Articles by AJ

Using Facebook Timeline to Better Market Your Books

Whether you’re ready to click the “Like” button or you’re secretly wishing for a new “Hate” button to be added over the new Facebook changes, the popular social networking site is getting ready to update…again. On February 2nd, everyone’s profiles will be switched to the new Facebook Timeline layout – like it or not.  It’s ok though, with change comes opportunity and in your case, oh faithful Lulu author, you’ll have new tools to play around with to help market your works.  This post will help you set up your Timeline and give you some ideas on how to best use it to reach your audience.

What is Facebook Timeline?

Facebook Timeline is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “Timeline is the story of your life…in a new way to express who you are.”  Your posts (literally all of them) are divided in two and appear on a timeline in chronological order below your profile picture and basic information.  The super cool feature about your Timeline and the most obvious change is the new cover option, which lets you save an image as a banner at the very top of your page. This is your place to shine Lulu author.  I’ve already seen some really fun and innovative uses for this space.  Just check out these cool personal Timelines and these company Timelines for some inspiration.

From Mashable - Note the use of a QR code as the profile pic. You can do this to link to your book's product page on Lulu.

 

As you can see in the links and images above, the more creative you get with your new cover image, the more likely a potential reader might stop and consider reading your works.  Consider placing illustrations from your books in this space if you’re a children’s book author, or perhaps even a passage from your work if you’re a novelist.  Make it fun and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.  This is a great chance to brand yourself and your work in an interesting and unique way.  To start setting up your Timeline, check out this handy slideshow from our friends at Mashable for step-by-step instructions.

Lifespan of a Post:

Right now, Facebook posts have an average lifespan of about three hours according to research recently done by Bitly. This is likely to decrease with Timeline, but you can ensure the right people are seeing your posts by trying different times throughout the day to pinpoint your highest traffic hours. It’s a good idea to set up your own personal Facebook page for your works too so you can have access to all of Facebook’s great insight tools, which show you which of your posts trend most and to what demographics. The more virality (the amount it will be shared) your posts have increase the likeliness that your fans will like it or share it, which will extend your posts’ lifespan.

Post more and post often:

Given the ever-decreasing life-span above, what you have to say has more potential to be lost in the sea of other frequent posters in your fans’ news feeds.  I still wouldn’t post things back to back, but once every hour to two hours certainly couldn’t hurt. The vast majority of readers are constantly plugged in now, and are always interested in discovering fresh, easy to digest content. But make sure that content is of quality and value or fans will flag you for spam.

Life Events:

You’ll notice you now have a new option next to your status updates on Facebook Timeline called “Life Event.” This is a great new feature specifically for authors because you can include your books, publications, and blog-type posts here and instantly share it with your readers.  You can include cover-photos along with your posts to really help them stand out – like so:

So there you go, you should be well-equipped to brave the new Facebook Timeline and be a cut-above the rest for marketing your titles through this channel.  Sound off on what you think about the new Facebook in the comments below and feel free to offer your own tips for how you’ve used it too.

 

eBook Education: Know Your Formats

Self-publish an eBook

Hey there remarkable author. Want your titles to reach even more readers?  Today’s lesson: Know your eBook formats.

PDF, LIT, BBEB, EPUB.  There are literally dozens of different file formats able to be assigned to the end of your would-be eBook.  All the buzz these days seems to be mostly about EPUBs, and for good reason.  EPUBs are currently the most universally accepted file format for e-reader devices.  Want to sell on the iPad?  EPUB!  Want to sell on the NOOK? EPUB!   You can turn a Word doc into an EPUB using Lulu’s EPUB Converter in minutes, but don’t just stop there.  While most e-reader devices accept EPUBs, some eBook tech mainly accept proprietary file formats so keeping up on tech trends can go a long way in getting your content out to the most customers.

Lulu author Stephen Stark puts it best:  “eBooks are not the future of publishing.  They are the present.”  And right he is.  Any author today would do well to study up on all the different eBook formats and offer their titles in as many mediums as possible.  EPUBs might be the bees knees right now, but that doesn’t mean another format won’t come along.  These days, you never know how your next big fan might discover your works, so making your content as accessible as possible is the name of the game.  The less your limit your titles to just one format or medium, the easier you make it on your readers to purchase and can avoid losing sales just because you didn’t offer your book the way they wanted.

