Author Story: “How I Went About Self-Publishing”

Tony Eldridge, author and creator of the blog Marketing Tips for Authors, recently contacted Lulu to let us know about a project he was working on. Tony had gotten in touch with Lulu author, Robert Shepherd, and asked him to write a guest post for his blog. The post focused on how to self-publish if you’re a first time aspiring author and offers a “how-to” on Lulu straight from an author’s first hand experience – no holds barred.

I thought I’d share with you Tony and Robert’s post and hope that it helps you get started on your next remarkable work. Enjoy and be sure to check out other marketing tips from Tony by visiting: http://blog.marketingtipsforauthors.com

How I Went About Self Publishing
By Robert Shepherd

Hello Everyone, firstly, it is nice to meet you all. Secondly, I would like to thank Tony for asking me to share my experiences of self publishing with you on his blog.
Before I begin, I think it is only fair to say that I am still learning the how to do just about everything, and people like Tony have taught me a lot about what to expect when publishing and marketing your work. We are all learning and I think we always will be. This is why I was so keen to share my thoughts with you, because I learn from you just as much as you may learn from me.

Now Self Publishing your work yourself, how do we go about it?

Right, you’ve just finished writing your book and now you want to get it printed up and share it with the world.

Well, you have a plethora of self publishing companies that are baying for your attention and your money. So which do you choose? We all face that question and it always comes down to: No. 1 – personal choice & No. 2 – Cost. At the end of the day it is ultimately your choice as to which one you pick. But you should be sure it is the right one for you.

I wanted to share my work as soon as possible and show my closest friends and family. This was also key element to my choice of Self-Publishers because we never can tell what may happen next and this book would be my legacy to them to remember me by. The Legacy aspect is a large contributing factor to having my work saved online where it can be viewed and a copy purchased, so I will always have something for people to remember me by.

Another reason I chose to self publish my work, except that shockingly, I didn’t have big name publishing houses and companies beating my door down for my signature to print my stories, was that I have total control over my work, from which pages get included, the cover design, the ISBN identification, previews that get shared on Amazon etc, the price of the finished product, the description and even keywords that are used to find it in online web searches.

I think most of you are the same too. You want to share your work with your kin and friends first, the world second and lastly to have a legacy to keep on the shelf long after you have gone.

I, like so many of you, did and still do, operate on a strict budget. Therefore I/We don’t have excess money to throw around at getting registered with companies and signed up to buy publishing “packs”. For those that do, these are indeed very useful places to go and help you to avoid having to do most of the promotional work yourself, for the rest of us, this is mainly not an option.

Once I had finished my work and chosen my publishers, I needed to get started sharing my work online.

I chose Lulu.com. This was for 2 main reasons: (1) A friend tipped me off about them and (2) They are FREE.

Lulu.com do not charge authors to get started for uploading your work. They are “print on demand”, therefore they print and charge by each copy. They charge the price you set and then they take their cut from that price and you get your royalties. The print costs are also included in to the overall price. However, you should be advised that they do have a minimum price that you can charge for certain book styles and sizes.

Because Lulu.com are print on demand, you, crucially need to do the leg work promoting your book. Lulu require you to upload your work from your PC using a PDF file. This is your first challenge. You need to edit your work using a a word or office software suite that has the ability to change your work into PDF format. Personally, I use Open Office, but there are many writing suites out there that offer PDF formatting options, again the choice here is entirely yours.

So now you have written your book, formatted it into PDF format and chosen for instance Lulu.com to publish your hard work. The next step is to take the plunge and sign up to your self publishers. In this case Lulu.com. When you have completed the necessary details to start with, you will be directed to another page and asked to start producing your work. They will ask if you wish to start a “new project”, click to do so and you’ll be on your way. Here all you have to do is follow all the onscreen instructions and you’ll have your work saved as a file as a new project. Once you have loaded the PDF file containing your work you can start designing your cover. You can pick a design from lulu themselves or choose to design your own, using text and pictures from your PC. You are however restricted by picture quality, type and size of pictures you intend to upload, certain image files may not be allowed or may be too large to use.

My advice is to hang in there and stick at it. Persist with it, it’s mainly about reading all fine print, all instructions carefully and good old trial and error. If something doesn’t work, go back and try something else. This is what I did. It is worth trying out different ideas, after all, a design you like the idea of, may not work out so well when you see it on screen. This was how in the end I managed to get a unique cover for my book. I had designed it, copied it and saved it onto my computer then uploaded it using Lulu’s cover design feature and tinkered with it until I was happy with it. Now I have a copy sitting on my book shelf to show people and to remind me of my hard work. The pride is immense.

