Okay, I Can Write…How Do I Get Published?

Introductory note: We don’t love to boast, but when one of our authors is wonderful enough to do it for us, well, we have to share it. Today’s guest post is from Jeffrey Strickland – follow him on LinkedIn for the fantastic articles and advice he shares!

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou

Who Are the Potential Authors?

In the past year, I have encountered many talented writers on LinkedIn, including Michael Spencer, Shashi Dhungel, Ivette Caballero, Brigette Hyacinth, Terry A Maiers, Steve Ater, Steve Cartwright and many others. All of these are potential authors and some have projects already in the works. So, what about you?

Who is Lulu?

I have published a book or two, and I do this as a self-published author. I am proud to be a Lulu author. Lulu.com is known for its remarkable books that Lulu authors create. Their support and author loyalty is unmatched. In recognition of their quality published products, Lulu was named the 2015 Best Online Book Publishing Company by TopTenLists.

“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” ― Barbara Kingsolver

What is a Lulu Author?

As a Lulu author, I have complete control over the content, layout, cover design, book size and binding. More importantly, I control the price, at least that portion beyond the cost to produce a bound and printed book. Many of my books would cost in excess of $100 and some as much as $200 from a traditional publishing company. Distraught by the outrageous profiteering by the big publishing houses and their disregard for the size of the wallet of a college student parent, I made a vow to keep my book prices under $50. Of course, there are trade-offs to achieve this.

Lulu for Any Budget

I do not have an editor, I do not have a marketing vehicle, I do not have a graphic designer. I only have my computer. I produce my own typeset, graphics and cover design. I do the layout, indexing and final document. I do it with an ounce of budget and a passion to write, coupled with a desire to transmit information at an affordable price. All this was doable, when I found Lulu.com. I have sold hundreds of books and the only complaints I have had are related to my inability to use the English language properly and failure to dot my t’s and cross my i’s. When Lulu ships you a book, the print is on quality paper, covered with quality and bound the same.

Lulu Makes It Easy

Lulu makes it easy to publish with various templates and cover design tools, as well as PDF settings for a final product. If you happen to be someone who has received one of my PDF versions, you are getting the product that is printed. Moreover, you can find all my books on my Lulu Author Spotlight page and pay less than you would for the same book on Amazon (I set the discounts). But if you are a loyal Amazon consumer, you can find most of my books on my author page there.

I Ain’t Mark Twain

My wife tells me not to say “ain’t,” but that’s another story. I have said before that I had wanted to author a book for at least 10 years before I had the courage to do so. What if my grammar is not great (and it isn’t)? What if my content knowledge is not the very best (and it isn’t)? What if people do not like my writing (and I have found a couple that don’t)? But, I imagine that Mark Twain had doubts about Tom Sawyer, and J.R.R. Tolkien probably had second thoughts about a story of elves, dwarves, wizards, dragons and a hobbit.

“If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.” ― Somerset Maugham

You Just Need an Idea

Many of you have ideas in you – gray matter that is waiting to be unleashed on a wider audience than your bathroom mirror. You can write for yourself, your family and friends, or for the world. And Lulu can help you do it. If you are like me, once you start you will not want to stop. You can produce your work in hardcover, paperback or e-book with a variety of binding and cover options. You can also produce in color (I do not, because it costs more).

Lulu Fits Your Wallet

If your budget is bigger than mine, Lulu also offers editing and review services, as well as marketing packages, all at reasonable prices. I still have two kids that I have to put through college, so I save a dollar or two by not using these services. Maybe I will write all of their college textbooks, except for the one on grammar…

I Cannot Write!

Well, neither could I until I did…and I am not really that good now. So, you can write, even if it is just for you.

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” – Ernest Hemingway

Who Wrote This?
Jeffrey Strickland, Ph.D. is the author of “Predictive Analytics Using R” and a senior analytics scientist with Clarity Solution Group. He has performed predictive modeling, simulation and analysis for the Department of Defense, NASA, the Missile Defense Agency and the Financial and Insurance industries for over 20 years. Jeff is a Certified Modeling and Simulation Professional (CMSP) and an Associate Systems Engineering Professional. He has published over 200 blogs on LinkedIn, is a frequently invited guest speaker and the author of 20 books including:

  • Operations Research using Open-Source Tools
  • Discrete Event simulation using ExtendSim
  • Crime Analysis and Mapping
  • Missile Flight Simulation
  • Mathematical Modeling of Warfare and Combat Phenomenon
  • Predictive Modeling and Analytics
  • Using Math to Defeat the Enemy
  • Verification and Validation for Modeling and Simulation
  • Simulation Conceptual Modeling
  • System Engineering Process and Practices
  • Weird Scientist: the Creators of Quantum Physics
  • Albert Einstein: No one expected me to lay a golden eggs
  • The Men of Manhattan: the Creators of the Nuclear Era
  • Fundamentals of Combat Modeling
  • Quantum Phaith
  • Dear Mister President
  • LinkedIn Memoirs
  • Knights of the Cross: the True Story of the Knights Templar

How Authors Can Build Their Marketing Presence Online

Want to be a successful author in the 21st century? You have to be online. It goes beyond a suggestion into the territory of necessity.

