Monthly Archives: April 2012

Publishing Your Thesis with Lulu

graduation studentsMay marks graduation for many college students, a time of celebration after years of dedication and hard work. It also prompts this eternal question: “Now what?”

It’s time to make your way in the world, earn a living and impress the world with your education. If you wrote an undergraduate thesis, master’s project or doctoral dissertation, Lulu can help on two fronts: earning cash and spreading knowledge.

It’s free and easy to upload your thesis onto Lulu. And getting a professional-quality bound copy of it delivered to your doorstep is quick. Moreover, we offer services that can create a professionally designed cover specifically for your work. To get your research out there, we can assign your work an ISBN and even get it listed on the iBookstore (SM) and NOOK™ book store. Most importantly, by publishing on Lulu you retain control of all copyright and permission settings. You determine who can view your work, and when. If you feel that publishing your thesis, final project or dissertation on Lulu sounds like a viable option for you, then please read the steps below for more information on how to get started.

Before you start
First and foremost, check with your department, committee chairs or advisor on any rules you must follow for publishing your academic work. Requirements vary across departments and schools.

Linotype Machines & the History of Printing

Image courtesy of Adam Foster. Please click image to see his photostream.

In this digital age, the actual act of printing becomes an afterthought. We type and then hit print, assured that the lasers housed in our sophisticated printers will deliver us our perfectly-written piece. It seems ages ago that the very idea of printing words was a complicated ordeal, involving sophisticated (and incredibly cool-looking) machines.

Linotype machines were the industry-standard for the better part of the 20th century. They were mammoth machines which used “hot metal” to create complete sentences for manual printing. The printer would type the words into the machine, and the machine would create a unique piece of metal to transfer the ink to the page. The actual mechanics of the machine are fascinating, and if you’re into the sort of thing, you can check out this page for a complete breakdown of the function of each part. Here is a great Flickr photo album by Adam Foster with images of an existing machine.

A new documentary, Linotype: The Film, explores the origins and importance of a machine that changed the world, but has fallen into disuse. Thomas Edison called the Linotype machine the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” The documentary “tells the charming and emotional story of the people connected to the Linotype and how it impacted the world.” It will be released on DVD later this year.

Most Linotype machines were scrapped after the advent of quicker printing methods, and there are very few machines left out there. The original operators of the machine are dying off, and without a new generation of printers, we might lose the art of manual printing forever.

So what? New technology replaces older technology all the time. But maybe by reflecting on older forms of printing we can learn things from a time when words were not so cheap. In the digital age, we take for granted the ability to transmit our words across the globe in an instant. But for hundreds of years authors chose their words carefully — it cost a good deal to print something.

By learning the history of printing, we can appreciate the exciting era we live in, where we can print and distribute our work with the click of a button.

Lulu Author & Illustrator Win Gold Mom’s Choice Award

A few years ago, after being introduced through a mutual friend, author Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino and illustrator Sandra Waugh decided to team up on a picture book that celebrates all art forms, cooperation, and the idea that anyone, young or old, should “let their dreams fly.” Lucky for us, their dream became a reality known as Pinky Doodle Bug, which was released in December.

After completing the book they were cautious about pitching the big children’s publishing houses, which are often hesitant to take on debut authors in the picture book genre. Elizabeth and Sandra also had reservations about traditional publishing’s strict storybook arcs and long-lead printing times.

“In the world of children’s publishing, which often feels like a secret club, we felt our book may or may not ever come to life,” Elizabeth says. “We didn’t want to risk it… We wanted to really remain positive and put all of our positive energy and life into the project.”

So the duo decided on Lulu.com for the paperback, hardcover, and eBook — a decision they’re extremely happy with.

The relationship between the two women and Lulu has been strong from the start — which isn’t a surprise given the collaborative message of Pinky Doodle Bug. In addition to purchasing Lulu’s Global Distribution Package, which puts the book in every bookstore (on order) as well as on multiple online retailers, Elizabeth and Sandra also worked closely with Lulu to market their book.

“Lulu.com has been a critical part of our success. They have had on-the-spot customer service, featured our book, tweeted about us and really help us market the book also, which is probably the biggest boost needed,” Elizabeth says.

