Articles by Colin@Lulu

How Authors Can Build Their Marketing Presence Online

Want to be a successful author in the 21st century? You have to be online. It goes beyond a suggestion into the territory of necessity.

But how do you strengthen your online presence so you can be sure the greatest number of people see you and know to buy your work? Being visible, engaging with your readers, and having the right attitude online all go a long way in making sure you’re getting the most out of your digital efforts.

Be visible

In order to have a strong online presence, you need to make yourself available online. Seems obvious, right? Basically, you don’t want to make it hard for people to find you. We’ve talked before about the importance of having your own website, and that’s a great place to start. Free or cheap hosting services, premade templates, and easy-to-use software have made making your own website a snap. If you have a central hub, readers will know where to go for the latest news, writing, and where to buy your work.

It’s also important to look outside your own website. Take advantage of social media; it’s a great place to build a community because of the built-in audiences of these sites. No need to start from scratch when you can find readers already sharing their comments on Facebook and Twitter!

Finally, don’t be afraid of interacting with other authors, publishers, and thought-leaders on their own sites. After all, your goal is to be visible. See if there are any blogs looking for guest contributors. Sharing your own tips, insights, and experiences is a great way to engage potential customers, and if you’re writing for another site you can tap into the audience they’ve already built.

The key is being in as many places as possible. Different platforms have different audiences, so just because you have your own site doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on Twitter, and just because you’re on Twitter doesn’t mean you’re reaching the same audience you would if you were also on Facebook. Experiment and find out what works for you, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

Speak with readers

What’s the best way to grow an audience? Build relationships with your readers (and potential readers). Readers don’t want to feel like they’re just customers – someone you’re only trying to get a buck from. Make them feel like they’re partners in your writing and they’ll be a lot more likely to support you. Speak with them, not just to them.

Social media makes it incredibly easy to keep in touch with readers. Have conversations with them, but don’t always keep it just about your next book. Share your thoughts and interesting articles with them; respond to their posts, even if they aren’t directed at you, to show that you’re just as invested in them as they are in you.

In short, make yourself look human. One of the benefits of independent publishing is that you aren’t beholden to a giant publishing conglomerate that’s just looking for the next best seller. You have the chance to try new things and work on a smaller scale. Being a friendly face, and not just another cog in a marketing machine, is endearing to readers and likely to help you stand out from the crowd.

Choose Your Words Carefully!

You’ve heard the old saying: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s a good rule of thumb in general, but it’s never been more important than in the digital age. Why? Because as a newer old saying goes, the Internet never forgets. Comments on social media can be shared in an instant, screenshots and backups can be taken be complete strangers, and before you know it that one little snarky comment you said before you had your morning coffee is living in infamy.

So how do you say nice things, even when other people aren’t willing to? Sometimes it just means taking the high road. Ignoring negative comments is a good start; if you don’t engage the haters, they can’t gain any traction.

Of course, it’s not always a case of people being mean. A bad review of your book can sting. You might be tempted to shoot off a tweet about how the reviewer is a hack and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But what if you decided to look at it constructively instead? Take what the review says to heart, look at it as objectively as possible, and see what merit the comments have.

If you have to engage the reviewer, thank them for taking the time to read your book and give their thoughts. It probably won’t change the review, but the reviewer – and every potential reader out there – will see that you’re willing to take criticism gracefully and are trying to improve your craft. They might be more willing to check out your next book to see how you’ve grown.

Independent publishing means putting in a lot of legwork to get some great rewards, and marketing is no different. Making sure you have a strong online presence is a great way to market yourself and your work for relatively little money. Growing your audience organically by putting a real human behind that author name

6 More Grammar Mistakes Writers Need to Avoid

There have been a lot of great showdowns throughout history: David vs Goliath, Yankees vs Red Sox, and…To vs Too?

We’re back with more simple grammar mistakes you should never make in your writing, featuring a whole host of matchups between similar-but-not-quite-the-same words. Take a look at the list – and our previous set of tips – and then give your book an edit to make sure you haven’t made any of these slip-ups!

Don't be like Fry. Know the difference between affect and effect.Affect vs Effect

Are you one of those people who writes “impact” because you aren’t quite sure whether you should be using “affect” or “effect”? Here’s a quick tip that will get you through most scenarios: affect is a verb – so one thing affects another – and effect is a noun. Just don’t get tripped up on “effecting change,” where you’ll use an “e” when you mean “to bring about” something.  Isn’t the English language fun (and sometimes aggravating)?

