Monthly Archives: January 2010

The only thing more difficult than getting started is finishing

I’m a Lulu team member responsible for the Lulu Publishing Services Division where we provide the publishing services you need to help make your book a reality. As a published author (courtesy of Lulu) I understand what it takes to produce a top-selling book and have very high hopes that this blog will help you in your quest to produce your own. Although I still love to write, I have discovered another passion, too: Helping others experience the wonderful feeling that comes with successfully becoming published.

When I began writing many years ago, I found that the complexities, trials and tribulations of publishing distracted from the joy of writing. Like most authors, I began my quest to get published long before I actually finished writing my first book. Cover design, editing, formatting, ISBNs were all new to me, and although they were essential topics, I often wished that the publishing system was simpler. I just wanted to finish my first book and get started on my second. I was fortunate to stumble across Lulu in my search for publishing help and still remain thankful. I was rescued from the deep abyss of “I’ll never get published.” Working with Lulu truly empowered me as an author by reducing frustration and minimizing distraction that consumed so much of my creative time. On a very practical level, Lulu also helped me get published much quicker and allowed me to sell quite a few books. In turn, this allowed me to eat something besides Ramen noodles and tomato soup. I so enjoyed the experience that I actually came to work at Lulu in August ’09 so that I could help others.

$5000 Winner of the Lulu Poetry Contest Announced

At Lulu, we’re always attracted to any passionate group of authors with an urge to create and the Lulu Poetry community is definitely that. We love to see our authors succeed no matter what they like to make and we try to help as much as we can throughout the process. That said, we are proud to announce the $5,000 grand prize winner of the first ever Yearly Lulu Poetry Contest: Timothy Ivan Brumley for his poem Four Sisters. Lulu Poetry contests are ongoing with new winners selected each week through community ratings. Be sure to check out the Lulu Poetry blog for the full story and contest information; and keep checking in with Lulu.com for more ways to publish and inspire creativity.


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Be iPad Ready with Lulu

Unless you were hiding under a rock today, you know that Apple announced a new tablet computer that also functions as an eBook reader. Speculation about the device has been building for months and the actual gadget is still about 60 days from appearing in stores. So additional speculating, no doubt, will ensue.

But having followed Steve Jobs’ presentation today, here’s one thing we don’t have to speculate about: If you publish an eBook on Lulu, it can be read on the iPad.

That’s because Apple will use the ePub file format, an open standard. We added ePub to our creation tools last year because the format is open, allows flexibility, and ensures that our authors will be ready for the future no matter the evolution of digital devices. It stems from our mission to build the world’s best open publishing platform so that authors can reach anyone, anywhere — and to our commitment to help creators navigate the rapidly changing world of digital content.

Clearly, our authors see value in ePub. Since we introduced the format, the number of eBooks created on Lulu has increased 40 percent. And Apple’s announcement of the iPad today is another win for this open approach.

So if you want to be ready for the iPad — not to mention many other popular devices, including the Sony Reader, already available — get started with your ePub eBook on Lulu today.