Elizabeth and Sandra’s marketing efforts didn’t stop there. They have a robust website that launched before the book released so that they could showcase their ideas and bring the characters to life. By using snappages.com, they have full control over the design and content of their site though the company’s easy drag-and-drop system. This allows them to update pinkydoodlebug.com at least once a week so that everything showcased is current and relevant. Their site has also been a place for Sandra to post coloring pages that have proved so popular a Pinky Doodle Bug activity book will be out soon!

Recognizing that having a website is only the first step toward successful marketing — and that getting people there is the second — both women used social media to boost traffic to their website. Elizabeth leveraged her business’ Twitter account (30,000 followers) and also created a Pinky-specific Facebook page and Twitter account (700 followers) to give away the book and raise brand awareness — within reason. Both women abide by “Twitter 4 Business Specialist” Keith Keller’s assertion that tweeters should abide by the 1 to 10 ratio, meaning 1 tweet about you and 10 about something or someone else.

Although scheduling (they’re moms!) and cost constraints have prohibited Elizabeth and Sandra from working with a PR agency, they’ve both done school and/or library visits, which paid off. Pinky Doodle Bug recently received the prestigious GOLD Mom’s Choice Award, which honors excellence in family-friendly media products. Elizabeth advises that authors seize the opportunities they can: “Sometimes the reason for being there [a book festival, for instance] might not be to sell books, but rather to meet someone or to learn something about someone or yourself.”

In the future Elizabeth and Sandra plan to let their own Pinky dreams fly. Outside of an upcoming activity book and new picture book, Pinky Doodle Dance, the author and illustrator team are hoping to create Pinky dolls, media, and more.

Innovative Ways to Leverage eBook Technology

Only “print” your book with Lulu? You could be missing out. According to Reuters, one-fifth of American adults read an eBook last year, with the number surely to keep rising over the next few years.

As readers move away from print, the electronic realm can become a lucrative option for self-published authors. The rise in eBooks provides some amazing opportunities, like:

  • Updated editions of non-fiction books
  • Extra chapters
  • The ability to try out releasing a book electronically before committing to print

Lulu.com is #1 in eBooks, but what about our old, beloved friend, print? Well, he’s getting a boost as well. With more readers come more recommendations, and even though e-readers are sweeping the nation, it still doesn’t make up the majority of the market. So more often than not, people who are being recommended books can’t buy the eBook, instead they buy it on good ol’ fashion print.

So where does this leave you, the writer? We live in exciting, changing times for authors. Perhaps you would like to test some new material that your readers aren’t quite familiar with? Then perhaps an eBook is the way to go. Once that takes off, you can print your book so the people who its being recommended to (who don’t have e-readers) can order your print version.

Some might lament — this is surely the death of print, right? Well, not necessarily.

As eBooks continue to gain popularity, writers will find new, creative way to utilize print — trying out new design schemes, or offering some print-only content. The future of publishing is going to be dictated by the self-publishers. A new profit-model will be determined by the adventurous writers who try out new ways to promote and distribute their work. Be it print, digital, or something we haven’t even thought of yet, self-publishers will be the engine of innovation for the industry.

Bestselling Author Kevin Powell Comes to Lulu

Author your vision, Live your purpose with Kevin Powell

Author Kevin Powell stepped off the stage into a packed room of over 700 people after finishing his keynote speech in Raleigh, North Carolina last February.  He didn’t leave until he had personally spoken to every single attendee who had come to hear him speak.

Powell knows how to command a room, but will leave you feeling like the star.  That’s because to Powell, you are the star. We all are.

Former MTV reality show personality, turned journalist, turned activist, turned congressional candidate, turned riveting political author, Powell has lived a life not unlike a real-life Forrest Gump (or so his friends say). His uncanny ambition, open-mind, and big heart have taken him all over the world and allowed him to experience diverse people and perspectives – uniting them all under the simple concept of helping your fellow man.

“Life isn’t a straight line,” Powell says. “It is an all over adventure.”

Powell remains grounded through it all, though – truthful to his humble beginnings in New Jersey and Brooklyn and the life lessons his southern single mother provided him as a boy. It is this amazing balance between where Powell came from and where he is today that makes him more personable and more real than anyone else you could encounter – even while standing up on a stage in front of hundreds of people.

