re ready to start your project!

The last thing I recommend is to organize all your images into a file folder. I like to save each image I intend to use for a project like this (or any project really) in a unique folder. This creates a second copy of the file, allowing for any edits or changes that may be required without risking changing the original. This kind of file organization is entirely up to you, but I find it helpful just in case you need to roll back to earlier versions or if the edited files were to be damaged for any reason.

With your images reviewed and prepared, we’re ready to start making a photo book or calendar!

Calendars


The Wizard displays with all your primary controls at the top of the screen, with the layout for the selected page on the left, images to add on the right, and a page by page view along the bottom.

When you begin a calendar project, you’ll be prompted to select a theme, pick your date range, and add images. All of these can be adjusted using the controls and menus at the top of the window. One thing to be careful about is the date range. Lulu rolls over calendars to default to the following year, but this roll over is automated and occurs on September 1st each year. If you’re ahead of the game and you’re working on holiday gifts before September, be certain you manually set the range for January – December 2018 (or a different range if you’re making an even more unique calendar!).

In terms of actually building the calendar, that part is easy! With the images uploaded, you’ll see page layout on the left and available images on the right. Set the layout, then drag and drop images. Don’t like an image in that frame? Drag and drop it off the frame to remove the image. Or just change the layout and start placing your images again.

The layout options have some designs that include text boxes as well, so you can add captions as needed for your images.

The monthly grid allows you to edit daily events with the “Events” button. You’ll be able to create your own custom events, as well as grabbing holidays from national lists. One really cool element that many won’t notice while making their calendar is the option to add a photo to the grid! The image will replace a single day entirely, including any text and the date.

Lulu Calendar Wizard, self-publishingBecause the calendar is built on a template, there are limits to the control you’ll have available. The grid itself cannot be edited, nor can the layouts we offer. While this will be a challenge for some of our most intrepid creators, most will find everything they need to make an awesome calendar in our Studio Wizard.

Photo Books

The basic layout of the Studio Wizard remains the same. The big differences you’ll see is in the preview, as you’ll be looking at a two-page preview of the photo book you’re building.

Building your photo book works exactly like the calendar. Select a layout, then drag and drop images into the frames. The photo book tool will offer a lot of variety for the individual pages, so be extra careful to check that your images are not displaying the low-resolution warning. You’ll also see layout options including text boxes, allowing you to add text to your photo book!

All that remains is to add the rest of your photos, organize the pages using the “Arrange” button, and add any text. Be sure to adjust the title, as it will default to “My Photo Book.” The title is edited through the “File” menu, under “edit title and author(s)” to adjust the text on the cover and title page. You won’t be able to edit the title page in any other ways; this page will always feature just the title and author(s) of your photo book.

Lulu Studio Tips

Okay, you’re well on your way to having the coolest holiday gifts ready to order! But before you finish up and review those print ready files, here are a few tips to cover those little hang ups that might slow you down.

  1. Progressive JPG Files – Progressive JPGs are image files specifically formatted to load on a screen. Remember years ago when the Internet was new and images would load in a “top down” fashion? You’d see the top of the image, with a little bit loading below until the entire image appeared. Now you are more likely to see a lower resolution image that will clarify as the page finishes loading.
    These images are Progressive JPGs and they are designed to load quickly for Internet viewing. Progressive JPGs are a huge step up in online image sharing, but sadly our Studio Wizard doesn’t really like them.
    If you see the icon pictured below after uploading your image, you’ll know that the file is a Progressive JPG. Resaving the image as a JPG or PNG file will correct the issue and allow you to upload your image successfully.
  2. On Screen Markers – There are two markers you might see in the Project Images panel on the right. The Blue & White Check Mark indicates that the image is already in use in this project and the Green “$” Mark indicates the image is licensed and likely has a fee associated with using the image. Be very cautious if you see the Green “$” mark, as using a licensed image without permission infringes on the image owner’s copyright.
  3. File Size – Lulu can only accept image files of 10MB or less when uploading. This might prevent ultra-high resolution images from uploading, but that shouldn’t be a concern. If you upload your image and the file is rejected for being too large, you should be able to compress the image down to 300dpi resolution, reducing the file size in the process and allowing you to upload! You’ll need to open the image file in your preferred image editing software and reduce the image resolution (or other settings) to bring down the file size.
  4. Print Ready Files – If you’ve used Lulu before to create and publish a regular book, you’re familiar with how our system works. If this is your first book creation adventure, this is new to you! What we do is take your contents (the photo book or calendar you created) and make a PDF file our printers are ready to use. For a photo book, you’ll see a file for the cover (just the front, back, and spine of the book) and a file for the interior. When you look at this file, remember that the first file page is going to be on the right side of the book, so the two-page layout of the file will be inaccurate.
    I know this can be tricky to keep straight, but a PDF viewed in Adobe’s two-page view shows the odd pages (1, 3, 5, 7, etc.) on the left, while a book will always show the odd pages on the right.
    For the calendar, the print ready PDF will include 22 “pages” for the interior PDF and will start with the January month grid and end on the image for December (assuming you’ve done a January – December calendar). Where is the January image and December grid? They’re in the cover file, which will include 4 “pages” in the print ready PDF (front cover, January’s image, December’s grid, back cover). This can be very confusing when viewing the files, but this file organization is necessary to ensure our printers can produce the calendar correctly.
    Review these files carefully before completing your project and placing an order. These PDFs will be the files our printer use to make your book, so it is critical that they meet your approval before your order.

