Articles by Glenn@Lulu

Q&A: Where and when is your favorite place to write?

Mahdiyah A Window

Mahdiyah’s Window

We asked our author community where they write and what makes that place special. As you can imagine, the responses were as diverse as Lulu authors. Some prefer working at a desk, others in bed. Some prefer music in the background, others prefer silence. Some write by hand while others prefer computers, laptops and tablets. We have selected a few of our favorite responses to share.

Where do you write?

“Sitting at my window just watching nature and reflecting on life’s synchronicities” – Mahdiyah A.

“In my spare bedroom that I redecorated and refurnished as a writing space cum office cum library. It’s more comfortable than hunched on the sofa and the view out the window is nicer this side of the building that on the other side.” Merita K.

“I do all my writing on the Path train.” – Havana G.

Rena's Armchair

Rena’s Armchair

“In my armchair at any time of the day when the words are flowing and my fingers are flying over the keys.” — Rena B.

Currently, at my desk in Afghanistan with my headphones on. My coworkers beg for pages at the end of the day. They’re hooked.” – Guenevere R.

“Outside on the town green.” – Jessika S

“Hmmm, the best place to write is at work because my desire to not be there allows me to escape into my dream job.” Sheena A

When do you write?

Anita O beach

Anita’s Inspiring Photo

“My desk in my room at night because it’s quiet. I’m least distracted and write better at night.” — Moriko F.

“In the front room at 2a.m. to 4a.m. in the morning when the world is asleep!” – Ranis T

“I usually write in the evenings. I like it when the streets are quiet, the people are gone, and everything is dark. And I write at home, in total silence.” James C.

“I do my best writing while cooking dinner and cleaning the house. I love doing both and that relaxes me and gets my mind going. It’s special because writing is my escape and clears the clutter in my head.”

“I write on the go, I write late at night, I write all the time!! I also like to take photos, which also helps me write even more!” – Anita O

Writing aids: coffee, tea, margarita?

“In a bar drinking coffee at a table by the window.” – Laura D.

“Sitting outside a little cafe in my Greek village listening to my mp3 watching the people go by whilst I sip a Fredochino.” – Karina K

Karina's Beverage of Choice

Karina’s Beverage of Choice

“Sitting in my window seat looking out at the countryside scenery with either a pen & pad or my laptop, oh and a HUGE mug of coffee.” — Rebecca H.

“At my 2 foot by 2 foot table in my bedroom! It is the perfect surface for a laptop, iPad, and glass of pop!”– Jan S.

“At home, with coffee at my side, in my PJs. When I’m comfortable, there’s no stopping me from writing. I could sit there for hours and just get it all out on paper. It’s like therapy…”– Jennie C

Most of the time, if I need to do typing, it’s at my desk. I have a huge touch screen and an antique wingback office chair that are perfection. However, if I’m actually *writing,* then I am usually in bed with my lap desk. Either way, there is ample space for a bag of cookies and cream Hershey’s Kisses or a big frozen margarita. – Jaqueline J.

 

Given all of these choices, I think I’ll bring Rena’s armchair to Greece and sip a margarita while I struggle through the next chapter of my masterpiece – or the next article for the Lulu blog.

Happy writing!

How to Write a Killer Author Bio

Insert life story hereYou are a writer. Using your keyboard you can create an entire world, the people who live in it and the circumstances for all sorts of interesting things to occur. At peak production, you are churning out 500 to 1000 words a day. So why is it so difficult to write 100 words about yourself? It is, after all, a topic in which you are intimately familiar.

It is likely that you have not even considered your author bio until you are asked for the information from your cover designer. And, as a reader I don’t recall ever not buying a book due to an uninspired “About the Author” blurb. I have, however, upon completing an enjoyable book returned to the bio to learn more about the author – especially if I am interested in reading more of their work. When considered from this perspective, the author bio is really a marketing tool that allows your newest fans to connect with you, possibly leading to increased sales.