But how do you strengthen your online presence so you can be sure the greatest number of people see you and know to buy your work? Being visible, engaging with your readers, and having the right attitude online all go a long way in making sure you’re getting the most out of your digital efforts.

Be visible

In order to have a strong online presence, you need to make yourself available online. Seems obvious, right? Basically, you don’t want to make it hard for people to find you. We’ve talked before about the importance of having your own website, and that’s a great place to start. Free or cheap hosting services, premade templates, and easy-to-use software have made making your own website a snap. If you have a central hub, readers will know where to go for the latest news, writing, and where to buy your work.

It’s also important to look outside your own website. Take advantage of social media; it’s a great place to build a community because of the built-in audiences of these sites. No need to start from scratch when you can find readers already sharing their comments on Facebook and Twitter!

Finally, don’t be afraid of interacting with other authors, publishers, and thought-leaders on their own sites. After all, your goal is to be visible. See if there are any blogs looking for guest contributors. Sharing your own tips, insights, and experiences is a great way to engage potential customers, and if you’re writing for another site you can tap into the audience they’ve already built.

The key is being in as many places as possible. Different platforms have different audiences, so just because you have your own site doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on Twitter, and just because you’re on Twitter doesn’t mean you’re reaching the same audience you would if you were also on Facebook. Experiment and find out what works for you, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

Speak with readers

What’s the best way to grow an audience? Build relationships with your readers (and potential readers). Readers don’t want to feel like they’re just customers – someone you’re only trying to get a buck from. Make them feel like they’re partners in your writing and they’ll be a lot more likely to support you. Speak with them, not just to them.

Social media makes it incredibly easy to keep in touch with readers. Have conversations with them, but don’t always keep it just about your next book. Share your thoughts and interesting articles with them; respond to their posts, even if they aren’t directed at you, to show that you’re just as invested in them as they are in you.

In short, make yourself look human. One of the benefits of independent publishing is that you aren’t beholden to a giant publishing conglomerate that’s just looking for the next best seller. You have the chance to try new things and work on a smaller scale. Being a friendly face, and not just another cog in a marketing machine, is endearing to readers and likely to help you stand out from the crowd.

Choose Your Words Carefully!

You’ve heard the old saying: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s a good rule of thumb in general, but it’s never been more important than in the digital age. Why? Because as a newer old saying goes, the Internet never forgets. Comments on social media can be shared in an instant, screenshots and backups can be taken be complete strangers, and before you know it that one little snarky comment you said before you had your morning coffee is living in infamy.

So how do you say nice things, even when other people aren’t willing to? Sometimes it just means taking the high road. Ignoring negative comments is a good start; if you don’t engage the haters, they can’t gain any traction.

Of course, it’s not always a case of people being mean. A bad review of your book can sting. You might be tempted to shoot off a tweet about how the reviewer is a hack and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But what if you decided to look at it constructively instead? Take what the review says to heart, look at it as objectively as possible, and see what merit the comments have.

If you have to engage the reviewer, thank them for taking the time to read your book and give their thoughts. It probably won’t change the review, but the reviewer – and every potential reader out there – will see that you’re willing to take criticism gracefully and are trying to improve your craft. They might be more willing to check out your next book to see how you’ve grown.

Independent publishing means putting in a lot of legwork to get some great rewards, and marketing is no different. Making sure you have a strong online presence is a great way to market yourself and your work for relatively little money. Growing your audience organically by putting a real human behind that author name

Bud Loftus: A Story. A Book. A Legacy.

At 85, Bud Loftus added one more accomplishment — published author — to a life that has been defined by them.


Bud Loftus lived a story that was almost never told.

He suffered the sting of poverty as a child. Experienced the pain of war as a young man. And found success in business as an adult. He wanted his children and grandchildren to learn from his journey, to take the lessons of his life with them. But at 85, the goal seemed out of reach for Bud — until he found Lulu.

