Working at Lulu.com has been a pretty interesting experience. Aside from all I have learned about the publishing industry, I have met some pretty unique people. I interviewed a former adult movie actress, a magazine publisher, and even helped a person in Moose Jaw, Canada publish a book via Twitter.
Even within Lulu.com there are tons of interesting people. I sat next to Anthony S. Policastro during his time at here and in between him getting hit in the head with a Nerf dart or answering his phone via his watch, we’d discuss different ways self-publishing authors can promote their books as well as the future of ebooks. Anthony has written two books that he has released through Lulu.com as well as guest posted on the Lulu Blog about writing and marketing. I didn’t want to ask him the usual questions I ask authors, but ones that are focused around the future of publishing, book marketing and the perceived perception that paper books are going away.
-You’ve made your latest book available as a free download. Do you feel that will help you sell more copies of the paperback version?
Yes. When a reader is excited enough about my book to download it and read it on a computer, they must really want to read it. After all, it’s not convenient to read a book on a computer – you can’t read it in bed or in your favorite easy chair and it is a strain on you eyes. A laptop will solve the portability constraint, but you still have the eyestrain, the battery going dead in an hour or so, and the laptop burning your legs.
So, as they read my book and if they like it, they will tell their friends, but maybe some of their friends may not want to read a downloaded version and they will opt to buy a printed version. My other thought is that those who downloaded the book may get tired of the inconvenience and opt to buy a printed version.
-Since you’ve been an analyst in the open publishing industry has your mindset as an author changed?
Absolutely. Having your book listed on Amazon and other book sites does not guarantee that you will have robust sales. Many authors believe that obtaining an ISBN number and being on Amazon will allow them to quit their day jobs. With millions of titles on Amazon, your book is like a grain of sand on the California coastline.
It still takes a lot of self-promotion and hard work to get your book noticed and to generate sales. Almost every new author believes they have written the next best seller, but the reality is that of the 300,000 plus books published every year only a handful are bestsellers.
Even authors with traditional publishers have to work just as hard as self-published authors to generate sales, especially now that the publishing industry is suffering extraordinary losses and publishers do not have the resources to put into new, unknown authors.
-Who designs the covers for your books?
I do. I have always strived to be unique and that is applied to my book covers. I want my covers to look as professional as traditional published books and to appeal to readers. Never judge a book by its cover – well people do that all the time when searching for a book to buy. It’s the same as falling in love – you first have to be attracted to the person by their looks before you will go any further.
I taught myself Photoshop and other graphic programs, but I’m not an expert and there are new things to learn all the time. It’s very time consuming and sometimes I have to ask my graphic arts friends how to create a particular element. I highly suggest hiring a graphic artist to create your book cover unless you know computer graphics very well.
-Why do you write?
Funny you asked that. I wrote a blog post on that same question awhile back quoting Rambo author David Morrell who addressed the same question,
“F. Scott Fitzgerald said there were no second acts in American lives. Applying this to writing, we could say that if a writer creates in relation to a trauma, he or she stops being creative when the trauma is resolved. This has been the case in a number of American writers. But for most of us, the traumas continue. For example, until 1987, I wrote in response to my father’s death in WWII and the orphanage I was put in. But after 1987, I wrote in response to my son’s death from bone cancer. I never do it deliberately, however. The stories insist.”
I don’t think I write in relation to a trauma, but one never knows. It could be my fear of loss that could be driving my urge to write. I always feel a little sad when something is lost, particularly by others, by society, by our culture.
I have always had this urge to write, to communicate my thoughts to others. I believe I have a unique perspective on the world and I want to share that with others. I also believe we all have a unique perspective, but some have this itch to share it while others don’t give it a second thought. I’m always itching.
-Do you feel that the Kindle will have a bigger impact than the iPhone for authors?
No. I think they will compliment each other. I don’t think die-hard readers will rush out and buy an iPhone to read their favorite book, but they will buy a Kindle for this purpose. The iPhone will serve as the portable Kindle when people are on the go and have idle time to read like waiting in a doctor’s office or waiting for a taxi or a flight.
I think both devices will be a boon for authors because users will be able to read content practically anywhere and they promote reading books – something many people don’t do anymore.
I would like to see both devices communicating with each other so that a user can read a book on the Kindle, stop and read the same book on the iPhone and the devices will remember where the reader left off.