So how do you boil your life experience down to a concise and compelling blurb?

Start Big – Go Small

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. You will need to create three author biographies:

  • Long form version for your website, interview sheets, and press releases that includes your age, location, credentials, background, inspiration, fun facts and contact information.
  • Medium length (approximately 250 words) version for queries, guest blogs, and marketing materials
  • Brief bio (approximately 50-100 words) for your book cover and social media profile

The good news is that once you have the long form version complete, it is much easier to edit it down to include the most relevant information based on the context in which the bio will be presented.

Who is your reader?

What’s relevant for inclusion in your author bio depends on your intended audience. An author bio is much like meeting someone at a party. You need to keep it brief, but memorable. Therefore only share the information your audience will find most interesting. Are you writing for an academic audience, summer beach readers, memoir enthusiasts, young adults, or children? An academic reader is probably not interested that you have four children just as a young adult reader will not fully appreciate the effort required to earn that long list of academic credentials listed behind your name.

Brag Selectively

Speaking of credentials, if your name is followed by a bowl of alphabet soup, choose the credentials most relevant to the work you are publishing. The same applies for multiple degrees, certifications, previous publications, articles, and awards. A PhD in astrophysics is impressive if you are publishing a book about the far reaches of the universe – not so much if you are writing a cookbook.

Imitation is the purest form of flattery

So, how do you know what to include in your author bio? Easy, just go online or to your local bookstore and take a look at a few books in your genre or field of study. When you find an appealing author bio, copy it substituting your information and voila! Author bio complete.

What makes you human?

While researching (see above) author bios, you will notice there is usually something included that differentiates the author from their fellows. They may be avid collectors of porcelain Chihuahuas, share their home with 15 hedgehogs, or live off the grid in the Scandinavian woods. This type of information sets you apart from other writers in your field. Other types of humanizing information include your locale or profession, but only if either plays a part in your work.

A picture is worth…..

You only get 50-100 words to share your life story on a book cover or flap. A good picture can help you tell it with fewer words. If you can afford it, have a professional head shot taken to include with your bio. If you can’t afford it, make sure the picture used is in an appropriate setting for your material, is in high resolution and prominently features your face –not your dog, not your car, not your collection of porcelain figurines. It’s called a head shot for a reason.

And finally

Use third person to refer to yourself and read your bio out loud before you publish it. You may choose to create several versions of your brief bio for use in articles, guest blogs, speaking introductions, interviews, and social media. Don’t forget, just as you would update your professional resume, periodically review and update your author bio to include new publications, awards, areas of expertise, and life changing events.

How Do You Judge a Book? By Its Cover, of Course

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 11.55.38 AMToday’s article was contributed by Ron Miller – author, cover designer, and Lulu community contributor.

Making sure your book has a good cover is like making sure you are neatly dressed and well groomed when going on a job interview.

Although everyone says you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, this really doesn’t apply to books themselves. In fact, the cover is one of the most important parts of a book. It’s the first thing anyone will ever see and for that reason it needs to make a good impression. If a cover is unreadable, looks amateurish or misrepresents a book, the potential reader may give it a pass and move on to the next book in a catalog or bookshelf.

There are no hard and fast rules in book cover design. Just take a look at some of the superb covers displayed here . They are all creative, effective and no two look alike. Yet, they all follow the same basic guidelines. Even if you are not an artist or designer, you can still make a cover that – while perhaps not as artistic or inventive as some of these covers – can still be attractive and effective. Here are some basic rules of thumb to keep in mind:

  • The most important thing on a book cover is the book’s title.
  • Keep things simple typographically. You may own a thousand fonts, but there is no need to feel compelled to use them all. Especially avoid really fancy, decorative fonts or using a lot of Photoshop effects on the title. If no one can read the title of your book, you may as well not have it on the cover at all.
  • Likewise, keep your artwork simple. Try to limit yourself to just one image that best represents the book’s genre or what it is about. Avoid the temptation to create a “kitchen sink” cover, where you try to cram in everything you think is important.
  • Another reason for simplicity is that a cover needs to work at all sizes—and even in B&W. Most people will first see your cover as a thumbnail image on a webpage. Therefore, it needs to be as readable at postage stamp size as it is on the actual printed book.