“There was a point in my life when I needed to step back and figure out what was important to me. It wasn’t fame or attention; it was making the world better – helping people. I love people. If you can remember where you came from – be proud of where you came from – and love yourself, then you can start to love others, too.”

Powell’s 11th book, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King is available today on Lulu.com. It echoes many of these fundamental concepts and how they fit into a rapidly changing American society and culture in the modern day.

Powell’s love for writing started when he was just a child.  He remembers his mother taking him to the library every Saturday and Sunday and being fascinated by books and their authors.

“At 11 years old I was reading For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway,” Powell recalls.  “I didn’t necessarily understand it all, but I was hooked. I researched Hemingway, learned he ran with the bulls in Europe, lived in Key West, and thought:  ‘Wow, this is what you get to do as a writer.’ Reading had a profound impact on me. It took me places and filled my imagination.”

One of the first things Powell did once he found his stride as a writer was travel to Hemingway’s home in Key West as a “thank you” to his idol and to just be in the same place as where Hemingway had worked and lived.

Growing up, Powell’s mother didn’t exactly see his artistic vision quite as clearly as he did, however.

“My mom came from farm life,” Powell says. “That was working to her – not writing. At first, my mom thought I was out of my mind.”

Powell went to college at Rutgers in New Jersey where he fell in love with journalism and discovered activism. A nearby friend happened to have started an indie newspaper and hired Powell to write for 20 bucks an article.

“I was just happy to have a byline,” Powell says. “I started to find my voice. It was the most liberating time of my life.  I spent the entire summer of 1987 sitting on the steps of the New York Public Library writing in my journal. I couldn’t stop.”

Powell continued writing, oddly found himself on a popular MTV reality show, then landed a spot writing articles for Vibe Magazine working for another childhood idol Quincy Jones.

“Now my mom started to come around,” Powell laughs.  “People in the neighborhood started talking about me. Now my mom is the first person to tell people about my book. Whenever I release one, she’ll call and say: ‘Did you say anything about me?’”

So how, then, does a successful author and speaker who has run for congress find self-publishing?

“If you’re ever in the world of media, you inevitably think to yourself: ‘There has got to be a better way,’” Powell says. “I’ve had agents and publishers turn to me and simply say:  ‘We’re not gonna represent you anymore.’ They try to force you to make choices like ‘are you an artist or an activist?’ A person can be both. The people at Lulu have been some of the coolest to work with, and there is something to be said for feeling like you’re dealing with real people, where the CEO will actually reach out to you if you need him. Lulu really practices what I personally believe in how you should treat people.”

Be sure to check out Kevin Powell’s new book Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King on Lulu.com today. To learn more about Powell and his upcoming speaking engagements visit www.kevinpowell.net.

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

William Shakespeare turns 448 this week. It’s the dream of every writer that 448 years in the future, when people are reading whatever version of eBooks exist then (mind-books?), that they’ll still be poring over the words you wrote so far in the past. It’s a long-shot, but even the famous Bard of Avon,” had to start somewhere, sitting down at a desk and opening his mind to the possibilities of a story that just needed to be told.

Of course, some of his works were bigger hits than others. “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,”and “Othello” are routinely read by every high-schooler, while “The Life of Timon of Athens” is less so. Still, the fortitude that comes with writing so many works of such incredible quality is worthy of high respect from any type of writer. For the novices all the way to the most seasoned of hands, here are a few words of inspiration about the creative, clever, and intellectual spirit (and some of its ensuing difficulties) from possibly the most successful writer of the past 500 years.

Better a witty fool than a foolish wit. - Twelfth Night

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice – Hamlet

How well he’s read, to reason against reading!  – Love’s Labour’s Lost

Brevity is the soul of wit. – Hamlet

What is past is prologue. – The Tempest

I say there is no darkness but ignorance. – Twelfth Night

Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven. – Henry VI part II

Is it not strange that desire should so many years outlive performance? - Henry IV

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. – Macbeth

O, had I but followed the arts! – Twelfth Night

Sweet are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head. - As You Like It

The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream. -Hamlet

To be a creative individual, while definitely a gift, is something that will always be wrestling inside you, waiting to be expressed through some form of art. Shakespeare did a wonderful job describing this struggle.

From all of us at Lulu, Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Do you have a favorite Shakespeare quote or play?