Insure vs Ensure

This one’s pretty simple. If you’re talking about insurance – as in limiting financial liability – use insure. Both start with an “i.” Ensure, when you’re guaranteeing something, is always with an “e.”

Then vs ThanCan proper grammar make you not sound like a crazy person?

Use then when something follows another thing: “I’ll learn these great grammar tips, and then I’ll proofread my books.” Than is used in comparisons: “Since I fixed all of my grammar mistakes, my book is selling better than it was before!”

I.e. vs E.g.

You might think these are interchangeable when you’re using an example, but there’s a very subtle difference between the two. I.e. mean “that is” or “in other words,” from the Latin “id est,” and you use it when you’re clarifying something. E.g., from the Latin “exempli gratia,” means “for example” and is used for just that – providing an example!

Everything you know is a lie - the fast checkout line at your store uses incorrect grammar.Fewer vs Less

As a rule of thumb, you use fewer when you can count the subject in question individually and less when you can’t. So I can have fewer cups of water than you, but your cups might have less water in them than mine do. And yes, that means your grocery store sign is probably incorrect.

To vs Too (vs Two)

Last but not least, one that you probably know but can slip your mind when you’re writing. Most of the time you’ll use to when you’re talking about a verb or going toward a place, e.g. “I’m going to write” or “I went to the mall,” but when you mean to say “as well” or “also,” or something in excess, use too – “Sally went going to the mall, too, and she ate too much.” And just in case, two is always the number 2. Seems obvious, but you can never be too careful!

That’s it – for now! The English language is a wonderful, complex thing and even the best writers get tripped up from time to time. If you’ve got a favorite tip or a “this word or that one?” that seems to always get the best of you, share them in the comments!

The Best Writing and Storytelling Podcasts for Authors

Boost your writing skills with podcasts recommended by Lulu for writing and storytelling.

We’re all book people here at Lulu. We believe in the power of telling stories and our mission is to give everyone the platform to do so. But technology has been as important to other forms of storytelling as it has been to book publishing. Case in point: podcasts.

There are dozens (or hundreds) of podcasts for every subjecg out there, and it’s no different for publishing, storytelling, and writing. If you’re an author with some downtime, you owe it to yourself to download some podcasts and plug in some headphones to make sure you stay at the top of your game.

Here are a few of the best podcasts to help you hone your writing skills and get your storytelling juices flowing.

Authorpreneur Lulu Author PodcastsAuthorpreneur Want to learn about the business of writing books? Whether they’re fiction writers or entrepreneurs, Jim Kukral gets tips and tricks from authors on how to make a living being an author in Authorpreneur. For anyone serious about making a living being a writer of any sort – or just for listeners who want to learn how people dedicated to their craft have carved out their niche – Authorpreneur is a valuable resource.

Recommended episode: How Andy Weir Took ‘The Martian” From Blog to BestSeller to Blockbuster Movie (Starring Matt Damon)

The Moth The Moth isn’t necessarily about writing, but it is about something that’s important to all writers: telling stories. Whether you’re writing business books or paranormal romance, it’s important to engage your audience. The Moth showcases some of the best live stories about nearly every topic imaginable, and is a great tool for learning how to tell a compelling story.

Recommended episode: Neil Gaiman – Liverpool Street

Dead Robots Society Podcast Lulu Author TipsThe Dead Robots’ Society As the title implies, The Dead Robots’ Society is a little more irreverent than other writing podcasts, and it could be right up your alley if you want something more lighthearted. Still, the hosts take writing very seriously and have no problem sharing their (sometimes painful) writing experiences. The most recent episode as of this post is “The Horrors of Back Cover Copy” and is a hilarious take on trying to sum up your story in a few hundred words.

Recommended episode: Episode 349 – Kickstarters and Patrons

Helping Writers Become Authors Interested in avoiding common writing mistakes? Having trouble writing compelling character arcs? Not sure how to pitch your novel? Helping Writers Become Authors covers every aspect of the book-writing process that you could ever hope to come across. If you want a comprehensive collection of tips – especially for fiction writers – download Helping Writers Become Authors today.

Recommended episode: Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 32: Boring Opening Lines

Selected Shorts Brought to you by Symphony Space and WNYC, Selected Shorts is a collection of “fiction, sometimes classic, sometimes new, always performed by great actors from stage, screen and television who bring these short stories to life.” It’s a more traditional take on storytelling, as much a stage show as a podcast.

