Author Success Stories

Highlighting some of the many author success stories and keeping readers in-the-know about what their fellow writers are up to.

Author Success Story: Ruth Anne Kocour

Trek to K2 and Pakistan’s tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, Kashmir, Tajikistan, and China. See topography that has led to isolation–physical and cultural–of tribes blocked for centuries by natural barriers, lack of infrastructure and communication. Ruth Anne Kocour’s tale of travel and adversity lends a face to today’s news and a glimpse into what we all have in common–our humanity.

When it came time to publish her new book, Walking the War Zones of Pakistan: One Woman’s Journey Into the Shadow of the Taliban, Ruth Anne Kocour planned to bypass traditional publishers because she wanted to “enjoy more control over the final product.”

Despite having had an “excellent” experience working with St. Martin’s Press on her first book, Facing the Extreme, Kocour didn’t want to go through extensive re-writes and wait years to see Walking the War Zones of Pakistan in the hands of readers especially since Kocour believes independent publishing is the future of the industry:

“I believe traditional publishing will focus more on subjects with broad market appeal, sensational subjects, timely events, and/or celebrity-type bios, and I see self-publishing as an excellent option for subjects with niche markets or those of regional interest, that wouldn’t capture the attention of a mainstream publisher.”

So Kocour turned to Lulu who evaluated her manuscript as part of the Editorial Quality Review package. Together they worked on a mechanical edit that improved grammar and punctuation, and which she called “the most technical and comprehensive edit I’ve ever had.” For the cover Kocour provided Lulu with photos she thought would “lend to a good design” and received two mock-ups back, both “top notch.” Overall Kocour is quick to praise Lulu, which she says “exceeded her expectations.” Even the process itself was “fun.”

Having a successful media tour for Facing the Extreme already under her belt, Kocour was at an advantage in terms of marketing. She drew from her network of journalists and bloggers, among others, and was even contacted by new media via her website, through referrals, or from her talks. Additionally the timeliness of her story helped — and now hardly a week goes by when she’s not asked to speak or do a TV interview. Still, she learned a lot about publicity this time around:

“Media loves media.  Once you have a successful track record with the media, you become a known entity–one they can count on. We have several of my TV interviews posted on my website where media people and others can access them.”

Now Kocour is an independent publishing convert, and sees the route as not only viable, but preferable for new and veteran authors. Currently conceptualizing a new story, Kocour plans to once again publish through Lulu. She also intends to bring Facing the Extreme back in print—in hardcover, paperback, and as an eBook. This, too, will be through Lulu.

Her advice to new authors is very simple.

“If you think you have a book in you, and you want to get it out there, then do it! And definitely take advantage of the vast array of services Lulu has to offer, and its great staff who are more than willing to walk you through the process.”

Author Success Story: Valerie Baadh Garrett

While working as a movement specialist at the San Francisco Waldorf School, Valerie Baadh Garrett decided she wanted to write a book that would “support the movements of a kind of modern ‘circus’ for 200 children.” So she and her husband created a character that readers young and old would love: Uffe the Gnome. Nestled deep in the woods, his tall tales are designed to get kids’ minds and bodies moving in The Adventures of Uffe the Gnome.

Once Valerie landed an illustrator she approached traditional publishers but was rejected. No one was interested in a children’s story about gnomes and fairies in rhythm and rhyme. Valerie was not deterred. As she explains:

“Although that was disappointing, we knew there was an audience for our Uffe stories because we saw it every time I did a class or circus program.  Parents and children would clamor for a copy of the story.”

So she turned to Lulu.com, a decision she is very happy with—calling the company and its services “easy to use.”

“We were thrilled to see our little book look so professional so fast.”

Already the book has sold well. Outside of being sold on Lulu’s site, The Adventures of Uffe the Gnome is available as an iBook, through iTunes, and can be found on the website Valerie and her husband own and manage, The Movement Academy Project.

Recently, Valerie took copies to China on a trip that grew out of her movement work. There to lead a workshop, she knew she’d be working closely with teachers and parents and that Uffe would be a great resource for them. So to better serve that market, she updated her book by adding the title in Mandarin and changing it a bit to The Adventures of Uffe the Earth Fairy since gnomes aren’t part of Chinese culture. Additionally, Valerie included a CD she and her husband created narrating the stories in English so that her overseas customers would find added value in this bilingual package. These efforts paid off: By the end of the trip she’d secured a Chinese publisher for Uffe’s current and future books.

“One of my hosts set up a meeting for me with a local publishing house, and right away they loved Uffe. We are still working out the details, but it looks like they will publish six different books, to start, with six individual stories, bilingual in Mandarin and English, in a larger-scale format so the illustrations can be colored like a coloring book.”