Having read these suggestions, go back to the Indie Cover page and see how many of those covers reflect these ideas.

About the Author:

In addition to the books he has published with Lulu, Ron Miller is the author/illustrator of more than fifty commercially published books. These have received numerous commendations and awards, including a Hugo, the IAF Manuscript Award, the Booklist Editor’s Award and the American Institute of Physics Award of Excellence. Several of his books have been Book-of-the-Month Club feature selections. In addition to the artwork he does for his own books, Miller provides illustrations for magazines such as Scientific American, Astronomy and Discover. Specializing in science fiction and fantasy, he has also created several hundred book covers for publishers such as Tor, Baen, Berkley/Ace, Warner, Easton Press, Subterranean Press and many others.

Black Cat Studios

Let’s Go Viral: Five Tactics for Boosting Your Clicks, Likes, and Shares

Author PlatformA few years ago, every indie-writer’s conference I attended focused on developing an author platform. This was a fancy, buzz wordy way of saying that independent authors who want to sell books also must create and maintain an internet presence consisting of a website, a blog, and social media pages. Today the buzzwords have changed and conference sessions are still being conducted about why an internet presence is necessary, but many of them fail to provide specific tactics for marketing your book once your platform is in place.

For the sake of this article, we will assume your platform is up and running. Now let’s make more effective use of these tools to get your marketing efforts noticed and your book sold.

#1: A Picture Is Worth 1000 Likes1000 Likes

Images are the most effective way to capture a person’s attention as they scroll through their social media feed. A fun way to get people talking about your work is to take and share screen shots or photos of your writing and publishing milestones to share on Facebook. For example, you can post a screenshot of your book’s product page when it is available for purchase on a new retail site, a screenshot of your book’s sales rank as it moves up the charts, or photos of you receiving and editing your proof copies. Sharing these milestones allows your fans to share in your excitement.

Don’t forget to include a link back to your website, blog, or book page to capitalize on the interest you generate. And, don’t assume your fans are all following you on Facebook. Be sure to post this content on other image-centric social sites such as Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.

#2 Scatter Tastier Breadcrumbs

Tasty BreadThe entire reason for developing an internet presence is to capture a potential reader’s attention while maintaining the interest of your existing fans. All the little pieces of information shared in social media are like virtual breadcrumbs you scatter into the world to lure readers towards your content. So, its really important you  choose “bread” your readers will love.

For example, you could spend hours writing a blog post contemplating the causes of writer’s block and how it has affected your output. Or, you can take a few minutes to post a picture of your character’s favorite car, perfume, whiskey, etc. with a link back to a blog post about that character’s back story and why their predilection for this object is important to the story.

Using this strategy, you can also share images and insights relating to settings, locales, and general research: “While researching <fill in the blank>, I learned this interesting fact about…..” Remember the 80/20 rule of social media marketing: 80% of your posts should include useful information while 20% should be dedicated to marketing your product.

#3 Make It Easy to Spread the Word

Share buttonsAdding social share buttons to your website and blog pages may seem like an obvious step, but it is often over looked. These buttons are powerful marketing tools that essentially turn your fans into marketers every time they share your work with their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn network of friends.

And even better, it’s quite easy to add these buttons to your web pages. Here are links for adding the Facebook Like button, the Tweet button, and the LinkedIn Share button.

#4 Add Facebook Comments to Your Webpage

CommentsFacebook allows you to add a commenting system to any web page. This can be particularly effective in maintaining fans because it allows you to communicate directly with your readers from within your own website. It also allows you to nurture and develop your super-fans – those readers who will buy everything you write, share all your social content, and tell all their friends about your books. These people are your most effective marketers and they will be thrilled to receive answers directly from you instead of your Facebook Marketing Page profile.