Make it Personal

Above anything else, your photo book or calendar is YOURS. A personalized gift may not be flashy or trendy, but it does contain the unique quality of your design and direction. Just like Lulu’s mission to help the world share their stories, a photo book or calendar is more than just a collection of images. Its a product of the images you selected, the order you place them in, the way you arrange images and text on the pages; this book is a singular thing, something made from your own personality.

I’ve given photo books as gifts multiple times over the last few years, and every time I’ve been rewarded with thanks and happiness you cannot achieve with a mass produced product made to look like a million other versions of the same thing. Books are unique, and a self-published book filled with pictures of your loved ones is even more unique.

Not only does Lulu’s photo book and calendar tool make gifting easy, it makes it personal. Inscribe the calendar with personalized messages and images. Make a unique version of your photo book for each member of your family with a special image on the cover or unique text. The options are nearly unlimited!

Get the holidays under control early this year and give the perfect personalized gift to your loved ones.

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Book Printing Simplified: Lulu Print API

5 min read

Lulu is proud to announce the release of our Print API, the first of several API connections we plan to offer the publishing and developer communities.

What exactly does this mean for you?

I’m glad you asked! Are you a publisher, a developer, an entrepreneur, or a business owner? Are you a web-savvy author with your own website who would like to sell directly to your readers? If you fall into any of these categories, the Lulu Print API will allow you to take advantage of our print network directly.

Let’s take a closer look at the Lulu Print API and how this new service might work for you or somebody you know.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the technical aspects of APIs for software, you’ve almost certainly encountered them online without realizing. The acronym API stands for “Application Programming Interface.” Most basically, API is code that allows two unique pieces of software to talk to each other. This, in and of itself, is pretty simple. I say this as someone with only the most rudimentary understanding of coding.

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5 Tips for Editing your Manuscript

12 min read

Lulu, Self-Publish, editing, manuscript, tips

If you’re a writer anything like myself, you’ve got a handful of manuscripts finished, languishing in desk drawers, or in your Dropbox gathering virtual dust. I love to write, but I am not as excited about editing. So a manuscript often finds itself abandoned shortly after completion for a variety of reasons – time, interest in new projects, distaste for editing. Whatever the reason, if you want to transition from writing to publishing, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and do some editing.

Editing doesn’t need to be a chore though! Just like I mentioned in our DIY Cover tips blog, editing often is best handled by a professional. Even if you plan to hire a pro to fine tune the editing, you’ll need to do some review and revision yourself. And if you plan to do all the work yourself, you’ll really need to focus and do your best to ensure the editing serves the book and achieves your goals for the manuscript.

Leading us to the question; how does an author effectively edit their own work?

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How Does Print and Ebook Distribution Work?

7 min read

Self-Publishing, Books, Distribution, Lulu, Create

You’ve written a book (maybe even a few), designed a stellar cover, and self-published! You are a published author. Relish that feeling. Even though independent publishing platforms have opened the floodgates, you are still among a distinct few who call themselves authors.

But have you taken advantage of our free global distribution network to get your book on retail sites all over the world?

Selling through retail channels may not be right for everyone. But if you’re an author and you’d like to sell your work to a wider audience, getting your work on retail sites is an important part of promoting. You’ll want to do a lot of other promotional activities as well, but if you plan to distribute your book, it’s good to have that in mind while you’re formatting and publishing.

Distribution channels have some specific formatting, design, and metadata requirements. Remember, a book that Lulu can publish and print is not guaranteed to pass retailer distribution checks.

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