Articles by Meg @ Lulu

Top 10 Tips: Multiple Book Formats are your Friends

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Contributed by Dan Dillon, Lulu Director of Product Marketing

I recently had the pleasure to co-present a webinar with Bowker on Self-Publishing: Your Path to Success. Ralph Coviello, publisher relations manager at Bowker, shared copious insights into how the self-publishing landscape has taken shape over the past few years, as well as how it may continue to evolve. From all the great observations and advice, I’ve distilled the three most important lessons to be gleaned for your success in self-publishing.

1. Publish in multiple formats
It stands to reason that the more products you have to sell, the more money you’re able to make. Books are no exception. Authors who offer multiple formats of their books sell up to four times more than authors who offer their readers only a single format. To capitalize on this, make your titles available as a softcover, hardcover and an ebook. Readers across all age groups are reading print, so there’s no predicting what format individual book buyers may prefer. have ready whatever they may want.

2. Channel surf
Just as it stands to reason that the more products you have to offer, the more you’re likely to sell – the more places you make them available, the more you’ll be able to sell. Get your books into as many online retail channels as possible. The ones that will likely have the greatest impact on your print book sales are Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For ebooks, you’ll want to make your titles available on the Kindle, iBookstore, NOOK and Kobo, at a minimum. Happily, you can get all of your books into these channels — and many more — with For free.

3. Press releases are very popular
This is a double-edged sword. Yes, press releases are a valuable tool for building awareness about your book, and you can reach the same journalists who the Big 6 publishers talk to. Yes, there is a ton of news out in the world and it takes a lot to get your story heard. The lesson here? Targeting the information in your press release is critical, and targeting the people you send it to is also key.

View the complete webinar, and let us know in the comments what’s worked for you to drive book sales. You can also page through the webinar deck on Slideshare.

Top 10 Tips: Have a Marketing Plan Outlined Before you Publish your Book

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 12.26.43 PMWriting a book is no small feat. And you should be proud of yourself for all the hard work you’ve done so far. As exciting as it is to have a finished manuscript in front of you though, there is still a lot more to do after the typing has stopped and the pen and paper are put away. Some authors can afford to hire an agent or a publicist, but for others taking the DIY approach, marketing yourself and your book can seem pretty daunting. As much as you want to share your book with everyone and show them what you’ve accomplished, if you don’t set some realistic goals, you’re setting yourself up for some unnecessary disappointment and frustration. Planning how to market yourself and your work may be easier said then done, but the payoff – reaching more readers and selling more – is worth the effort.

Change Your Perspective

The first step to getting a better hold on your marketability is to change your perspective of yourself as a writer, to an entrepreneur starting your own business. You’ve done the writing, but now you have a product to sell. Whenever you take the time to put yourself “out there,” your ultimate goal should be to make a good impression on people so they’ll want to read your work, keep coming back, and recommend your book to others. You’re building your reputation – your own personal brand, and you need people to trust that brand in order to grow a loyal fan base. This is something that takes a lot of time, planning, and strategizing. Any successful business, big or small, starts with a list of goals and then creates a plan to achieve those goals. A successful business also remains flexible and responsive to its customer’s needs and the current trends of the market. You can do this by having backup plans in place for whenever one of your plans doesn’t work or you need to change something on the fly.

Research What Works

Think about successful companies you know of and research the components that made them that way. You’ll find that many businesses share common fundamentals that aid in their success such as mission statements, budgets, and timelines. You can adopt and adjust these to build your own business model and better market your book and your brand. Remember, though, that a business is an investment. All new businesses spend money to move forward and it typically takes about 3-5 years for a startup to become profitable. You must be willing to invest both money and time on your entrepreneurial venture and have a solid plan(s) in place that will allow you to break even until you eventually turn a profit or move large volumes of your book.

Come Up with a Plan and Follow Through

Once you have some clearly defined goals (such as getting your book on a retail shelf, or selling X number of copies, etc.) and a plan(s) (attending X number of book fairs, or creating a Facebook fan page, etc.) the next thing you need to do is come up with a realistic timeline to achieve those goals. I think one of the best practices a new author can do to gain traction on his or her book is to create a timeline that lays those goals and plans out with feasible deadlines associated with each one. I almost never get anything done unless I know it is due soon. Moving towards a goal with a deadline can greatly help to keep you motivated. Otherwise, you might find yourself flying blind and quickly becoming demotivated because you don’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything. It is also crucial to be as realistic with your deadlines as you are with your goals. Don’t expect to hit the New York Times bestseller list overnight, start with selling 50 copies of your book, then 100 and check off when you’ve completed a goal. If done correctly, a timeline with realistically achievable goals can reinforce your sense of accomplishment and will excite you as you continue to reach more readers.