Recommended episode: Cannolis and Carroll

Lulu Podcast Snap JudgementSnap Judgement Sometimes the best way to tell a story is to combine it with other art forms. Snap Judgement features stories told to music and you’re just as likely to be inspired by the story being told as you are by the soundtrack it’s set to. Listening to stories is a very different experience than reading them, and hearing accompanying music brings that auditory engagement to a whole new level. It’ll make you think about how your audience interacts with your own stories.

Recommended episode: Snape #603 – Omen

The Writer Files Every episode of The Writer Files podcast is titled “How [Insert Author Here] Writes.” Could it be simpler than that? From bestselling authors to people who write for business – such as bloggers and copywriters – The Writer Files picks their brains to find out just how they get their work done. Learn about overcoming challenges, nurturing writing best practices, and more from a wide variety of authors.

Recommended episode: Standing Desks, Binge Reading, and James Patterson’s MasterClass

Is your favorite podcast listed here? Have some others that you’d love to share? Or maybe you have a podcast of your own! Let us know in the comments.

 

4 Tricks to Becoming a Prolific Writer

Lulu Author David BrownI have described myself as prolific, and after looking at my early track record no one could disagree. I waited many years before taking up the pen to write. But once I started I took off by most standards, writing four novels in two years.

Without hesitation it is impossible to be a prolific writer if you are always getting stumped by writer’s block. In fact it is tough being a writer at all if you keep getting stumped by anything, especially if you are just beginning.

No one but a writer is permitted the luxury of throwing up their hands and saying they can’t work for days, if not months! No doctor, lawyer, accountant or anyone else considers any type of block legitimate but writers. Imagine going to a doctor for a mysterious ailment and being told, “Come back in a couple of months. I have diagnosis block.” For myself, not having been trained as a writer, I had to choose whether or not to accept the odd notion of writer’s block. So when I started writing, I made a personal decision to reject the notion of writer’s block. Deciding to not accept writer’s block was easier than one might imagine.

Here are some of my tricks.

You Need Plots

It helped that I collected story plots for years before I began to write, but not having saved plots is no excuse. Once I committed to write I set my mind to develop original thoughts. Good and bad ideas all went down on a list. Being intentional with these ideas starts the wheels turning.

Research Fuels the Idea Engine

The best time for research is before you write. My research goes into an auxiliary Word file that I create for each project. The things that I learn not only fuel the evolution of the story but helps establish the breath of the story itself. Research has to be part of the joy of writing. It is an opportunity to expand one’s tent, so to speak.

Make Use of Pericopes

The word pericope comes to us from Greek through Late Latin and means “piece cut out.” Stated more succinctly, pericope is defined as extracts from a text that form a complete account or story. Pericopes come in different lengths and level of detail.

I apply the concept of pericopes to build out sections of a story, so at any time I am building story blocks that fit nicely within one unified plot. Once included, these sections require the same finishing touches that the overall novel needs. Pericope blocks work nicely to include visualization of settings.

Pericopes also work well to add layers to characters that explain actions and motivations. To me a flashback is just another pericope. By writing pericopes, simple stories can become delightfully complicated without becoming unorganized.

Guiding Question to Keep a Story Moving

Let me leave you with a small sampling of the guiding questions that I use to begin my writing day.

  1. Where is the story going and where do I want it to go?
  2. Where would most people expect this story to go?
  3. What is a good place for a pivot in the plot and should the transition be gradual or dramatic?
  4. Are the likeable characters sympathetic and are the unlikeable characters truly detestable?
  5. Is it time for a character to undergo redemption?
  6. Does the story make sense?

And always remember, half of the enjoyment of a good story is to take the reader someplace that they did not expect.

Author Bio

David Brown

David Brown is the quintessential Renaissance man. He holds degrees in Quantitative Economics, Business and even Theology. To go with that David has held CPA licenses in multiple states. He was also ordained by a major church organization and pastored for several years. This makes him a writer with great insight into human reasoning, passions and motivation. See his books at: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/dkbrown22526

Why Authors Need Their Own Website

If you're an author, a website is crucial for marketing your writing career.

You’ve written your book. You’ve published it. Congratulations! So…what’s next?