You’ll need to also pick your book type and size, these range from A4, US Postal, A5 and so on.

After you have designed your cover you’ll need to complete a section giving details about your book, title (obviously), description about your book and most importantly, you’ll need to set a price for your book. Again a reminder, as I said earlier, the minimum price of your book will be dictated by the book type and size that you chose when you produced your “new project”.

Lulu is an ideal publishing site for first time authors and writers as well as more proficient ones alike. It is free and easy to use and navigate & has excellent on screen instructions and guidance and FAQ sections.

Provided that you follow the instructions and guidance you receive on the way, you will be a self published author in no time at all. It took me about a day in total, to sign up, upload my work, design my cover and finalize my work, including the pricing and ISBN identification (which lulu can provide free, unless you already have one that you wish to attribute to your book (here again lulu can provide guidance as to how to do this).

All costs are fairly obvious. You are charged the set price you provided when designing your “project” and for postage. However, a trick I found and used, when I wanted to share the first copies of my book, was to go back and click on the “edit” or “review” icon next to my book in the “my lulu” page. I then clicked to edit the pricing options. Here I deleted the price making it free to purchase. I then ok’d the changes and went back to “my lulu” and clicked on the “purchase” a copy icon next to my book title and ordered the number of copies I required. By doing this, you are only charged for the shipping, and by purchasing several copies you also save on separate shipping costs. Once I had ordered my copies, I then went back and changed my pricing back to normal again and saved it. This is not ideal, but it does save you paying full price as well as postage and packaging.

Well by now you will be able to sit back in your chair, back aching, neck sore, eyes strained and brain fatigued and know that you are now a Self-Published author. Lulu.com does provide extra services for it’s customers beyond the basic print-on-demand service, such as publishing & marketing as well as many others, but you need to remember that these all come at a cost and they are not always cheap. Therefore it is always advisable to check these out thoroughly first before choosing to use them. They are very useful, provided that you have the money spare to pay for them. However, if you are on limited finances, then you will need to undertake all the promotional and marketing legwork yourself.

I will be perfectly honest here and let nobody else tell you otherwise, promoting and marketing your book all by yourself is hard work and at times completely frustrating, but it is necessary if you want to get exposure for your work.

However, some neat tricks are to utilize the power of your computer. If you have windows movie maker or similar software, you can make up a video trailer to promote your book, which you can then place up on you-tube and other sharing websites. Be careful though, make sure that if you are using any music on your video, that you adhere to copyrights. If you are not already a member, use social network sites such as Facebook and Myspace. These are a great way to build a readership and maybe even a fan base and also provide yet another avenue to promote your book via excerpts from your book and by sharing your book trailer that you made, which can be done via you-tube. Click on the share button and you can share it on all the main social networks; Facebook, Myspace, Bebo Twitter etc. All this helps create readership and promote your work. Also next to your books title on Lulu.com you will find a “Promote” icon. Click on this and you can generate a code, HTML etc and place it on your Facebook or Myspace page leading people directly to your Lulu.com storefront where they can view and purchase your book. Be sure to place this icon on status’ and comments wherever you can to promote and provide a constant visibility for your work.

You will find many features available on Lulu.com and or on other self-publishing websites, that can help you promote and market your book(s), however I wanted to share with you how I got into self publishing and how I went about it in the first place. Once you have done initially you will soon learn the art of it and will be well versed and proficient in working out where else you want to promote your work and how.

I am available on both Facebook and Myspace and hopefully, I will be proud to count you as one of my readers and myself as one of yours. Thank you.

Robert Shepherd is the author of Life With Boris Karloff (book and audio), The Human Condition, and The Human Condition Vol. 2. You can find them on his Lulu author page.

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10 Comments

  1. Thank you, Robert, for your story. I went through the same steps you did, and you accurately described them. I bought some of the Lulu services. Now and then I see people saying Lulu services cost too much. (What seller of goods and services in our universe can’t be accused of that — especially when the accusation comes from the buyer?) Before I paid Lulu any money, I compared their prices for the services I wanted against the prices of their competitors. I even made a spreadsheet, although I’ve probably deleted it by now. But Lulu won at the bottom line. More importantly, I enjoyed working with the Lulu person who was assigned to my project. I looked forward to receiving his emails. Their editor made several excellent suggestions that I could easily go along with without having to make story something other than what I wanted it to be. Best wishes, Robert, in your career as an indie author.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I`m about to publish my first book, this article helped me a lot.
    Thank You,

  3. Thank you Ron for wonderful and insightful comments. I tried to be as helpful and accurate as possible while also sharing how being a first timer with very limited financial resources, I was able to achieve something special, and not just to me. I wanted people to see that you can do this even without big backing and lots of money. I hope to be able to take advantage of lulu’s packages some day soon, so your comments on your experiences have been very useful to me too. Thank you for your kind words and much success to you too, hope to read lots about your work in the future.