The Future of the Photo Book

The future of the Photo Book
The innovative creators of the Resolve blog recently asked what the next 10 years hold for photo books — will they be digital or physical, open-source or proprietary? Will they be read on a Kindle or an iPhone? And what aesthetic innovations will have transformed them?
I spend my days thinking about just those issues. I’m a Senior Product Manager here at Lulu and have photo books in the portfolio of products that I oversee. I’m excited about the future of photo books and am certain that the genre will look quite a bit different in a decade. Here are a few thoughts:
The Long Tail Gets Longer
The rise of digital photography and the proliferation of cameras in the portable electronic devices we all carry makes each of us a photographer, collectively empowered to capture and save more than 25 billion images every year. That’s more than 10 times the number of photo prints produced only a decade ago, and, according to research providers such as PMA, the tail still has a long way to grow. //ANY WAY TO ADD ONE MORE LINE OF DETAIL HERE? TODAY WE SEE PHOTO BOOKS OF FAMILY GATHERINGS AND SPORT EVENTS. TOMORROW WE’LL SEE PHOTO BOOKS FOCUSED ON X, Y, Z.//
The Democratization of Publishing
The evolution of Web-enabled print on demand technology pioneered by Lulu means that any aspiring creator can turn a digital document into a printed physical artifact, including high-quality image reproduction. Open standards in eBooks mean that the same digital content can be published and distributed virtually to any marketplace and any device with a connection to the Internet. This means that tomorrow’s photo book, once published, will be made available globally at the click of a button.
The Wisdom of Crowds
With all this content available the problem becomes how to sort it and make it available and discoverable by the people who need it. Google is only one part of the solution here. Collaborative filtering technologies and services such as weRead (which is owned by Lulu), Twitter and Yelp allow us to benefit from each other’s knowledge and experience to find content that’s relevant to us — or have it pushed to us via feeds and updates.
The Virtual Marketplace
As well as empowering creation and collaboration, the Web also facilitates commerce. The intersection of the long tail of content and the rise of the virtual marketplace is an opportunity for any aspiring creator — be they a journalist, writer or photographer. Not only is it now easier to create, but it’s also much easier to sell. Sites like Fotolia and Lulu allow photographers to commercialize their works instantaneously and be discovered by commercial buyers and enthusiasts in a way that was not possible before. And there might be no better measure of the quality, interest value and impact of a photographer’s work than the number of buyers prepared to pay money for the right to own it.
The future of photobooks
It’s clear that the photo books of tomorrow will not be the same as those of today. Change will be driven by the rise of new formats allowing creators to connect with their readers in new ways, including combinations of text, images, audio and, ultimately, video. And as the quality of on-screen reproduction continues to improve, consumption will move progressively from print to electronic devices such as tablets and smart phones.
The long tail phenomenon, the democratization of publishing, the wisdom of crowds and the virtual marketplace are four trends that will allow creators and consumers alike to profit from and enjoy all the more this already popular medium.

The innovative creators of the Resolve blog recently asked what the next 10 years hold for photo books — will they be digital or physical, open-source or proprietary? Will they be read on a Kindle or an iPhone? And what aesthetic innovations will have transformed them?

I spend my days thinking about just those issues. I’m a Senior Product Manager here at Lulu and have photo books in the portfolio of products that I oversee. I’m excited about the future of photo books and am certain that the genre will look quite a bit different in a decade. Here are a few thoughts:

The Long Tail Gets Longer
The rise of digital photography and the proliferation of cameras in the portable electronic devices we all carry makes each of us a photographer, collectively empowered to capture and save more than 25 billion images every year. That’s more than 10 times the number of photo prints produced only a decade ago, and, according to research providers such as PMA, the tail still has a long way to grow.

Lulu Studio: New fonts!

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click for larger image

Exciting news for the Lulu Studio! In our efforts to continue to make improvements,  yesterday we released eight new fonts for you to use in your photo books, cookbooks, calendars and poetry books.

To see the fonts up close, click the small image to the left.

Keep checking for more new fonts in the future and let us know what you think!

Improving the Lulu Community

One of the most important things to any company is their community of users. If anything, this is even more true for Lulu. We believe that if we don’t do a good job listening to our users and improving our offerings, then we are not helping you succeed. Currently on Lulu we have a Community section that highlights our Blog, our social networking presence, the Newsletter, Community Services Marketplace, and of course our Forums. As part of our belief in continuous improvement and providing the best customer experience to our users, we are moving our forums and help to a new, unified platform in early February.

As a result of these changes, you will be able to easily find articles, discussions, and more for anything you are searching for. We will be migrating all of the data from Help, as well as the last three months of data from the forums to ensure that as much relevant information as possible is preserved. That said, if there are particular forum threads you want to make sure you have a record of, please copy them into a text document before February to make sure that it does not get lost in the shuffle. In addition, there will be limited access to the forums in the days before we make the transition. We will announce this time period in advance, and we will keep you informed of our progress. We hope this will cause a minimum of disruption and we apologize in advance for any inconvenience it does cause.

Some of the new features that we are very excited about adding to the community are:

  • Ideas & Feedback – You will be able to submit your recommendations for how we can improve the Lulu experience and vote on ideas you like that others have submitted.
  • Announcements – We will be adding a section for announcements for scheduled site maintenance, release notes, guidelines and more. All of this will be hosted externally from Lulu, so if Lulu is down you can still get information about what’s going on.
  • You will have the ability to see your open support cases.
  • You can see new articles and discussions that have been added, as well as the most popular ones.
  • You will be able to rate users, articles, discussions, and anything that you like.