If you’re like many authors, you want to start selling it. But it’s not enough to just make it available for sale and cross your fingers. After all, you have a lot of competition out there. And while you have a lot of control when you independently publish, that comes with a lot of responsibilities, too. You have to do a lot of the heavy lifting for marketing on your own. It may seem daunting, and you might not even know where to begin.

Why not start with a website?

While selling your book in bookstores is great, let’s face it: you need to be found online. Your job in marketing yourself is to remove as many barriers as possible for potential readers. You want it to be easy to find you, easy to learn about you, and easy to buy your book.

Part of this is building your personal brand. That’s right, brands aren’t just for multinational corporations to slap on packaging and billboards. Building your personal brand lets readers know you outside of your book and helps you connect with them and build relationships. This will make them more likely to want to buy what you’re selling.

Websites and social media have made this easier than ever, because it allows you to directly share your thoughts with people. If you have a marketing strategy that doesn’t involve a website, you’re missing out on a lot. Plus, having a site just might make you a better writer.

Here are four ways having your own website will boost your writing career.

Engage Readers

How do you stand out in a world full of millions of people selling their books? By making it personal. Build relationships with readers by sharing your thoughts, responding to comments and questions, and entertaining them – in other words, by being a real person and not just a name on a book cover.

Building close connections to a group of fans can add up quickly; in fact, it’s the whole idea behind Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans premise. If you can give people a place to find you and you have a conversation with them, showing that you care about them and not just about their money, you’ll be well on your way to building your fanbase.

Sell Your Book

Hopefully your book is available in every place that will carry it, from Lulu to Amazon to brick-and-mortar stores. But there are a lot of benefits to selling your book on your own. Setting up a storefront on your website – allowing readers to find out about you and buy right away, without needing to go to another site – removes a barrier for purchase and makes them that much more likely to click that “Buy” button.

Network

Readers aren’t the only ones you’ll be able to reach with your website. Fellow authors, publishers, and booksellers are also online, and your website will allow you to network with them. Guest blog posts, for example, let you share tips and tricks and, even better, let you tap into someone else’s audience to build your own. Writing collaborations, workshops, author events – the bigger you grow your network, the more inroads you’ll have to great marketing and writing opportunities.

Practice Writing

Sure you’ve published a book, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement! Even the best authors are always striving to get better. If you’re updating your website regularly, you’ll get a ton of practice writing, whether it’s responding to visitors, posting writing exercises, or learning how to write concisely with your author bio. When you’re an author there’s no such thing as writing too much, and when you’re writing for your site – contributing to your marketing efforts – you’re killing two birds with one stone.

Getting Started

Making your own site has never been easier. Using a blogging platform like WordPress is a great place to start; you can create static pages that will remain relatively unchanged – for example, your bio or contact information pages – and have a built-in blog for regular updates. Or you can choose a platform like Squarespace and use their templates to make creating your own page a snap.

Some platforms are free, only charging you for extras, while some will run you a small subscription fee. And even purchasing your own domain name only comes out to a few bucks a month. No matter what route you go, look at the time and money you’re putting into it as an investment: a little work now will pay dividends as you continue to grow.

Do you have your own website? Tell us about it in the comments! Share your insights with your fellow authors about what works for you (and what doesn’t).

5 Famous Authors Who Were Rejected by Publishers

Have you gotten a rejection letter from a publisher? You aren't alone.

Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil—but there is no way around them.

– Isaac Asimov

We’ve all gotten rejected once or twice in our lives. This is especially true when it comes to authors: it’s all about putting yourself out there, and you’re bound to come across someone who isn’t a fan.

Of course, one of the benefits of publishing independently is that you don’t have to worry about rejection. There aren’t any gatekeepers trying to stop your work from seeing the light of day. You can publish what you like and let your work be judged by the people who really matter: readers.

Still, sometimes it’s nice to know you aren’t alone. Some of the most famous authors in the world have had their books rejected at one point or another. Here are a few to reassure you that even the greats hit speedbumps every now and then.

Sylvia Plath sent The Bell Jar in under a pseudonym, where it was immediately rejected. The editor then discovered the author’s true identity, and the manuscript was…rejected again.

“I have now re-read—or rather read more thoroughly—“The Bell Jar” with the knowledge that it is by Sylva Plath which has added considerably to its interest for it is obviously flagrantly autobiographical. But it still is not much of a novel.”

Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness received this rejection letter:

A future multiple award winner.