  4. Congratulations and well done Rodrigo. I am pleased you found it useful. All my best wishes on your foree into indie publishing.

  5. Thanks for the insightful article! I have made notes of some things I didn’t know when I used lulu.com to publish my first book, Naked, years ago.

    Now, in collaboration with some friends, I have another book in production through lulu.com, and I am having some troubles figuring out what to do. We have two versions of the book, one in colour, the other in b&w. The reason for this boils down to costs to the purchaser. The colour version will be more costly as it costs more to produce it. It looks lovely and would make a great gift, but people are watching their money these days and this book will be sold worldwide, so we wanted to offer a less costly version.

    How do I go about printing a b&w version of the same book? I am stumped. Will I need a separate title? To be honest, I’ve gotten a headache trying to find the answer to this. Any advice/insight would be greately appreciated.

    Congratulations on your book!

  6. Thanks Robert! I think the hardest thing for folks in traditional publishing to understand is that I chose to self publish because I can. I love the control, I need the speed and I crave the challenge.

    With 7 titles under my belt, last summer I met with 2 of the biggest literary agents in Canada with regards to selling my foreign language rights. They kept regurgitating tired old lines like, “Self publishing is great if you like having boxes of books in your basement.”

    Mid lunch one of the ladies held up one of my smashing Lulu books and asked, in all sincerity, “So how do you do this?”

  7. I’m thrilled that companies like Lulu help authors achieve their dreams. Robert has been a fan and friend of mine since I first published my book. It’s been a thrill to watch what he has accomplished with Lulu’s help. I’m so happy that he shared his experiences with other writers.

  8. Rob Shepherd

    Thank you Tallulah. As far as I know you will need to make a new project and upload your original project file and then select the b&w cover option when completing your book. If your content is in colour, then that will need to be changed to black and white too. But I know no other way to make a b&w option for your book. This will create 2 versions of your book, but that can also be a selling point for you, you can offer two versions for people to choose from, a colour option or black and white depending on their preference, if you choose to upload another in black and white then I would promote the fact that that it is available in both colour and black and white. Thank you for commenting and hope you find much success with your books.

  9. Thank you so much Krista. I made no apologies or excuses for the reasons why I chose to publish via lulu and to date have never had a reason to regret it. You are so right with the big name publishers. There is always this bias and prejudice towards self publishing, yet self publishing offers by its very nature a much more rewarding experience in the end. We can hold our heads high and say to anyone who wishes to nay say our choices; “it’s wonderful for anyone to be picked up by a traditional publisher and given opportunities precious few get to enjoy, yet by myself this here book looks no different professionally to yours”. That is the power that lulu and self publishing companies offer and provide for those of us that choose them and their wonderful support is second to none. The niavity and ignorance of these people that assume you HAVE to work their way is laughable. I am so glad you were able to show them what you have been able to achieve without a major publisher’s backing. Thank you once again for commenting, I wasn’t sure as to what reaction, if any I would get from my article on Tony’s Blog, but the comments on here and as well as on Tony’s blog itself have been woinderful in their support and grace. I would like to say a huge thank you to all of you for reading my article and being kind enough to comment and provide fascinating informative replies that have helped myself a great deal. I have never pretended to be a expert on how to on everything to do with lulu, that is what the wonderful staff are here for, but wanted to share my experience with others in the hope that it would open their eyes and enlighten them as to processes and to show them that anyone can do it and be thoroughly proud of themselves as we all should be. I would also like to say a massive thank you to Lulu and all the staff for a wonderful company and excellent website that is now a virtual second home when online.

  10. Robert, your insight was really useful to me. I have written my first novel, Queen of Bling, which I hope to publish as early as October or November this year. I have learnt a lot of things from your comment, especially with regard to cover design. I have been worried about a design of my book cover and have already contacted a number of graphic and book cover designers, but with limited financial backing, I found it frustrating. Thanks a lot man. I feel confident I will benefit a lot from your kind advice. Good luck for your future as a writer…

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