Running a business isn’t easy, but none of this is meant to be scary. It is just meant to make a new author think about his or her approach in the journey to become the next bestseller. Be sure to check back for part 2 of “Setting Realistic Goals” next week when I’ll discuss setting realistic expectations and how your mindset can make all the difference with how far your book goes.

Build a Genre, Build a Brand

All successful writers had to start somewhere. Authors like Stephen King and Dan Brown are continually at the top of The New York Times Bestseller list because after years of work, they have figured out the formula for attracting their readers. Part of their formula is knowing what their genre is and sticking to it. In that way, these authors have created a brand for themselves. Everyone knows you read a Stephen King book if you want to be scared, you read Dan Brown if you want to figure out a mystery. Obviously, some genres are going to sell better than others based on how reader-friendly they are. It isn’t realistic to expect a niche-oriented book about nanotechnology to sell as much as a young adult title about sexy vampires, no matter how cutting edge and revolutionary it is. You must determine what genre you’re trying to fit into and go after the readers that are interested in that genre. Creating a solid personal brand will greatly help you gain momentum as you build your readership.

Find the Right Audience

Many of the books on Lulu are written with a very specific audience in mind. And are great because they offer knowledge on topics that can’t be found anywhere else. In fact, some of our bestsellers are books from these niche genres. What makes these books bestsellers is that the authors took the time to zero-in on the right audience – the readers that their content matters to. As much as you want your book to sell millions of copies, you must realize that you’re not writing for everyone – not yet at least. At first, you’re writing for a very specific and small group of readers – maybe just family, friends, and colleagues. Building a loyal following is something that comes with a lot of time, patience, and research. You must constantly be in the habit of self-promoting your work. The good news is that with the internet, it is easier than ever to find your audience and promote your work. For example, if you write a book on photography, start spending time on all of the top photography blogs. Network and become a part of the conversations and prove to those communities that you are a reputable and reliable source of information, then begin to introduce you work. Be sure to play by the rules too, no one likes a spammer that sends a link of their book out hundreds of time a day.

Publicize with Passion

If a bookstore sells a biology book that is a bestseller, but you have written a biology book that you want them to sell instead, even if you know its better, you’re going to find it pretty hard to convince them to stop selling that bestseller if you can’t stand by your product. Who else understands the topic of your book better than you, the person that wrote it? Even if you have an army of publicists, no one can represent and promote your content better than you can. When you’re starting out, your name and your book’s title should always be mentioned in the same sentence. You are the authority and you must show conviction in your work. Do not expect to sell anything if you’re not willing to put in the effort, time, and energy required to convince readers that your book is the only one they need in their hands. Your personality and passion play a large role in this, but you should always make sure to list your credentials, experience, or qualifications whenever you’re publicizing your work. You must also be willing to attend book fairs, trade shows, signings, lectures, and publicity events. Once you have determined how much time and money you are willing to invest the publicity of your book, you can begin to set realistic expectations for how successful your book will be. The most important part however, is to always give it your best.

For additional tips on marketing strategy for your book, please check out:

Top 10 Tips: Editing, Editing, Editing

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 12.03.44 PMIt seems like a simple concept, right? Editing, that is. Every author should do it, but too often many (especially indie authors) gloss over the second most important step to publishing their book outside of actually writing it. One of the main criticisms of new or self-published authors is that their work is often sloppy and un-edited.  So, here is some hard and fast advice about editing your book.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on Ivory Madison’s session on writing and editing breakaway books at the Writer’s Digest Conference. Madison is CEO and founder of, the “Facebook for authors”.  She was also named “Best Writing Coach” by San Francisco magazine and has been a guest lecturer to the faculty and writing coaches at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Stanford Publishing Course.