Lulu Presents at the Mongo DB Conference in Atlanta

I do not speak engineer speak. Luckily, Lulu has a team of brilliant team of engineers who do speak that foreign language and speak it well. So well, in fact, that our Senior Engineering Manager Kevin Calcagno is presenting today at the Mongo DB Conference hosted by 10gen in Atlanta on his experience and expertise using the Mongo database system.

Mongo DB is a free, open source solution (to be more specific, an open source NoSQL database), which is part of the attraction for Lulu, since Lulu has always supported the concept of free, open source software. Lulu itself is open-source software that we make available for anyone to use for free. For more info on how to build your own publishing business using our APIs, read this: Expand Your Business With Custom Publishing Solutions. Our history with open source extends even farther back in time to when Lulu CEO Bob Young founded Red Hat.

Kevin has spoken at a Mongo event before, hosted at our Lulu headquarters here in Raleigh. For slides of his past presentation, look to farther: Why we decided NoSQL was right for us, How we came to choose MongoDB.

“When we hosted here, we had so many people attending that we had to start stealing chairs from people’s desks around the office to provide enough seating!

Kevin’s talk today will focus on the insights he can provide based on Lulu’s experience using Mongo DB. He plans to give his audience a sense of what prompted us to switch to Mongo, what the implementation process was like and what we tripped on along the way so that they don’t have to.

“Mongo is really freaking fast,” Kevin says. “Whereas our old system, since it had to pull together so many pieces of data, was comparatively slow. Fractions of seconds add up pretty quickly when you have the volume of traffic that we do.”

The Mongo DB Conference is a very technical conference, but highly recommended for those with the appropriate knowledge base. And, just a little nudge in the right direction, if you fit that description, Lulu encourages authors with technical expertise to publish their information, books, manuals and more through Lulu.com.

And if this tech speak is over your head, what is important for you to know as an author is that Lulu’s engineers are working hard every day to provide the best way to keep your valuable information and content safe, organized and easily accessible.

Lulu eBooks Just Got Even Better

Tables and columns have been around for so long that we don’t give them much thought – even though our daily lives often rely on them.  One supports our dinner plates, silverware, fruit bowls, lamps, and books while the other literally supports the roof over our heads.  In recognition of all that tables and columns have contributed to civilization, we are returning the favor by supporting their use in document-to-EPUB conversions.

What are the benefits? 

For authors, uploaded Word documents that include tables and columns will now pass conversion.  This is especially good news for educators publishing text books, developers publishing tech manuals, or businesses publishing data-heavy intellectual property – all of which make excellent design use of tables and columns.

For consumers, simply clicking on the table image in an eBook will provide access to the original, raw table data.  This allows readers to interact with the data in various ways such as accessing embedded links or copy and pasting information directly from the table.

The really big news is that Lulu is currently the only platform providing this type of document support – all absolutely free.  Compare this with other services that can cost upwards of $400 per conversion.

What’s Next? 

We’re always looking for ways to make our great self-publishing tools even better and more accessible to everyone.  We love hearing your feedback, and work continues to provide support for all the items that matter to our authors and our readers.  Check back for more Lulu news in the coming weeks.

Saving Mother Earth By Using Print-On-Demand

Dear Planet Earth, we love you, respect you, and want to do what we can to protect you.

In honor of Earth Day this Sunday, here are some important, “did-you-know?” facts about why Print-On-Demand (the Lulu-way) is a sustainable alternative to Traditional Offset Printing:

