Articles by Colin Lalley

Getting self-published books on store shelves

Compliments of Blogto.com

In an increasingly digital world, it’s still the dream of many authors see their books in print and on the shelves of their favorite bookstores.  Many stores order books from wholesale distributors such as Ingram Book Company, where Lulu authors can get their books listed through our GlobalReach distribution service.  That means that in addition to having your book on popular online retailers like Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, you’re also giving brick-and-mortar stores the chance to carry your book!

But there’s another way to go about it, and that’s by selling directly to bookstores yourself on a consignment basis.  Basically you, the author, purchase copies of your book and work out a deal with a bookstore to get those copies on their shelves.  The catch is that bookstores don’t pay for the books right away: money is only transferred when a book sells, with you being paid an agreed-upon, per-book price.  In short, you’ll need to foot the bill initially and will be responsible for any unsold copies.  Unlike your average print-on-demand sale, where there are no upfront costs to you and books are printed as they’re ordered, you’ll need to spend a little money to make a profit down the road.

Getting Started
The easiest way is to simply talk to someone at your local bookstore.  Each store will have their own practices on ordering books, so you’ll have to ask some important questions before signing any deals.  How many copies will they shelve at a time?  How long is the consignment agreement for?  Are there any fees?  How and when will you be notified of (and paid for!) copies that have sold?  What’s the revenue split between you and the store?  Check out the websites of any places you have in mind; stores often have their consignment policies posted online and you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with them before speaking to someone.

There are a few hurdles you’ll have to get past when selling on consignment – paying to print the books, dealing with the business side of bookstores, and so on – but the benefits make the effort worthwhile.  This method is great for bookstores – it’s less risk on their end since they’re not paying for a book until it’s already sold – and that means more stores will be willing to take a chance on you.  You also stand to make more money per sale since you’ll have more control over the final price of your book.  Overall, the relationships built with retailers and the lessons learned about what it really takes to sell your work can prove to be invaluable over the course of your self-publishing career.

A few final tips:

  • Go Local: You might have better success targeting local independent bookstores rather than big chains.  Small bookstores are generally happy to showcase local talent and might be more willing to work with you not only to display your books but also set up book signings and other promotional events to help sell books.  IndieBound’s store finder makes it easy to locate bookstores near you.  If you do go to a chain location, see if they have a section spotlighting local or self-published authors.
  • Look the Part: Getting your book into bookstores starts well before it hits the shelves.  Unlike online retailers, brick-and-mortar stores only have so much space so they’ll want books that look like they belong there.  Make sure you have an eye-catching cover and that your interior is edited and formatted.  If you don’t want to do this on your own, Lulu has you covered with our professional publishing services.
  • Buy Big: You already know that with Lulu’s print-on-demand model you can print as many or as few books as you like, but just because you can print only one book doesn’t mean you should!  If you have more copies you can make deals with more stores right away.  You also don’t want to find out that a store has sold out and wants more copies of your book and you don’t have any to give them!  With Lulu’s bulk purchase discounts the more you buy, the more you save.  You’ll never find yourself short of books, and you’ll end up saving money in the long run.

Life After NaNoWriMo

We’re well into December, and it’s almost the end of the year, but let’s take a minute to talk about last month. How did you spend your November? Maybe getting ready for the change in seasons or braving crowds to get a head start on holiday shopping? If you participated in NaNoWriMo you can add “writing an entire novel” to that list. Fifty thousand words in thirty days is no small feat so first things first: congratulations! Now that you’ve got everything all typed up and had some time to go over it, the most important question is…what’s next? You wrote your book in record time, so why not publish it just as quickly? Lulu has the professional publishing services to put a little shine on things and get your work ready for the world.

Cover Design


They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but let’s be honest, a nice cover goes a long way and can hook a customer before the first page is even turned.

EPUBs Made Even Easier with Lulu Ebook Enhancements

Getting your eBook ready for the world to see can be a learning experience – for authors and for Lulu. We always want to give you the best, easiest tools possible to get your eBook out there, and part of reaching that goal is making changes to the process to make it as painless as possible. Case in point: the new multi-file upload and table of contents preview features that help you to make sure you’re well on your way to having a distribution-ready EPUB file.

Making your EPUB file was already pretty easy. You can upload Microsoft DOC and DOCX, RTF, and ODF files, and we’ll take care of converting them into an EPUB for you. For print books you could always upload multiple files and we’d stitch them together into one coherent, print-ready PDF. Now you have the same convenience for your eBook. Maybe you’ve been serializing your work or maybe you’re just taking it one chapter at a time; either way, it’s simple to move forward. Just get  your individual files ready with the first line formatted as Heading 1, upload all of the files and move them around so they’re in the order you want, and you’re done! You’ll have a finished EPUB in no time.

(For more info on our recent enhancements, click on the image above.)

Speaking of those headings, if you’ve ever created an eBook on Lulu you might have received an error message regarding your NCX – the eBook’s table of contents that lets the reader jump instantly to any chapter or section. After all, it’s one of the top ten reasons why eBooks are rejected for retail distribution. Creating a proper NCX requires a pretty straightforward but very specific use of styles and headings so that all of your chapters, sections, and subsections line up appropriately. Not sure if you’ve done yours correctly? After you upload your eBook files you’ll now find a table of contents preview that will let you see how everything will be ordered in your NCX. If you’ve used the method above to upload multiple files for your EPUB, this preview is a simple way to make sure everything was put together just the way you wanted.

You’ve already got the Lulu eBook Creator Guide with all the information you could ever want about eBooks right at your fingertips, and these new additions to the Lulu site will help you out even more along the way. Plus, we still have our great paid services available if you want everything taken care of for you with no hassle. There’s never been a better time to create your eBook, and it’s never been easier to do it with Lulu.