In this particular session, she provides some amazing advice and insights on editing your next book:

  • Once you have finished your writing, having said everything you have to say, in all it’s sloppy glory, you will want to get through your editing quickly, painlessly, and efficiently. Now, imagine a giant bulls eye.  Each ring is going to represent a stage and focus in your editing journey.
  • The outermost ring is very big picture questions: What type of book is this?  What are the themes? What are the cast or characters? How do they develop?
  • Then, we get into the inner structure ring (this is also the hardest part). Can you write a one-page hero’s journey? Does it flow and follow correctly? These aren’t necessarily templates but, rather insights into how people tell stories. Structure is also where you look at point of view, tense, pacing, and what kind of voice the story has.
  • Story Fractiles: scientific concept that posits that everything is ultimately a repeating pattern. Applying this to writing, you need to ask yourself “is this all the same book?” If you took a small piece of it, does it still reflect the overall work?  Does each chapter reflect a short story of the book? Your writing should ultimately sound like YOU speaking at your most eloquent…it must be real and authentic.
  • Copy-editing Ring: is everything fluid and in the right word? Is everything true? This is also where you look at metaphors…do your metaphors make enough sense to have an impact?
  • Mechanics Ring: Looking at each word, grammar, formatting, and punctuation.

Madison’s final editing words to live by, “it’s worst to not get published than cut things out of your book”.  Finally, sit down and have someone read the manuscript out loud at full volume, you will be surprised by what you find.

Of course, we always recommend consulting a professional editor. Click here to learn more.

Top 10 Tips: Consider Giving (Some) of your Book Away

What’s better than free?

It might seem irrational, but one of the best ways that authors have found to gain popularity and profitability for their eBooks has been to, well, give them away. Authors have found that dropping the price of their books to $0, at least for a short time, leads to dramatically better sales when they do raise the price.

[Recommended Reading: How Free Books Build Your Brand as an Author and Authority]

Speaking on The Self Publishing Podcast, independent author David Wright found that this type of promotion works, especially with writers who work in genre fiction. “Free downloads drive sales,” he said. “Especially with the serialized fiction model, where if our readers get our first episode for free, they want to read on, so they buy the next episode or the full season.”

[Recommended Reading: How To Serialize with Lulu]

Dropping the price of your eBook can help raise your sales rank and visibility, while, at the same time, promoting other books you’ve written. Of course, the lost revenue can sting a bit, but who knows if readers would have taken the plunge on your book if you hadn’t taken the cost-free promotional plunge?

But is a free promotion right for you? For serialized fiction, the answer is yes. Get readers hooked, and then get them to buy the rest of your series or your other titles. For experts and speakers, the answer is also yes. You want to spread your brand and name, and an eBook is even better than just giving out your card. Use your eBook mainly as a promotional tool — not a revenue stream.

Here’s who this promotion might not work for: writers of long, literary fiction who depend on sales to make up for some of the painstaking work that went into their novel. It might also not work for historians, who also put in a tremendous amount of time and energy and whose specialized knowledge has a place in the marketplace and should be able to find a readership despite its cost.

Either way — it always helpful to experiment with different marketing tools. Dropping your price to zero might feel weird, but the eventual reward could be huge. If it doesn’t work out anyway, it’s just as easy to start charging more for your book, and go back to the drawing (or writing) board.

Have you tried this technique? What was your experience?

Top 10 Tips: People do Judge a Book by its Cover

It’s no secret that a book cover has a very specific and tightly focused purpose…to get a reader to stop and take notice of the book. Book covers are actually much more akin to posters than any other art form. And as a poster, a book cover has a specific, utilitarian function to perform – to catch the reader’s eye. First impressions are important and just like a badly written description, if the cover is confusing or amateurish, the potential reader may well give your book a pass.

Catch22Book covers are often confused with book illustrations–but they are not the same thing at all. There is no requirement that the cover of a book must accurately depict any particular scene or event. In fact, many if not most book covers don’t even try. Once again, this is because the purpose of a cover is not to illustrate the book but to sell it. Out of the several hundred covers I’ve created for traditional publishers, probably less than 10% have depicted an actual scene from a novel.

One of the hardest things a DIY cover designer needs to overcome is subjectivity. When you are creating the cover for your own book, it can be very difficult to remember that while you know everything about what goes on in the story your potential reader is not privy to this information. I’ve often used the example of the author who put a pastoral photo of a stone bridge on the cover of his fantasy adventure novel. It looked like the cover of a travel guide. When asked what in the world the photo had to do with a fantasy adventure he replied, “Why, that’s the bridge the troll lives under.”