  1. No book is printed before it is bought and paid for. This differs from the traditional method in which thousands of copies are printed before ANY of them are bought and paid for by the consumer. This “print & pray” approach involves unnecessary risk due to the large capital expenditure involved in offset print runs for publishers.
  2. Zero material waste in the manufacturing process, which only uses what is necessary to produce sell-able product. This differs from the traditional method in which additional paper is automatically ordered and used to compensate for the material wasted in “make-ready” in both the printing and binding processes. It’s typically 3-8% paper waste depending on the manufacturer. This adds up to considerable waste for a publisher. The printer passes on the cost of spoilage to the publisher.
  3. Zero risk on the returns of unsold inventory. Compare this to the return rate on traditionally printed books, which can range from 20-35% of the units produced. These overruns are pure waste and sunk costs. Publishers measure these costs in the millions of dollars.
  4. There is no unsold inventory. Using the traditional method, unsold inventory has to be warehoused for a period of time. This is costly.  It burns time, money and energy.
  5. There is no unsold inventory. Using the traditional method, unsold inventory has to be shipped back to the recycling center. In addition, unsold inventory has to be processed at a recycling center. These processes burn time, money and fuel.
  6. Each order is printed and shipped locally, which is good for the local economy and minimizes time in transit and transit costs. Traditionally, orders are printed at large manufacturing facilities for the lowest unit cost.  Traditional Offset runs are done in large manufacturing facilities, shipped in bulk (on many pallets) to warehouses.  These shipments travel long distances by tractor-trailer, or are shipped in containers from overseas.
  7. Maximum author control of content means authors can make edits and publish new editions at any time without negative consequences. Traditionally, the author and publisher are stuck with the inventory of books produced. Content changes can only be made if the author and publisher are willing to swallow the loss on any remaining unsold inventory of the earlier edition.

Also, in honor of Earth Day, enter the Lulu Earth Day Contest on Facebook. This is a print sales contest. Submit your book to compete for most sales between April 18-April 25. Also, Lulu will plant a tree per contest entry up to 6,000 through our tree-planting partner Eco-Libris. Contest prizes include a Nook®, a Marketing Consultation ($475) and a Clarion Book Review ($350). Enter now!

 Click here for more info on Print On Demand.

The Importance of a Writing Routine

When it comes to when and where to write, everyone is different. Maya Angelou starts early and works in hotel rooms with bare walls, Truman Capote claimed he could only write when in bed, horizontal, and Vladimir Nabokov scribbled on index cards for entire nights. Some authors hold themselves to 10 pages per day no matter what (Stephen King), while others force out 500 words a day (Ernest Hemingway). Despite these differences in approach many writers share one commonality: a routine. Like competitive athletes, writers don’t show up for practice when they feel like it. They commit to a schedule and stick with it. Yes, some days will be good, and some days will be bad, but in order to improve one has to keep going.

To be clear there’s no “right” routine, only what works best for you. So what is that? Well, first off, what do you want to achieve? Are you hoping to finish a 100,000 word novel in 12 months? Or complete a short story in 60 days? Once you know, write your objective down and put it in a place where you’re sure to see it every day. A constant reminder will hopefully spur you forward.

Now that you know what you want to achieve what’s next?

  • Friends, family, and work will get in the way, if you let ‘em. Don’t. Review your schedule and find a few times a week where you can allot at least an hour of writing time. Put it in your calendar (even set up a reminder 1 hour in advance) or tack up a note in a prominent place on the fridge or by your desk. Make sure everyone knows they cannot bother you unless there is an emergency.
  • You have your big objective in place, but what do you want to accomplish in each session? Whether it’s word count or page(s), commit to a measurable goal during your writing time.
  • Test out the best place to work. Maybe it’s not at home at your desk, but instead at a coffee shop, your friend’s living room table, or in Maya Angelou’s case, a hotel room. Wherever it is, make note of where you feel most inspired.
  • Turn off your Internet connection and while you’re at it, leave your phone in another room. This is your time not to be distracted and trust me, Twitter, Facebook, and People.com will try to lure you in. The worst thing you can do is Google a writer you know or admire who is about to publish his or her first, third, or eighth book. This time is about you, not you versus someone else.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. As I mentioned earlier, everyone has bad days. Anne Lamott wrote an entire book about the moments of despair, and the fleeting glimmers of good, in Bird By Bird (if you haven’t read yet, you should) that are part of being a writer. If you just can’t eke out even a sentence about your current project, describe your surroundings, write a scene from a work not yet started, or re-write the ending of your favorite TV show. Just WORK and reward yourself (ice cream!) afterwards.
  • Keep a log of your writing. Perhaps this is “business-y” but once you see your victories add up, sitting down to write will feel a whole lot more plausible. So jot down the date and your word count or number of pages and reflect on what you’ve accomplished once a week or month.

Like anything routine (ie. general hygiene, washing the dishes, etc.) it becomes somewhat second nature after a while. Explains author Kristiana Gregory, “Since it’s now a long-time habit, a day without writing makes me feel naked.”

So, Lulu authors, now it’s your turn to tell us what your routine looks like in the comments section below.