Stateside, Valerie mainly promotes the book by hand and on Twitter, through her account that is tied into her movement work, as well as her website. Outside of her online efforts she ordered postcards offered by Lulu after Uffe was published and sent them to select bookstores. A few ordered copies right away!

Her advice to new authors is simple: “Give Lulu.com a try, but try not to rush.” Valerie admits she made a costly mistake by ordering copies with a typo in the title. Although funny now, it was a frustrating lesson that required a reprint and more money.

There are a lot more adventures on the horizon for Valerie, who has several projects in production.  Lulu.com, she insists, will be “a vital part of the process.”

Author Success Story: Timber Hawkeye

A longtime student of world religion, Buddhism, and psychology, Timber Hawkeye yearned for a less complicated depiction of the Buddha’s teachings than what the Tibetan temple had to offer, so when the Lama suggested he try Zen instead, Timber took off his maroon robes and moved to a Zen monastery far from home. While he liked the simpler message, he still felt the teachings were full of the same dogma that sent him running from religion in the first place. Believing that people are more interested in positive inspiration and motivation than in ceremonies and rituals, he conceived of a book that would empower readers to not necessarily be a Buddhist, but a Buddha, through gratitude and the consistent message to “be kind.”

“There are many incredible books out there that cover all aspects of religion, philosophy, psychology, and physics, ” he explains, “but I was looking for something less ‘academic’, so to speak. I was looking for something inspirational that people today would not only have the attention span to read all the way through, but actually understand and also implement in their daily lives.”

Thus, Buddhist Boot Camp came to be.

Author Success Story: Lucia Cascioli

When Lucia Cascioli first finished her novella, Struck, she thought she’d try her hand at traditional publishing, an experience that didn’t pan out as she’d hoped.

“It was frustrating to say the least, especially after one publishing house lost my manuscript,” explains Lucia. The long wait to hear back, coupled with the less-than-stellar royalty and advance rates typically given to authors without a track record, didn’t exactly make Lucia want to continue struggling down the big publisher road.

Then she discovered Lulu, which changed the way she thought about getting her book into the hands of readers.

“Lulu is my one-stop-shop that meets all my needs: professional staff, great editors and cover designers, and the ability to have my books sold in print and online. My project manager explained the process to me and coordinated the services in each of my packages, hassle free.”

To publish Struck, as well as

Lulu Exhibits 102 New Titles & Hosts NYT Bestseller at Book Expo America

Book Expo America (BEA), the largest book convention in the nation, just finished in New York City. As attendees entered the show, they were greeted with 102 Lulu books that were exhibited as part of the BEA New Title Showcase.

To celebrate our ten year anniversary as a leader in Open-Publishing, Lulu also invited three bestselling authors to attend the show, sign free signed copies of their latest titles and explain why they picked Lulu over other publishing options.

On the first day of the show, congressional candidate turned bestselling political author, Kevin Powell, signed copies of his 11th book “Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King,” which explores modern politics and pop culture through recent events such as the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin.

Lines wrapped around the corner as numerous show attendees recognized Kevin from his appearance on MTV’s “The Real World.” Being a very charismatic and charming personality, Kevin was a big hit at the show and made a point of engaging with each person who waited in line to meet him.


David Thorne, New York Times Bestselling Author, signed copies of his new book “I’ll Go Home Then, It’s Warm and Has Chairs: The Unpublished Emails” during the second day of the show. With a very strong following, Thorne quickly signed over 250 copies of his book.

Joining other well-known blogging celebrities, Thorne also sat on the closing keynote panel for Blogworld & New Media Expo which took place in conjunction with BEA.

Book Expo America 2012: Three Authors and 36 Million Reasons to Meet Them

Lulu is headed to Book Expo America (BEA), one of the largest publishing events in the world, next week, but we’re not going alone.  Three of our very own authors will be on site June 5th – 7th signing free copies of their bestsellers and, more importantly, sharing tips on how to make it in this lucrative new world of open-publishing.

The line-up of bestselling authors at BEA includes New York Times Bestseller David Thorne, former congressional candidate and political author Kevin Powell, and marketing/tech guru Scott Steinberg. This is a can’t miss for everyone attending BEA, so stop by to see us at book #3476!

Lulu Founder and CEO, Bob Young, will also be there presenting on two panels Sunday, June 3rd.  Bob will be calling on his years of salesmanship and expertise to share valuable tips and insights for publishing success.  Both panels take place this Sunday at the Javits Convention Center in New York.  Bob’s speaking schedule below:

  • 9:00AM – 9:50AM – Room 1E14 – Break Through & Publish You
  • 1:30PM – 2:20PM – Room 1E13 – Publishing Partners That Put Unknown Authors on the Bookshelf
Lulu’s presence at BEA comes hot on the heels of our 10-year anniversary, which had us celebrating our authors making over $36 million in revenue in our decade-long history.  At over 677,000 published eBooks and over 618,000 published print titles, we’re more excited than ever to show the folks at BEA just how easy it is to publish works in all sorts of markets and formats more profitably than ever before.  See you at the show!