For more info on how to create an eBook of your own, check out our handy youtube channel – updated with new how-to videos all the time such as How To Publish an eBook with the Best Table of Contents.

Happy selling Lulu author!

 

What’s the buzz on all this Apple publishing stuff?

If you’ve been paying attention to any tech news since yesterday, you probably heard about the Apple announcement of their new iBook® Author app – geared towards educators looking to publish textbooks for customized classroom solutions.  Here’s what some of the top tech-media outlets have to say about the new program:

Mashable
Hands On: Apple’s iBooks Author App

Engadget
Apple launches iBooks 2 e-Textbook platform (video)

PC Magazine
iBooks Author: You Work For Apple Now

The Telegraph
iBooks Author:  Apple doesn’t want to own your book

The Verge
iBooks Author restricts all sales to iBookstore, wraps for-pay books in DRM

Techcrunch
Apple Announces iBooks 2, A New Textbook Experience for the iPad

LA Times
Apple’s iBooks 2, iBooks Author:  Bids to own publishing’s future

TechRadar
Hands on:  iBooks Author review

So what do you guys think about Apple’s new initiative?  Sound off in the comments below.

 

Download Day Winner Announced!

In a recent blog post, we predicted that Dec. 26th would be one of the highest traffic days for new readers buying eBooks.  We crunched the numbers and are happy to report that indeed, the day after Christmas – when millions of folks were playing with their shiny new e-readers and tablets – eBook downloads doubled, then spiked again Dec. 29th. Take a look:

With that, we’re pleased to announce the winner of Download Day and $100 off their new Lulu purchase :

 

Buddy World Books
by Paul Woodward
Paul used the free sample method for generating buzz for his works and climb to the top of the bestseller list.  You can learn how to use this method for your own works by checking out our recent post on Making More Off Your eBooks by Selling Them for Free.

 

Runner-up with their Lulu Short Story Contest submission:

 

The Littlest Ninja
by Criscelle Henderson and Micah Bonnell
These two authors submitted this work back in November for the Lulu Short Story Contest.  It just goes to show you how some promotion can help spike your visibility, no matter how recently you’ve published.  Way to go you two.


Winners of the Lulu Short Story Contest Announced!


Wow.

We just can’t get over how many truly remarkable stories we received for the first ever Lulu Short Story Contest.

Our panel of 25 judges carefully read through the 2000+ submissions, picked their favorite, then read it out loud to the rest of the judges. From there, judges voted on which stories they liked the best from the readings and tallied the results until there were three clear winners with the most votes.  Your stories made us laugh, made us tear up, and some of the judges even got into literary debates over their favorites that lasted for days on end (no, really).

It was amazing to see everyone take such a passionate interest in our authors’ work. I can’t express enough how hard it was to pick just three finalists. But, we had to…SO! Without further ado (and because the suspense is killing me)…here are the winners of the Lulu Short Story Contest:

1ST PLACE WINNER:

The Red Boots by Poornima Ram Kiram

$1,000 Cash
Barnes and Noble NOOK
A review in Shelf-Unbound Magazine
Free Lulu Publicity


2ND PLACE WINNER:

Grass by Charles D. Shell
$250 and a Barnes and Noble NOOK™:


3RD PLACE WINNER:

Revenge by Gail Kavanagh
$100 Gift Card to Barnes and Noble


Honorable Mention:

Persona Quietus by Jesse Lee
Lovely Stranger by Jennifer Porter-Kennard

If you didn’t win, don’t let it get you down.  So many of the stories were so excellent and hey, now you have an eBook version of your story and your name out in the world for millions of readers to see. All just because you believed in yourself. Neat huh?!?

You can take that shiny new eBook of yours and promote it this holiday too for what we’re calling Download Day.  We did some research and figured out that December 26th is the highest traffic shopping day for eBook sales – much like “Black Friday” in November. So, we’re throwing a good old-fashioned author sales contest for Download Day and the author who sells the most copies of their eBook on December 26th, 2011 – even if you sell your eBook for free – will win a Barnes and Noble NOOK and $100 off coupon good for anything on Lulu.