“Dad was able to make something for the family he once thought impossible,” said Cecilia Lahiff, the middle of Bud’s seven children. “Lulu offered the professional experience of a traditional publisher, if not better.”

Bud’s has been an extraordinary journey. The son of Irish immigrants, he grew up on welfare in Philadelphia. The day after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, he went to a Marine Corps. office to enlist. He was only 17 and had to wait until he finished high school, but he went on to fight in the Pacific theater of World War II.


After the war, Bud took the government’s offer of a free college education and attended LaSalle University, where he received top marks in the pre-med program. He became the first Director of the Division of Drug Manufacturing at the Food and Drug Administration, and, after retiring from the agency, built a 17-year career in the pharmaceutical industry. It’s a story that Cecilia encouraged her dad to publish.

“The Lulu experience has been terrific,” said Bud, who released his 315-page memoir, “Bud Loftus: An Irish-American’s Journey” in late 2009. “I got a tremendous amount of help from the staff going above and beyond.”

And the book has taken the story of Bud’s life to a whole new audience. In November 2009 he was featured in a story by The Washington Post.

Q&A: Where and when is your favorite place to write?

Mahdiyah A Window

Mahdiyah’s Window

We asked our author community where they write and what makes that place special. As you can imagine, the responses were as diverse as Lulu authors. Some prefer working at a desk, others in bed. Some prefer music in the background, others prefer silence. Some write by hand while others prefer computers, laptops and tablets. We have selected a few of our favorite responses to share.

Where do you write?

“Sitting at my window just watching nature and reflecting on life’s synchronicities” – Mahdiyah A.

“In my spare bedroom that I redecorated and refurnished as a writing space cum office cum library. It’s more comfortable than hunched on the sofa and the view out the window is nicer this side of the building that on the other side.” Merita K.

“I do all my writing on the Path train.” – Havana G.

Rena's Armchair

Rena’s Armchair

“In my armchair at any time of the day when the words are flowing and my fingers are flying over the keys.” — Rena B.

Currently, at my desk in Afghanistan with my headphones on. My coworkers beg for pages at the end of the day. They’re hooked.” – Guenevere R.

“Outside on the town green.” – Jessika S

“Hmmm, the best place to write is at work because my desire to not be there allows me to escape into my dream job.” Sheena A

When do you write?

Anita O beach

Anita’s Inspiring Photo

“My desk in my room at night because it’s quiet. I’m least distracted and write better at night.” — Moriko F.

“In the front room at 2a.m. to 4a.m. in the morning when the world is asleep!” – Ranis T

“I usually write in the evenings. I like it when the streets are quiet, the people are gone, and everything is dark. And I write at home, in total silence.” James C.

“I do my best writing while cooking dinner and cleaning the house. I love doing both and that relaxes me and gets my mind going. It’s special because writing is my escape and clears the clutter in my head.”

“I write on the go, I write late at night, I write all the time!! I also like to take photos, which also helps me write even more!” – Anita O

Writing aids: coffee, tea, margarita?

“In a bar drinking coffee at a table by the window.” – Laura D.

“Sitting outside a little cafe in my Greek village listening to my mp3 watching the people go by whilst I sip a Fredochino.” – Karina K

Karina's Beverage of Choice

Karina’s Beverage of Choice

“Sitting in my window seat looking out at the countryside scenery with either a pen & pad or my laptop, oh and a HUGE mug of coffee.” — Rebecca H.

“At my 2 foot by 2 foot table in my bedroom! It is the perfect surface for a laptop, iPad, and glass of pop!”– Jan S.

“At home, with coffee at my side, in my PJs. When I’m comfortable, there’s no stopping me from writing. I could sit there for hours and just get it all out on paper. It’s like therapy…”– Jennie C

Most of the time, if I need to do typing, it’s at my desk. I have a huge touch screen and an antique wingback office chair that are perfection. However, if I’m actually *writing,* then I am usually in bed with my lap desk. Either way, there is ample space for a bag of cookies and cream Hershey’s Kisses or a big frozen margarita. – Jaqueline J.


Given all of these choices, I think I’ll bring Rena’s armchair to Greece and sip a margarita while I struggle through the next chapter of my masterpiece – or the next article for the Lulu blog.

Happy writing!

6 More Grammar Mistakes Writers Need to Avoid

There have been a lot of great showdowns throughout history: David vs Goliath, Yankees vs Red Sox, and…To vs Too?

We’re back with more simple grammar mistakes you should never make in your writing, featuring a whole host of matchups between similar-but-not-quite-the-same words. Take a look at the list – and our previous set of tips – and then give your book an edit to make sure you haven’t made any of these slip-ups!