Tom Clements on Marketing His Successful Book: How to Write a Killer SAT Essay

By the time The College Board unveiled a new essay component to the SAT in 2005, Tom Clements, a former college English instructor, had already been teaching prep classes for 15-plus years. He understood the components of good writing but wanted to develop a way for students to write well and fast, since test-takers are only allotted 25 minutes to complete the written portion of the test. Thus How to Write a Killer SAT Essay was conceived.

“Using my students as a ‘focus group’ I presented strategies and techniques for prefabricating their essays with content examples varied enough to apply to any topic (called prompts) The College Board might throw at them during the SAT. My students did so well — average scores for their essays were in the 92nd percentile range — that I decided to incorporate both my methodology and my students’ actual essays in a book that would teach kids not able to take my class in person to nonetheless dominate the SAT essay.”

Despite the innovative strategies and proven success of Tom’s technique, How to Write a Killer SAT Essay faced challenges on its road to publication — at first.

Lulu Author Discusses His Successful Marketing Tips

The Lulu community forums are a place for authors to ask questions, share experiences, and meet people with similar interests. Occasionally, a community forum member has expertise in a specific area or an author shares a success story that piques our interest. When this occurs, we invite the writer to contribute an article for the Lulu blog.

Following the announcement in the forums that his cookbook Beyond Soul Food: Modern American Heritage Cuisine was under consideration for an Eric Hoffer First Horizon Award for excellence, I asked the author to share some of his self-publishing experiences with the Lulu community. We hope you enjoy this author-to-author advice.

-Glenn, Lulu Community Forum Manager

How I Rediscovered Myself through Self-Publishing by Richard Petty

Writing a good cookbook can be a daunting endeavor, even for a seasoned pro. My name is Richard Petty. I am a successful chef and now the author of Beyond Soul Food: Modern American Heritage Cuisine, which was recently awarded an honorable mention as a finalist for the 2012 Eric Hoffer First Horizon Award for excellence in publishing. This recognition is a high distinction for first-time authors and publishers.

Like most people, writing a book was always a dream of mine. Since I was between jobs I had the time, but the challenge was how to do it. For my book, I chose some of my favorite recipes

Lulu Author & Illustrator Win Gold Mom’s Choice Award

A few years ago, after being introduced through a mutual friend, author Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino and illustrator Sandra Waugh decided to team up on a picture book that celebrates all art forms, cooperation, and the idea that anyone, young or old, should “let their dreams fly.” Lucky for us, their dream became a reality known as Pinky Doodle Bug, which was released in December.

After completing the book they were cautious about pitching the big children’s publishing houses, which are often hesitant to take on debut authors in the picture book genre. Elizabeth and Sandra also had reservations about traditional publishing’s strict storybook arcs and long-lead printing times.

“In the world of children’s publishing, which often feels like a secret club, we felt our book may or may not ever come to life,” Elizabeth says. “We didn’t want to risk it… We wanted to really remain positive and put all of our positive energy and life into the project.”

So the duo decided on Lulu.com for the paperback, hardcover, and eBook — a decision they’re extremely happy with.

The relationship between the two women and Lulu has been strong from the start — which isn’t a surprise given the collaborative message of Pinky Doodle Bug. In addition to purchasing Lulu’s Global Distribution Package, which puts the book in every bookstore (on order) as well as on multiple online retailers, Elizabeth and Sandra also worked closely with Lulu to market their book.

“Lulu.com has been a critical part of our success. They have had on-the-spot customer service, featured our book, tweeted about us and really help us market the book also, which is probably the biggest boost needed,” Elizabeth says.

Elizabeth and Sandra’s marketing efforts didn’t stop there. They have a robust website that launched before the book released so that they could showcase their ideas and bring the characters to life. By using snappages.com, they have full control over the design and content of their site though the company’s easy drag-and-drop system. This allows them to update pinkydoodlebug.com at least once a week so that everything showcased is current and relevant. Their site has also been a place for Sandra to post coloring pages that have proved so popular a Pinky Doodle Bug activity book will be out soon!

Recognizing that having a website is only the first step toward successful marketing — and that getting people there is the second — both women used social media to boost traffic to their website. Elizabeth leveraged her business’ Twitter account (30,000 followers) and also created a Pinky-specific Facebook page and Twitter account (700 followers) to give away the book and raise brand awareness — within reason. Both women abide by “Twitter 4 Business Specialist” Keith Keller’s assertion that tweeters should abide by the 1 to 10 ratio, meaning 1 tweet about you and 10 about something or someone else.