To learn more about adding Facebook Comments to your webpages, see: Facebook Comments Plugin

#5 Your Fans Love Free Stuff – And So Do Their Friends.

You probably have fans who follow everything you do – if not, see above. Why not reward them by allowing them to download a PDF version of the first chapter of your upcoming book? They will be delighted to get it first and will be eager to share the experience with their friends.Retweet Button

You can make it easy for them to share their happiness by including a Retweet button in the free PDF content. You can pre-populate the text of the Tweet and include a link for others to download the free chapter. “I’m reading @AuthorName’s new book: <Book Title>. Get the 1st chapter free here: tiny.url.link.”

For more information, see: Adding Retweet buttons to PDFs.

These are just a few social media tactics you an easily implement with minimal effort. If you have others you would like to share, leave a comment below. And don’t forget to Like and Share this content with your friends. (See what I did there?)

Advice from the Literary Stars: Overcoming Writer’s Block

writers block WomanWe’ve all been there. Sitting at our desk struggling to move our story forward. Sometimes it’s a word that’s just out of reach, a scene you can’t adequately describe, or a transition that is a bit awkward. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t move forward. You are blocked. Fortunately, writer’s block is almost always temporary and all writers experience it at one time or another. So don’t despair. You are in good company.

If that is not enough encouragement to help you through your crisis, perhaps the following words of advice from these literary stars will help.

“Writer’s block is my unconscious mind telling me that something I’ve just written is either unbelievable or unimportant to me, and I solve it by going back and reinventing some part of what I’ve already written so that when I write it again, it is believable and interesting to me. Then I can go on.” — Orson Scott Card Ender’s Game

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” — Mark Twain

“I encouragwriters block vintagee my students at times like these to get one page of anything written, three hundred words of memories or dreams or stream of consciousness on how much they hate writing — just for the hell of it, just to keep their fingers from becoming too arthritic, just because they have made a commitment to try to write three hundred words every day. Then, on bad days and weeks, let things go at that.”— Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’” — Maya Angelou

“Pretend that you’re writing not to your editor or to an audience or to a readership, but to someone close, like your sister, or your mother, or someone that you like.” — John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden

Writers Block Hemingway“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it, you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” — Ernest Hemingway

“If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.” — Norman Mailer in The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing

 

writers-block woman 2“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” — Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

“Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.” — Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, American Gods

“I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.” — Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

 

How to Find a Writing Group

Join a writer's group to share your workWe writers can work anywhere with a horizontal surface on which to rest our laptops or pads of paper. But, the process of turning what we imagine into text is a singularly solitary effort. We know what we want and mean to write. We clearly see it in our mind’s eye. Yet our mind is a tricky place. It tends to fill in the blanks we left on the page resulting in under developed characters and unresolved plot lines.

Joining a writing group is one way to fill in those blanks.  Not only can a group make your writing more of a collegial experience, but a group of like-minded writers can also help you meet your writing goals, work out the kinks in your plot lines, and point out any inconsistencies in your work.

So where do you find these mythical people? Here are a few places to look:

1. Local writing centers and communities

The first place to start is the internet. A quick search using your city name and “Writing Group” will get you started. If you get too many results, include the genre in which you write to narrow down the list. Once you find a promising group, send a message to the group leader or attend a public meeting / class to determine if the group is a good fit for you.

2. Conferences and Retreats

While you are at it, search for any local writing conferences or retreats to attend. Sharing your contact information with other writers at these local gatherings is the best way to make contact with authors who can recommend or introduce you to an existing group.

3. Bulletin boards

Despite living in the digital age, that old school means of finding like-minded people can still be effective. If you are interested in starting a writing group post a notice at your local public library, coffee house, or arts center. You can even post a notice on your city’s Craigslist > Community > Groups section.

4. Writing associations

Professional associations such as Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America have chapters throughout the country. Check their sites for directories to find members in your local area.