Don't be like Fry. Know the difference between affect and effect.Affect vs Effect

Are you one of those people who writes “impact” because you aren’t quite sure whether you should be using “affect” or “effect”? Here’s a quick tip that will get you through most scenarios: affect is a verb – so one thing affects another – and effect is a noun. Just don’t get tripped up on “effecting change,” where you’ll use an “e” when you mean “to bring about” something.  Isn’t the English language fun (and sometimes aggravating)?

Insure vs Ensure

This one’s pretty simple. If you’re talking about insurance – as in limiting financial liability – use insure. Both start with an “i.” Ensure, when you’re guaranteeing something, is always with an “e.”

Then vs ThanCan proper grammar make you not sound like a crazy person?

Use then when something follows another thing: “I’ll learn these great grammar tips, and then I’ll proofread my books.” Than is used in comparisons: “Since I fixed all of my grammar mistakes, my book is selling better than it was before!”

I.e. vs E.g.

You might think these are interchangeable when you’re using an example, but there’s a very subtle difference between the two. I.e. mean “that is” or “in other words,” from the Latin “id est,” and you use it when you’re clarifying something. E.g., from the Latin “exempli gratia,” means “for example” and is used for just that – providing an example!

Everything you know is a lie - the fast checkout line at your store uses incorrect grammar.Fewer vs Less

As a rule of thumb, you use fewer when you can count the subject in question individually and less when you can’t. So I can have fewer cups of water than you, but your cups might have less water in them than mine do. And yes, that means your grocery store sign is probably incorrect.

To vs Too (vs Two)

Last but not least, one that you probably know but can slip your mind when you’re writing. Most of the time you’ll use to when you’re talking about a verb or going toward a place, e.g. “I’m going to write” or “I went to the mall,” but when you mean to say “as well” or “also,” or something in excess, use too – “Sally went going to the mall, too, and she ate too much.” And just in case, two is always the number 2. Seems obvious, but you can never be too careful!

That’s it – for now! The English language is a wonderful, complex thing and even the best writers get tripped up from time to time. If you’ve got a favorite tip or a “this word or that one?” that seems to always get the best of you, share them in the comments!

The Best Writing and Storytelling Podcasts for Authors

Boost your writing skills with podcasts recommended by Lulu for writing and storytelling.

We’re all book people here at Lulu. We believe in the power of telling stories and our mission is to give everyone the platform to do so. But technology has been as important to other forms of storytelling as it has been to book publishing. Case in point: podcasts.

There are dozens (or hundreds) of podcasts for every subjecg out there, and it’s no different for publishing, storytelling, and writing. If you’re an author with some downtime, you owe it to yourself to download some podcasts and plug in some headphones to make sure you stay at the top of your game.

Here are a few of the best podcasts to help you hone your writing skills and get your storytelling juices flowing.

Authorpreneur Lulu Author PodcastsAuthorpreneur Want to learn about the business of writing books? Whether they’re fiction writers or entrepreneurs, Jim Kukral gets tips and tricks from authors on how to make a living being an author in Authorpreneur. For anyone serious about making a living being a writer of any sort – or just for listeners who want to learn how people dedicated to their craft have carved out their niche – Authorpreneur is a valuable resource.

Recommended episode: How Andy Weir Took ‘The Martian” From Blog to BestSeller to Blockbuster Movie (Starring Matt Damon)

The Moth The Moth isn’t necessarily about writing, but it is about something that’s important to all writers: telling stories. Whether you’re writing business books or paranormal romance, it’s important to engage your audience. The Moth showcases some of the best live stories about nearly every topic imaginable, and is a great tool for learning how to tell a compelling story.

Recommended episode: Neil Gaiman – Liverpool Street

Dead Robots Society Podcast Lulu Author TipsThe Dead Robots’ Society As the title implies, The Dead Robots’ Society is a little more irreverent than other writing podcasts, and it could be right up your alley if you want something more lighthearted. Still, the hosts take writing very seriously and have no problem sharing their (sometimes painful) writing experiences. The most recent episode as of this post is “The Horrors of Back Cover Copy” and is a hilarious take on trying to sum up your story in a few hundred words.

Recommended episode: Episode 349 – Kickstarters and Patrons

Helping Writers Become Authors Interested in avoiding common writing mistakes? Having trouble writing compelling character arcs? Not sure how to pitch your novel? Helping Writers Become Authors covers every aspect of the book-writing process that you could ever hope to come across. If you want a comprehensive collection of tips – especially for fiction writers – download Helping Writers Become Authors today.