One of the biggest mistakes I see most often in author-designed covers is treating the cover art and the typography as though they are two separate issues. For instance, I’ll see cover art that makes no provision for the placement of type, with the result that the title either covers up the most attractive parts of the art or, even worse, the title and author’s name are crowded into the margins to avoid covering up any of the art.

It’s vitally important to consider both art and type together when designing a cover. They need to work together and enhance one another. If you are creating a cover image yourself or are having one done for you, be sure to leave room for the inclusion of the type. Professional cover artists leave at least 1/3 of the art open for the placement of the title and author’s name. This doesn’t mean that the art is simply blank in that area, just that there is nothing important in that space or anything that would compete with the type. Here is an example of this by Stephen Hickman.

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In fact, the typography of a book cover is so important that hundreds of effective covers have been created using nothing but type–or type and some small graphic. Take a look at the original cover of The Godfather, for instance.

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 11.52.59 AMBy the way, speaking of type, just because you have design software that came preloaded with 275 fonts, you are not compelled to use all of them. Pick one–at most two–for your cover. And since there are thousands of fonts available, try to choose one that is appropriate for your book. Comic sans rarely works for an urban vampire story. By the same token, try to avoid fonts that are massively overused, such as Papyrus, Mistral or, God forbid, Bleeding Cowboy.

Using stock art presents another potential problem in that a great many other people may be using the very same image on the covers of their books. I have seen this occur too many times. One of the things a book cover needs to do is make your book look distinctive, make it stand out from the thousands of competing titles. If your cover image also appears on a dozen other books, you risk diluting that impact. If you are using a stock image, then do whatever you can to make the image unique.

Stephen King may today be able to sell a book with nothing on the cover but his name and the title…but when he started out his novels needed the help of strong cover designs.

Author Bio: Ron Miller

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.

Meet NaNoWriMo Accelerator Author: Emily Covington

What first motivated you to write a book?

I was motivated to write because I loved to read and I wanted something that no one had ever done before. I wanted to love something that had a little bit of everything and was my own.

What did you find to be the biggest challenge about the writing process?

The biggest challenge is when you find your story down in a ditch and you have to motivate your characters as well as yourself. You have to remind yourself why you started, and that’s the most important thing. Sometimes you just have to stop and look at what inspires you, listen to Indie music, talk to your friends, go for a walk, and then describe everything as you sacrifice your homework and that essay that’s due. That’s hard, but it pays off.

If you could offer an aspiring author any piece of advice, what would it be?

Keep writing. Write everything, and describe everything. Tell me what you feel and why, tell me your past and give me the wildest imaginable future, and give me metaphors that I can relate to. I want imagery and description. I want characters made from real people that I have never met, and I want you to introduce me to them. I want to love them without knowing why or how. I want it to be seamless and real. Fall away from your fears your selfish desires cut the chains that anchor you with the knowledge that you have caged yourself and the key has been in your mouth the whole time.

Tell us a little bit about your book…who should read it and why.

My book is about adventure. It is about romance and finding yourself. It is about learning to love and let love go, and realizing that just because you think you love someone doesn’t mean it’s always supposed to happen. My book is meant for those people who have ever lost something, for those people who have ever been in love or wanted love or needed meaning in their lives. My book is for people who long for adventure, or who long to settle down. It is for the mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, and anyone who wants to hear a story about a girl that had to lose everything before she could rise again.

Why did you chose to write in this genre?

I chose fantasy/adventure because I wanted to create a place that was unlike our world, but exactly the same. It used to be good, but now it is corrupt, and it will take a massive effort to make it good again, to reintroduce freedom. It is a story with war, imprisonment, death, loss, victory, and love, and it is about a girl and her friends who fall in love with their world and the adventures they have.

Has writing and completing a book been the experience you thought it would be?

Writing a book has been so much different than I ever imagined, but I write every day. I wanted elements from everything that I love, and there is so much satisfaction to see my years of writing, knowledge, and daydreaming all rolled into one little paperback copy with a green cover and script letter and my own name sitting there before me. It is compelling and powerful to be able to hold something that I made with my own hands, my eyes, my mind. It’s quite enlightening and a very huge relief. I can’t wait to do it again.