Learn more about Download Day, the highest traffic buying day for digital content on the Lulu blog here. And thank you again so very much for helping make the Lulu Short Story Contest such a success.  Due to popular demand, we’ll soon be posting a full list of all 2,000+ submissions to the contest for everyone to read and we plan to publish an anthology featuring all the semi-finalists and three winners for all to enjoy.  More details on that to come soon.

All the best this holiday from Lulu.

Download Day is Coming. Create an eBook, Win a Barnes and Noble NOOK

eBooks are the hot topic these days and with good reason.  Industry analysts are estimating 24.5 million lucky folks will be unwrapping shiny new e-readers this holiday season, which is expected to double overall eBook sales over last year’s whopping $263 million.

eBooks provide both a speed to market and potential for a higher revenue share that are just too beneficial to ignore. With Lulu’s direct-live status an author can create an eBook and have it available for sale almost immediately and keep up to 90% of the profit.  Each day, we see more and more traditionally published authors like Stephen Stark and Kevin Powell self-publish eBooks of their own.

“Suddenly all these people are publishing their content on their own because they don’t feel they’ll get the same money or value elsewhere and they are right,” says Stark.  “We’ve reached a point where authors can make a much higher royalty by self-publishing and are free to experiment in ways big publishers can’t.”

It’s true; eBooks provide opportunities to reach huge numbers of new readers, and we want to make sure all of our authors are set to take full advantage of those opportunities.  So this year, we’re proclaiming December 26th the first annual Download Day.

Much like Black Friday in November, the day after Christmas is the highest traffic shopping day for people buying eBooks.  Think about it, you just got this cool new gadget; you’re gonna want to play with it and start filling it up with apps, games, and…(say it with me) eBooks!  Will your work be one of them?  It should be.

To sweeten the deal, we’ll give the Lulu author who sells the most eBooks on December 26th, 2011 (even if you’re selling for free) a brand new Barnes and Noble NOOK, and a $100 off coupon – good for anything on Lulu.  Hit up your friends, your family, heck, even your mailman, and send them a link to your eBook.  The bonus here is with more sales, you’ll gain more visibility for you and your work by moving up in bestseller lists in places like the iBookstore℠ and NOOK Bookstore™ so even more readers will discover your titles.

Want to create an eBook but don’t know where to start?  Fret not, would-be digital author, with our Word to EPUB Converter, you can upload .doc, .docx, .txt, and .rtf files and have them made into an EPUB within about two – five minutes.  You can also visit our eBook landing page for more information – your source for all things in eBook publishing.

Once you’ve published, be sure to read our helpful eBook marketing blogs for tips on how to create an eBook and make sure all these new eBook reading customers will see yours.  You might learn something you didn’t think of – like how selling your eBook for free can actually make you more money.  Pretty soon, you’ll have readers all over the world flipping the digital pages of your remarkable work.

Happy Download Day!

 

The iBookstore is a service mark of Apple Inc.

The winner of Download Day will be notified in mid-January 2012.  Contest is open to all Lulu authors that have titles available in EPUB format.  Total sales will be calculated from lulu.com and our distribution partners.

Be Bigger Than Your Book: Author Spotlight with Jeff Taylor

Author Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor is a marketing genius with a heart of gold.

Having worked as a channel marketer for several top-tier companies such as Nortel and iContact over the years – Taylor started noticing a lot of common trends across all industries.

“Customers today want more than a product,” says Taylor.  “They need an experience or a  personal tie to a product and companies need to bigger than what they’re selling to build meaningful, lasting customer relationships.”

Taylor highlights exactly what he means in his new book Bigger than the Widget, available on Lulu.com.  And he has even taken his own advice in marketing his work by attaching it to a recognized brand and a good cause:  The V Foundation for Cancer Research.  All proceeds from Taylor’s book will be donated to the organization.

“If you want to have any success, if you truly want your product or service to be bigger and do bigger things, you have to be aware of the present trends and work to create an emotional connection with your customers,” says Taylor. “My family has been touched by cancer and the V Foundation was the most logical choice to associate with my book.”