Recommended episode: Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 32: Boring Opening Lines

Selected Shorts Brought to you by Symphony Space and WNYC, Selected Shorts is a collection of “fiction, sometimes classic, sometimes new, always performed by great actors from stage, screen and television who bring these short stories to life.” It’s a more traditional take on storytelling, as much a stage show as a podcast.

Recommended episode: Cannolis and Carroll

Lulu Podcast Snap JudgementSnap Judgement Sometimes the best way to tell a story is to combine it with other art forms. Snap Judgement features stories told to music and you’re just as likely to be inspired by the story being told as you are by the soundtrack it’s set to. Listening to stories is a very different experience than reading them, and hearing accompanying music brings that auditory engagement to a whole new level. It’ll make you think about how your audience interacts with your own stories.

Recommended episode: Snape #603 – Omen

The Writer Files Every episode of The Writer Files podcast is titled “How [Insert Author Here] Writes.” Could it be simpler than that? From bestselling authors to people who write for business – such as bloggers and copywriters – The Writer Files picks their brains to find out just how they get their work done. Learn about overcoming challenges, nurturing writing best practices, and more from a wide variety of authors.

Recommended episode: Standing Desks, Binge Reading, and James Patterson’s MasterClass

Is your favorite podcast listed here? Have some others that you’d love to share? Or maybe you have a podcast of your own! Let us know in the comments.


How to Write a Killer Author Bio

Insert life story hereYou are a writer. Using your keyboard you can create an entire world, the people who live in it and the circumstances for all sorts of interesting things to occur. At peak production, you are churning out 500 to 1000 words a day. So why is it so difficult to write 100 words about yourself? It is, after all, a topic in which you are intimately familiar.

It is likely that you have not even considered your author bio until you are asked for the information from your cover designer. And, as a reader I don’t recall ever not buying a book due to an uninspired “About the Author” blurb. I have, however, upon completing an enjoyable book returned to the bio to learn more about the author – especially if I am interested in reading more of their work. When considered from this perspective, the author bio is really a marketing tool that allows your newest fans to connect with you, possibly leading to increased sales.

So how do you boil your life experience down to a concise and compelling blurb?

Start Big – Go Small

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. You will need to create three author biographies:

  • Long form version for your website, interview sheets, and press releases that includes your age, location, credentials, background, inspiration, fun facts and contact information.
  • Medium length (approximately 250 words) version for queries, guest blogs, and marketing materials
  • Brief bio (approximately 50-100 words) for your book cover and social media profile

The good news is that once you have the long form version complete, it is much easier to edit it down to include the most relevant information based on the context in which the bio will be presented.

Who is your reader?

What’s relevant for inclusion in your author bio depends on your intended audience. An author bio is much like meeting someone at a party. You need to keep it brief, but memorable. Therefore only share the information your audience will find most interesting. Are you writing for an academic audience, summer beach readers, memoir enthusiasts, young adults, or children? An academic reader is probably not interested that you have four children just as a young adult reader will not fully appreciate the effort required to earn that long list of academic credentials listed behind your name.

Brag Selectively

Speaking of credentials, if your name is followed by a bowl of alphabet soup, choose the credentials most relevant to the work you are publishing. The same applies for multiple degrees, certifications, previous publications, articles, and awards. A PhD in astrophysics is impressive if you are publishing a book about the far reaches of the universe – not so much if you are writing a cookbook.

Imitation is the purest form of flattery

So, how do you know what to include in your author bio? Easy, just go online or to your local bookstore and take a look at a few books in your genre or field of study. When you find an appealing author bio, copy it substituting your information and voila! Author bio complete.

What makes you human?

While researching (see above) author bios, you will notice there is usually something included that differentiates the author from their fellows. They may be avid collectors of porcelain Chihuahuas, share their home with 15 hedgehogs, or live off the grid in the Scandinavian woods. This type of information sets you apart from other writers in your field. Other types of humanizing information include your locale or profession, but only if either plays a part in your work.

A picture is worth…..

You only get 50-100 words to share your life story on a book cover or flap. A good picture can help you tell it with fewer words. If you can afford it, have a professional head shot taken to include with your bio. If you can’t afford it, make sure the picture used is in an appropriate setting for your material, is in high resolution and prominently features your face –not your dog, not your car, not your collection of porcelain figurines. It’s called a head shot for a reason.

And finally

Use third person to refer to yourself and read your bio out loud before you publish it. You may choose to create several versions of your brief bio for use in articles, guest blogs, speaking introductions, interviews, and social media. Don’t forget, just as you would update your professional resume, periodically review and update your author bio to include new publications, awards, areas of expertise, and life changing events.