Although scheduling (they’re moms!) and cost constraints have prohibited Elizabeth and Sandra from working with a PR agency, they’ve both done school and/or library visits, which paid off. Pinky Doodle Bug recently received the prestigious GOLD Mom’s Choice Award, which honors excellence in family-friendly media products. Elizabeth advises that authors seize the opportunities they can: “Sometimes the reason for being there [a book festival, for instance] might not be to sell books, but rather to meet someone or to learn something about someone or yourself.”

In the future Elizabeth and Sandra plan to let their own Pinky dreams fly. Outside of an upcoming activity book and new picture book, Pinky Doodle Dance, the author and illustrator team are hoping to create Pinky dolls, media, and more.

Bestselling Author Kevin Powell Comes to Lulu

Author your vision, Live your purpose with Kevin Powell

Author Kevin Powell stepped off the stage into a packed room of over 700 people after finishing his keynote speech in Raleigh, North Carolina last February.  He didn’t leave until he had personally spoken to every single attendee who had come to hear him speak.

Powell knows how to command a room, but will leave you feeling like the star.  That’s because to Powell, you are the star. We all are.

Former MTV reality show personality, turned journalist, turned activist, turned congressional candidate, turned riveting political author, Powell has lived a life not unlike a real-life Forrest Gump (or so his friends say). His uncanny ambition, open-mind, and big heart have taken him all over the world and allowed him to experience diverse people and perspectives – uniting them all under the simple concept of helping your fellow man.

“Life isn’t a straight line,” Powell says. “It is an all over adventure.”

Powell remains grounded through it all, though – truthful to his humble beginnings in New Jersey and Brooklyn and the life lessons his southern single mother provided him as a boy. It is this amazing balance between where Powell came from and where he is today that makes him more personable and more real than anyone else you could encounter – even while standing up on a stage in front of hundreds of people.

“There was a point in my life when I needed to step back and figure out what was important to me. It wasn’t fame or attention; it was making the world better – helping people. I love people. If you can remember where you came from – be proud of where you came from – and love yourself, then you can start to love others, too.”

Powell’s 11th book, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King is available today on Lulu.com. It echoes many of these fundamental concepts and how they fit into a rapidly changing American society and culture in the modern day.

Powell’s love for writing started when he was just a child.  He remembers his mother taking him to the library every Saturday and Sunday and being fascinated by books and their authors.

“At 11 years old I was reading For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway,” Powell recalls.  “I didn’t necessarily understand it all, but I was hooked. I researched Hemingway, learned he ran with the bulls in Europe, lived in Key West, and thought:  ‘Wow, this is what you get to do as a writer.’ Reading had a profound impact on me. It took me places and filled my imagination.”

One of the first things Powell did once he found his stride as a writer was travel to Hemingway’s home in Key West as a “thank you” to his idol and to just be in the same place as where Hemingway had worked and lived.

Growing up, Powell’s mother didn’t exactly see his artistic vision quite as clearly as he did, however.

“My mom came from farm life,” Powell says. “That was working to her – not writing. At first, my mom thought I was out of my mind.”

Powell went to college at Rutgers in New Jersey where he fell in love with journalism and discovered activism. A nearby friend happened to have started an indie newspaper and hired Powell to write for 20 bucks an article.

“I was just happy to have a byline,” Powell says. “I started to find my voice. It was the most liberating time of my life.  I spent the entire summer of 1987 sitting on the steps of the New York Public Library writing in my journal. I couldn’t stop.”

Powell continued writing, oddly found himself on a popular MTV reality show, then landed a spot writing articles for Vibe Magazine working for another childhood idol Quincy Jones.

“Now my mom started to come around,” Powell laughs.  “People in the neighborhood started talking about me. Now my mom is the first person to tell people about my book. Whenever I release one, she’ll call and say: ‘Did you say anything about me?’”

So how, then, does a successful author and speaker who has run for congress find self-publishing?

“If you’re ever in the world of media, you inevitably think to yourself: ‘There has got to be a better way,’” Powell says. “I’ve had agents and publishers turn to me and simply say:  ‘We’re not gonna represent you anymore.’ They try to force you to make choices like ‘are you an artist or an activist?’ A person can be both. The people at Lulu have been some of the coolest to work with, and there is something to be said for feeling like you’re dealing with real people, where the CEO will actually reach out to you if you need him. Lulu really practices what I personally believe in how you should treat people.”

Be sure to check out Kevin Powell’s new book Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King on Lulu.com today. To learn more about Powell and his upcoming speaking engagements visit www.kevinpowell.net.