Available Now on Lulu.com

When coming up with the idea of his book, Taylor was surprised by how many people tried to tell him it wouldn’t work.  But Jeff knew what his true motivation was:  this book was for his grandfather and he couldn’t be stopped.  He even considered going the traditional route first but couldn’t ignore the speed and customization self-publishing offers authors.

“The world of publishing is changing very quickly,” says Taylor.  “Companies like Lulu are so clearly the gatekeepers of the this new era of publishing.  I was honestly shocked at how easy it was to get to the right people and get my work done – even when it came to approaching organizations for sponsorships.  People are willing to help, you just have to know how to position yourself and be committed to your ideas. Then, you can accomplish anything.”

For more great marketing tips from a true professional, be sure to pick up a copy Bigger than the Widget by Jeff Taylor on Lulu.com and help support important cancer research today.


How to Make an eBook Anyone Can Read with ePub

Blog Update: Before you read, check out our handy new eBook landing page for the latest tips to help you publish your eBook today.



In a recent post I talked about how all of you would-be eBook authors should know your file formats, or at least be somewhat familiar with the most commonly used ones.  As an author, you want to make your work as accessible as possible, which means making your content able to be read on as many devices as you can.  Since it is Read an eBook Week, and Lulu is giving away three Apple iPads, I thought it might be useful to provide a how-to tutorial for the most universal eBook format: ePub.

Many new authors might make the mistake of thinking that if they have a portable document format (PDF) of their book it means that it can be read on an e-reader or other mobile device.  While in many cases the PDF can be opened, the text is far too small because it is a static or unchangeable image.  ePub makes it so your text is resized to fit the screen of any given device.  Since the text in ePub format can be changed in terms of size, font and color, reading an ePub book becomes a much more personal experience for the reader.  Sounds great right?  But how do you make an ePub book?

You really have three options:  let Lulu do the work for you with our conversion services, use a conversion program like (Adobe InDesign, eCub, Calibre, Google ePub Toolkit, etc.), or you can do-it-yourself.  If you decide to do-it-yourself, I’ve added some great directions I found over at jedisaber.com.


What You’ll Need:

* A text editor (like Text Edit or Notepad) that can edit text files, HTML, and XML.
* A program that can create .zip files (which should be built into OS X or Windows).

Self-Publishing: A New “Direct Democracy” with Stephen Stark

Stephen Stark is a master composer.

Instead of musical notes or instruments, Stark uses words and their natural rhythm to write award winning works that read as smoothly as listening to a classical concerto.

Author Stephen Stark

You may recognize Stark’s name from his previous, traditionally published works The Outskirts and Second Son – a New York Times Book Review “Notable Book of the Year.” With such success already, it’s natural to think Stark would stick to what has worked, but part of being a great and lasting author – especially in today’s rapidly changing industry – is paying attention to new trends, exploring all your options, and being a little adventurous.  That’s why Stark is publishing his new work The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door exclusively as an eBook, to be released by Shelf Media Group through Lulu.com December 6th.

“eBooks are not the future of publishing,” says Stark.  “They are the present and they are an unsettling present for many.  I want to do an eBook because being able to go from a PDF to having a fully published eBook in minutes is just incredible.”

Stark and Shelf Media are experimenting with a new paradigm in indie publishing. The tools that Lulu offers to the self-published are, Stark says, “creating new opportunities for small presses like Shelf,” which also publishes the indie-book ezine, Shelf Unbound. According to Stark, the convenience and speed-to-market enabled by the tools Lulu provides for self-publishing make it possible for a small, savvy publisher like Shelf to “plant its flag in an industry niche that the small publisher has the flexibility and agility to exploit in a way that ‘legacy’ publishers can’t.”

Stark calls this new paradigm “direct publishing.” ”Indeed,” Stark says, “in theory, anyone could become a publisher – not that they should.” Including Stark, who is using Lulu’s tools and resources to back his own imprint, GeekVoodoo Books, and republish Second Son electronically.

“Things are happening right now [in publishing] that are pointing in a clear direction that is very different,” says Stark.  “The idea that there is a company like Lulu that tears down the barriers to entry – no matter what you’re trying to publish – fundamentally changes the industry dynamic.”