As we roll out these new features and integrate them into Lulu we will be asking you for your feedback. We want to do everything we can to improve the experience based on your responses. We hope you’re excited as we are about the opportunity for us to improve the Lulu community.

Guest Blog: Author Julio Vazquez

2010. I can’t believe it’s been 8 years since I first stumbled on Lulu.com.
Looking back, I had originally come across the site during a job search. When I looked at the positions available, I didn’t find anything that I felt I could fit in comfortably. While I was on the site, I got intrigued by the fact that they were offering the ability to publish and print books for literally pennies per page.
I had already written a novel and a set of short stories. I didn’t have any particular success placing the work with publishers because, frankly, I didn’t do the sort of market research that would place me with a traditional publisher. I just wrote and what I wanted to do was make my work available to others to read. I wasn’t worried about making multi-million dollar deals. I knew that there were few authors who got to that level in the business. I just felt that I had some good stories that I wanted to share. Lulu gave me the opportunity.
I remember the first time I went through the process. Watching that manufacturing building pulse to produce my work. Then I wound up disappointed because I got things I didn’t expect for my fiction. The thing looked like a text book. There was a table of contents and other things that I considered ugly. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t pleased but I contacted the support team. Fortunately, they wanted to learn and they wanted to get my work to the point that I’d be happy with it. We talked through the forums and emails about publishing and expectations and what would work better. The publishing process improved. Finally I published the first two books, The Truant Murders, and Pictures at an Exhibition: Vignettes from my Mind.
Okay, they didn’t sell much. That wasn’t the point. I was able to share these works with others easily now. I did sell some and I was also able to send copies to the man who encouraged me to write. I got back a nice hand-written letter that encouraged me and stated that I validated his career (he was a H.S. English teacher). That defined success for me.
I then started contributing to forums and I started a blog. I wanted to help others who were writing. Things like how to get through writer’s block intrigued me and I tried to help folks get over the hump and suggest strategies that could help. I tried to maintain a positive attitude about the experience, even when I had some concerns about the process and the product. Overall, I suppose I was successful because I was asked to be a community leader.
Sometime during these years, I wrote two more novels, Death at Disney and Where is Love?Death at Disney had legs. It sold more units than I expected for a self-published book. I entered it in the Self-Published book competition and it scored fairly well, even if it didn’t win. I also entered Where is Love? after I published that one and it did remarkably well in the scoring (though they did tell me what I knew – the cover wasn’t great).
I’ve been in technical communications for a long time and I finally used Lulu to create a technical book that is my best seller yet, Practical DITA. I believe that the ability to get the book out to press quickly (2 editions in less than 6 months) helped achieve that success. This book has been a boon to me and the company for which I work, SDI (http://www.sdicorp.com) in showing that we do have expertise in the field.
Overall, I’ve had a pretty positive relationship with Lulu and have been happy with the results. I look forward to getting 2 more books out this year (if I can ever slow down enough to spend more time writing) with their help.
Enjoy the ride!

I’m honored to have Julio Vazquez guest blog today. Julio is one of our very first authors and has become good friend of mine, too. He’s a leader in the Lulu Community and can often be found helping others in the forums. I asked him to share his experiences with Lulu here on the blog.

Julio Vazquez

2010. I can’t believe it’s been 8 years since I first stumbled on Lulu.com.

Looking back, I had originally come across the site during a job search. When I looked at the positions available, I didn’t find anything that I felt I could fit in comfortably. While I was on the site, I became intrigued by the fact that Lulu were offering the ability to publish and print books for literally pennies per page.

I had already written a novel and a set of short stories. I didn’t have any particular success placing the work with publishers because, frankly, I didn’t do the sort of market research that would place me with a traditional publisher. I just wrote and what I wanted to do was make my work available to others to read. I wasn’t worried about making multi-million dollar deals. I knew that there were few authors who got to that level in the business. I just felt that I had some good stories that I wanted to share. Lulu gave me the opportunity.