It went on to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel. Go figure.

Carrie by Stephen King was rejected 30 times. He even threw the manuscript away before his wife retrieved it from the trash.

Even Tarzan's author got rejected!

Tarzan of the Apes was initially rejected, but Edgar Rice Burroughs’ persistence eventually bore fruit when the novel became a classic.

Sometimes they get a little personal, as with the rejection for Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises:

“If I may be frank, Mr. Hemingway — you certainly are in your prose — I found your efforts to be both tedious and offensive.”

And finally, one bonus rejection: Dr. Seuss’ first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected 27 times. Where would we all be without a little Seuss in our life?

So there you have it: it happens to the best of us, but you can’t let it get you down! Is one of your favorite authors on this list? Have a rejection story of your own that you’ve learned from? Let us know in the comments!

Easy Ways to Sell Books at Events

Easy ways for you to sell your self-published book at events.Most independent authors are used to selling their books online. Sites like Lulu.com, Amazon, and other retailers are typically the place where you’ll get most of your sales. If you put in a little hustle, you can also get your books on the shelves of brick-and-mortar stores.

But what if you want to sell your books yourself? It takes some work, but that’s something you’re used to if you’re publishing on your own, right? Especially if you’re writing and publishing as a business rather than a hobby, selling your own books can open up a lot of networking and sales avenues; just listing on Amazon and leaving it be simply don’t offer the same opportunities.

If you find yourself at a lot of conferences, seminars, book signings, or other events, you might be leaving a lot of books on the table – literally – by not being proactive with your selling strategy. Here are a few ways you can be hands-on with your sales.

Sell Online
“But I already sell online! Isn’t that what Lulu and Amazon are for?”

You’re right, but the ease of selling through an online retailer comes with the inherent drawbacks of being locked into their platforms and rules. Maybe you want to sell your book somewhere you can have complete control – running your own discounts, bundling books, adding non-book products, and more.

Luckily, selling online has never been easier to do. Squarespace, Shopify, Big Cartel, and Gumroad are just a few of the platforms that let you set up your very own ecommerce site in minutes. Add images, product descriptions, and prices, and you’ve got yourself a full-fledged storefront that anyone in the world can find at their fingertips.

The best part is, it still works great for people at events. Maybe they don’t want to carry around a book for the rest of a conference or have to find a way to pack it into their bag for their flight home. Or maybe they want to take advantage of those special deals that you’re able to do when you’re selling on your own, like a bundle that includes one of your previous book.

Plus, there’s a lot to be said about having a professional-looking site with its own store. People know to take you and your business seriously because they can see that you’re taking yourself seriously.

Sell In-person
Conferences and other events are great places to sell your books. After all, you’ve already engaged your audience with a talk that showcased your expertise, and there’s nothing better than a book to let them go more in-depth and keep you at the top of their minds.

But even if you have a stack of books and a line of willing buyers, how do you move those books? Do you cross your fingers that everyone will have cash on them? Do you direct them to the Internet and hope they don’t forget before they have a chance to check out your site?

The answer is easy, because today’s tech allows anyone with a credit card to become your customer. Products like Square, Shopify, and PayPal Here let you plug a credit card reader right into your phone or tablet and accept plastic like a pro. You can also use Stripe or PayPal for electronic payments.

Selling in-person has a ton of benefits. You’re meeting your audience face-to-face, which goes a long way in building relationships and networks. You’re also giving them instant access to your book; instead of waiting around for it to be shipped, they can start flipping through it right away and strike up conversations with other readers.

And hey, maybe you’ll even get asked to sign a few copies. There’s no easier way to get started down the path of a celebrity!

What To Watch Out For
Selling books through a third party is easy. Take Lulu, for instance: you set up your book and we take care of the listing, the checkout process, the payment transaction, and making sure your book gets to your customer. If you’re selling on your own, these are all things you’ll need to take into account yourself.

Which platform are you going to use? Are there fees involved with accepting payments? How are you going to ship your packages out? How many copies of your book are you going to keep in stock? Will you accept returns?

That’s the tradeoff between selling on your own and letting someone else do it for you. When you have control of everything, you have to control everything. That isn’t to say one is better than the other; you just need to know what you’re getting yourself into and how much time you’re willing and able to put into your business. Just remember to keep your options open, and strike when the opportunity presents itself!

Have you had success striking out on your own and selling your books? Let us know your best tips and tools in the comments!