Suffice it to say, Stark has been watching the industry very closely and is confident in the new direction he is taking with his works.  He notes that the potential inherent in eBooks hasn’t been particularly well understood or appreciated by bigger publishers – a phenomenon that he and Shelf are looking forward to capitalizing on by filling the gap with the eBook version of Final Appearance.

Available Dec. 6th

“Suddenly all these people are publishing their content on their own because they don’t feel they’ll get the same money or value elsewhere and they are right,” says Stark. “We’ve reached a point where authors can make a much higher royalty by self-publishing and are free to experiment in ways a big publisher can’t.  Lulu enables this and self-publishing or direct-publishing is in some ways analogous to direct democracy in that it bypasses an entrenched bureaucracy that is easily as beholden to its ‘shareholders’ as it is to its constituents – readers.”

Stark wanted to be a photographer growing up, but began writing when he realized he was better “creating pictures” with words than a camera.  As a teenager, he spent a lot of time trying to imitate his favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and J.D. Salinger.  He admits that his imitations were “pretty awful.” And he never came close to his dream of publishing a novel before he turned 20. He sold his first novel at 29, and notes that he didn’t really learn how to write until he learned to seek out and absorb constructive criticism.

“I went through seven or eight years of rejection letters,” says Stark. “But I found the comments from editors helpful.  You learn not to trust the opinions that just tell you what you want to hear. A statement like:  ‘Oh, I love your book,’ isn’t useful. You have to be open to good criticism to become a better writer.”

If you’ve ever read one of Stark’s books, you’ll instantly be drawn to how organic and real his characters feel.  Stark likens his method for character development to having a bunch of imaginary friends or people he has just met.  Even more important is knowing what the ending will be for both his characters and the overall narrative ahead of time.

“I’m always getting ideas or running through ‘what if‘ scenarios,” Stark says.  “You have to play your story through in your mind and really think about the most natural outcome.  I often know the destination of my story or where a character will need to go organically, but I don’t always understand why or what the in-between looks like.  Sometimes the characters will take on a life of their own and make for an even better story.”

Stark’s new book, The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door, will be available as an eBook on Lulu.com, the iBookstore, Nook BookstoreAmazon Kindle December 6th.  Stark’s latest is a smart, sexy, and thrilling tale of America’s “it girl” Ellen Gregory and her escape from the bright lights of Hollywood and a harrowing encounter with a stalker. Final Appearance is a fast-moving page-turner that you shouldn’t miss.

Stark is already working on his next work, The Bob Delusion, and has ambitions for the future that, while lofty, are certainly grounded on solid industry trends.

“I want Final Appearance to be the first book that’s only available electronically to be reviewed in the New York Times,” Stark says.

Based on his works so far, he shouldn’t have too much trouble. Check out The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door tomorrow, December 6th, on your favorite e-reader of choice.

 

Lulu Short Story Contest Homestretch

What a month it has been.

As NaNoWriMo and the Lulu Short Story Contest come to a close – we’ve been thrilled by the hundreds and hundreds of responses we’ve gotten from authors of all ages and genres who couldn’t resist the chance to share their creativity and who found out just how easy it can be to publish an eBook.

We’re not done yet though.  The official cutoff date for the contest is Dec. 1st, so there is still time to submit a story of your own and enter to win $1000, a NOOK™, free publicity, and a professional review of your story in Shelf Unbound Magazine.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions too.  Mainly from authors who just want to be sure they have entered their story correctly.  Remember, once you’ve published your short story as an eBook with our EPUB Converter, to copy and paste your story’s web address on our Survey Monkey form.  Once you click submit on Survey Monkey, you’ll be taken to a “thank you” page with a 20% off coupon on it – good for your next purchase on Lulu.  We may need to tweak your submission too in order to get it to pass the validation requirements set by retailers like the iBookstoreSM. You still keep the copyright though and we will only change the formatting – not the content itself.

Once Dec. 1st hits, we’ll gather all contest submissions and our panel of judges will fire up the coffee pots, pull out the reading glasses, and get to work reading all your remarkable entries.  We’ll announce the first, second, and third place winners mid-December.

So keep that creativity coming – you still have till Thursday.  You can do 600 words in no time!