Monthly Archives: April 2012

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.

 

 

NC Amendment One Impacts Businesses Like Lulu

I believe that Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers makes a good statement about North Carolina Amendment One, up for vote on May 8:

“You’re sending a message to the world that we’re not inclusive… North Carolina is competing with the world for business, and we have to be inclusive and open.”

This amendment has an economic impact. As a business owner, it impacts my ability to attract the talented, highly educated, open minded people that Lulu needs. It further impacts my ability to offer competitive health benefits to my employees and their families.

This is not about supporting or opposing gay marriage, it’s about taking the conversation off the table completely. It’s about North Carolina, via its constitution, sending a message that everyone in the state isn’t even willing to have the conversation.

Help: Vote for Lulu!

What’s your M.O.? Our very own Sarah Gilbert was featured on M.O. this week. She talks about some of the most meaningful books she’s worked on during her time here at Lulu. She also talks about seeing the rise of eBooks firsthand and what “a day in the life” of a Lulu is like. Help us vote Sarah’s interview up to the top. Just click on the badge above to read the interview and vote for Sarah!

Expand Your Business with Custom Publishing Solutions

I had an interesting conversation with an up and coming author recently who has a very specific vision.  She wants to cut out any potential for a “middle-man” to distract her readers from finding and buying her works.  She eventually even wants to run her own publishing business directly from her website starting with her own titles.  This would enable her to maximize her profits and directly tap into her fan-base while helping other aspiring authors share their works too.  The problem is she didn’t have an easy means of distribution, eBook creation, or order fulfillment.  She needed someone to help her do all the heavy lifting on the backend, so she could focus on creating a successful business.  That’s where Lulu and our Open Publishing APIs (Application Programmer Interfaces) come in.

An API is kind of like a Lego® block that makes a website or application work.  All the “blocks” that make Lulu’s great self-publishing site function are available to the public so that anyone can use them no matter their needs or their market.  With Lulu APIs, authors, publishers, businesses, and developers alike can take whatever pieces they need from Lulu and use them on their own websites to instantly produce, manage, and sell content.  The best part? They are absolutely free.

Suddenly this up and coming author has a completely customized publishing solution to start that business she dreams about.  She can sign up other authors but can relax while she uses Lulu’s global print-on-demand network to cut on shipping costs.  She gets to offer her authors distribution through Lulu’s retail partners like Amazon, iBookstore(SM), and NOOK Bookstore – where many readers already shop. It’s all under her own imprint and designed for her to be more profitable than ever before possible.

Lulu is constantly rolling out new APIs too.  Coming soon Lulu’s eCommerce APIs will be released for general availability, enabling customers to buy directly through an author or business’s own website. Also be on the look out for general availability of our Creator Revenue APIs which allow a business or imprint to easily keep track of an author’s earnings.

Indeed, the Lulu APIs are empowering people and organizationslike our friends at campus bookstores across the nation – to grow and monetize content in exciting new ways while diversifying revenue and expanding their businesses – all under one roof.  Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for some more exciting news about how our APIs are helping to break down even more barriers for authors, for businesses, and for everyone in between.

 

Famous Historical Figures Who Self-Published

In 1640, Stephen Day self-published the Bay Psalm Book, only 20 years after the pilgrims arrived in North America. Consider the self-publisher as the ultimate American underdog. Our history is pretty much filled with individuals who started publishing on their own, in somewhat obscure conditions, to become cultural and political leaders.

Ben Franklin self-published Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1732, well before he became known for his politics and diplomacy. Thomas Paine self-published “Common Sense,” a pamphlet that inspired the American revolution.

It makes sense that self-publishing would be a hotbed of interesting, radical ideas. If your ideas are truly radical and pushing the envelope, there’s a good chance they’ll scare off traditional publishers. We think this means you’re doing something right.

Mark Twain self-published Huckleberry Finn in 1885,  one of the first books to seriously tackle racism in America. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a seminal collection of poetry that has inspired countless American writers, was also self-published.

What is it about self-publishing that attracts some of the best and most influential talent America has to offer? Hemingway self-published his first work, Three Stories and Ten Poems, in 1923. Perhaps it has something to do with the vanguard-status of writers who self-publish. Because they are often ahead of their time, traditional publishers may not feel ready to take a gamble on them. Perhaps because they consider what they have to say more important than definite material reward, they self-publish with an urgency and passion that they wouldn’t find at a publisher.

Thoreau, Stein, Crane… the list goes on. To consider self-publishing a new “trend” would be to ignore the very foundation of publishing and writing in America. In the Internet age, we’re given even more of an opportunity to put our writing out there, to publish it ourselves, be it digitally or physically, to connect with our readers and to make a difference in our world without a publisher, without an advance, without a care in the world.

The history of the American writer is really always the story of an underdog. No one is born a best-seller. Everyone starts as an underdog. There’s no bigger underdog than the self-publishing writer. And pretty consistently in America, the underdog makes a big difference.