Lulu Joining a writing group

5. People you already know

We all have one good book inside of us – or so we would like to think. So, why not build a writing group from your friends and acquaintances. Most of us don’t live among authors and poets, but that’s not the point. The key is establishing a routine for a regular exchange of work. A word of caution may be needed here. Remember, criticism – even constructive criticism hurts. So choose carefully from those friends who will welcome your suggestions – and vice verse.

6. Online critique groups

Multiple online services are available and are often set up as an exchange: you must critique others’ work to have your own critiqued. Though they are often free, you may need to pay for full access or pay for an unlimited number of critiques. Some groups to to check out: Critique Circle, Review Fuse, Scribophile and Ladies Who Critique. One thing to keep in mind is that the readers in each group may or may not be your target audience and may not be a fan of the genre in which you work.

Meetups are a great place to share your writing

7. Meetup.com

This online service connects local people with similar interests ranging from Spanish literature to Scrabble. If there isn’t a writing group in your city, for a small fee you can start your own – or hold virtual meetings and exchange work via email.

8. Social media

Social media is now the most common way to connect with like-minded individuals and to find potential writing group members. Try these to get started: LinkedIn Groups for Writers, Facebook Groups for Writers, Goodreads Writing Groups and Twitter Lists for Writers.

Another options to just put out a call on your own social networks that you’re starting a writing group. You might be surprised who responds!

As you can see, finding a writing group takes time but it is well worth it to have the support, feedback and encouragement a group provides. Are you part of a writing group, or do you have tips of your own on finding people to share your work with? Let us know in the comments!

YSHS Students Turn Cookbooks into Scholarships

Students at Byimana Lycee des Sciences

In addition to memorizing vocabulary words, conjugating irregular verbs, and learning the subtle differences in pronouncing è and é, the French students at Yellow Springs High School (YSHS) in Ohio also plan and execute an annual French Café fundraiser. Proceeds from this dining and entertainment experience fund scholarships at the Byimana Lycee des Sciences in Gitarama, Rwanda.

The Byimana School of Science houses and educates 900 of the best and brightest Rwandan students in six grade levels (learn more). Each year since 2009, the YSHS French Café event has raised enough money to fully fund two high school scholarships for Rwandan students.

This year, as part of a project based learning initiative, students were tasked with developing a new product to sell at the French Café event. After a bit of brainstorming, students decided to create and print a French/English cookbook. Over the coarse of the year, students selected recipes, divided into teams, prepared the food, photographed their dishes, and designed the page layouts for the cookbook. They even shot and edited cooking videos for each dish and created a website.

This Spring, French teacher David Smith emailed us when he received the proof copy of his students’ work.

Cookbook cover

The finished product

“We really dug in back in the fall to find the best option for printing our cookbook. The students considered them all and decided lulu.com was the best choice. But we just didn’t know, until our proof copy came this weekend, how it would really look. You should have seen the faces of my students this morning! The comment was invariably: ‘Wow! Oh my gosh, it doesn’t look like it was made by students! It looks like a real cookbook!’ I can’t tell you how happy I am with how this is turning out.”

We contacted Mr. Smith following this year’s fundraiser for an update. We were delighted to hear this project was a success:

“The cookbook has been a real hit and raised lots of money. Our French Café has typically raised enough for two full scholarships, but the addition of the cookbook sales raised that to three. In fact, we raised enough to provide a student with a full scholarship all the way through high school. Now, not only will high school be possible for this student, but there is a near 100% college placement rate from the Byimana school, with a great chance of a partial or full college scholarship. Someone’s future has really been changed for the better.”

We were excited to hear about the success of a project combining self-publishing and project based learning. The YSHS French students came up with a creative solution to a real world problem and, in this case, changed a student’s life. Bravo!

 

To share your PBL self-publishing experience, email us at pr@lulu.com.
To view the recipes and cooking videos produced by the YSHS French classes, go to ysfrenchcookbook.weebly.com.
Learn more about project based learning.