What has been the biggest surprise so far in your author journey?

Writing a book has been so much different than I ever imagined, but I write every day. I wanted elements from everything that I love, and there is so much satisfaction to see my years of writing, knowledge, and daydreaming all rolled into one little paperback copy with a green cover and script letter and my own name sitting there before me. It is compelling and powerful to be able to hold something that I made with my own hands, my eyes, my mind. It’s quite enlightening and a very huge relief. I can’t wait to do it again.

Will you write another book?

I write every single day. I have hundreds of notebooks, documents, typed sentences that are lost in places, flash drives that appear out of thin air, words on notepads and papers and even on my desk with chalk. I have so many sentences and ideas that I can’t wait to reveal the next big project that will come alive as surely as this one has. Wait for Zhenya and Brielle.

Is there anyone you would like to thank who helped or supported you?

I would like to thank NaNoWriMo and my college friends at Murray State University who first got me involved. I would like to thank my parents, all of them, for shaping me into the person I’ve become. I would also like to thank the amazing people behind Lulu who have helped so much, and the other winners who have been beside me through this. We really have won in this endeavor.

Find her book, Silver Follows, here.

Meet NaNoWriMo Accelerator Author: Sabina Zbasnik

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 4.20.09 PMWhat first motivated you to write a book?

I wanted to write The King’s Blood after a small scene popped into my head. It pictured a girl chastising a boy for accepting a rusted and waterlogged sword from some half drowned woman lying in a pond. That scene became little more than a toss away joke in the book, but it grew into so much more. An exploration of how often history is rewritten, and though we treat it like stone, it’s really clay. Discovering what it takes to create a Charlemagne like character; young and naïve at first, but shaped by his circumstances to stitch together a shattered country while bringing back literacy. And, as always, poking fun at some of the classic fantasy tropes, especially the self fulfilling prophecy.

What did you find to be the biggest challenge about the writing process?

You know when you have a word on the tip of your brain, the perfect word to slot into your flailing sentence, but for the life of you, you cannot scrounge it up from the depths of your sunken vocabulary? When it happens dozens of times each writing session, wasting time and energy, it becomes a major stumbling block.

If you could offer an aspiring author any piece of advice, what would it be?

Write like no one will read your book; edit like your toughest critic will.

Tell us a little bit about your book…who should read it and why.

The King’s Blood has the bones of a classic epic fantasy, a prince has to get his butt onto his dad’s throne, but the sinew and flesh are satire of those tropes. It’s a book meant to get some color into the medieval fantasy realm that is sorely missing. Not only is the main heroine black, so is the friendly assassin, while the sardonic witch is Asian. If you really love Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams then you might enjoy my book. There aren’t a lot of long lists of who begat whom and the history of a stone pillar that has nothing to do with the plot, but there are jokes. Argonath sized piles of jokes.

Why did you chose to write in this genre?

Despite satirizing the fantasy genre, I do love it. It’s a chance to explore and examine the human condition, what drives and crushes people, while also throwing in a dragon or two. But no bards, no one wants to put up with a bard.

Has writing and completing a book been the experience you thought it would be?

Writing is always a surprise, getting to the book stage doubly so. It is stressful to chase that dream but, when you hold that finished copy in your hands, it’s all worth it.

What has been the biggest surprise so far in your author journey?

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the community that rallies around. Wonderful friends and people who have already slogged down this journey that are happy to share their advice, their congratulations, and beta read. A beta reader that shares both the good and bad in the form of constructive criticism is worth their weight in gold. Never let them go.

Will you write another book?

I’ve already started another series called Dwarves in Space, to move somewhat into the sci-fi arena. There are plans in my mind to stretch King’s Blood out to another two books, exploring secrets about Ciara and her father to tie them back to the Elven wars, but only time will tell if I ever write them.

Is there anyone you would like to thank who helped or supported you?

My husband offered a great sounding board while writing as well as a useful alpha reader. So many wonderful friends took on the thankless job of beta reading; Dawn, Adam, Rick, I never could have reached even a passable manuscript without their advice and suggestions. Also, a shout out to my fellow Let’s Go Wrimo winners who all came together to help each other out, and Lulu for giving me this opportunity.

Find her book, The King’s Blood, here.