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.

The Author Who Brought Coach Kay Yow’s Inspiring Story To Life

North Carolina State women’s basketball fans know the name Kay Yow. As the team’s coach, she achieved more than 700 wins over her 34-year career, became a Hall of Fame inductee, and coached the 1988 women’s Olympic team to their gold medal win. In 2009, Yow passed away from breast cancer after battling the disease for two-plus decades. To residents of the Tar Heel state, Yow is a true legend whose story MaryEllen Williams wanted to tell:

Living here in Raleigh, NC, everyone knew the name Kay Yow but what made me want to know more about her was the fact that she was said to be a very special person, someone who was at a higher spiritual level than most of us. As I looked into her more I realized she was known worldwide. I wanted to find out her roots and what made her stand out among the best.

Before she could write Kay’s story, which would ultimately be released as her nonfiction book Triumph, MaryEllen spent a considerable amount of time doing research. She watched videos online, read all the newspaper articles she could get her hands on, and contacted the person in charge of Kay’s estate to get consents and releases as well as to option the story to the beloved coach’s life. Once she identified the key figures in Kay’s life, MaryEllen sought them out. Kay’s friends, family, and former staff members answered MaryEllen’s questions and thus the narrative was born.

Once she completed her manuscript, MaryEllen decided to skip traditional publishing altogether and go independent for one reason alone: timing. When told it could take years to get an agent and a book contract, she turned to Lulu, which ended up being, “the best thing I ever did because they have bent over backwards in their support for this inspiring project,” MaryEllen said.

Now Triumph: Inspired by the true life story of legendary Coach Kay Yow can be purchased through Lulu.com as well as both Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s websites.

To promote Triumph, MaryEllen hired a publicity firm to do a six-week PR campaign. But MaryEllen isn’t only relying on them; she knows that an author must also be her own biggest advocate and so she’s been hitting the pavement in her hometown of Raleigh. Recently, Quail Ridge Book Store and the N.C. State Bookstores agreed to take copies of Truimph, which MaryEllen knows is a triumph in and of itself.

Next up for MaryEllen is a screenplay of Kay’s story, which she’s been dreaming about even before she started the book. It’s been an incredible journey she admits — and she’s learned quite a few things along the way.

My tips to any author are to work hard, ask anything and everything about your subject. Persevere and never give up.  Every hurdle you meet can be overcome.  Believe in yourself and your project.  You are, as I said, your biggest advocate.  Get excited. It’s contagious.

Author Interview: Troy M. Cusson

What are your books about & what message are you trying to share through your children’s books?
Dawn The Deer & Dawn The Deer Enjoys The Fall are glimpses into what a quiet, peaceful little doe experiences in her day in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate NY. Colors, creatures, sights, sounds and smells are all around her, and she stops to enjoy them all. If I could convey any message with my children’s books it would be to do as our friend Dawn does: to stop, if only for a moment, and enjoy your day. Take in all the wonderful things around you. The way the sky looks at the moment the sun hits the horizon during a sunset, the way wet leaves smell on a wooded trail in October, the crunch of fresh fallen snow under your feet in the winter. There is so much to enjoy in every new day.

What inspired you to write?
I guess you could say it was Dawn herself. Everyday my family and I would see her out and about in our neighborhood and on one particularly beautiful July morning, while enjoying a cup of coffee on my porch with my wife, I said,”Ya know, that deer is around so much we should probably name her.” My wife then said, “I’ve been calling her Dawn as I always see her around in the morning.” I said, “Dawn The Deer, that sounds like a perfect name for a children’s book!” After a few more minutes of watching her it hit me, . . . I could write a children’s book about all of the things that Dawn sees or does in any given summer day. From there, the story pretty much wrote itself as I just put to rhyme all that I saw her experiencing. The birds, the squirrels, the children playing nearby, the ravens, all of them were going about their day and Dawn was taking it all in.


What have been the challenges you’ve faced with writing / self-publishing?
My first challenge was finding the right artist to illustrate my stories. In an effort to keep it simple I tried modifying photos I had taken in PhotoShop but was not able to get them dialed in. I asked a friend who had done some cartoons in the past if he would be interested but he wasn’t able to get me what I wanted either. It was then I thought about approaching the art department at the college I work at to see if maybe there was a student who was proficient in watercolor artwork who needed a project to work on for classwork. The director of our art department put me in contact with Crystal Cochell,

Author Success Story: Robert Marckini

When Robert Marckini was diagnosed with prostate cancer 12 years ago, his life came to a stop. He was devastated, but also motivated — to find the best care. Robert quickly ruled out surgery after seeing what it did to his brother, who’d been diagnosed with the disease years earlier. So he started looking into other options, such as external beam radiation, internal radiation, cryosurgery, and active surveillance. He read everything he could find on the Internet and in libraries, interviewed a number of doctors representing each treatment modality, and spoke to dozens of patients. With all this information, Robert felt a duty to help others make their best choice. Thus his book You Can Beat Prostate Cancer was conceived.

As many independently published authors can attest, once the manuscript was done, they turned toward traditional publishing but found mostly rejections and closed doors. Robert had the same experience. As he explains:

“When I approached publishers, they told me I needed an agent. When I approached agents, they told me I needed to have been published before. The decision to self publish was easy.”

Now You Can Beat Prostate Cancer is available on Amazon, Lulu, Ebay, and B&N.com.

Although Robert doesn’t have a social media platform, he still managed to spread the word by mentioning the book’s publication in his monthly newsletter. Started in 2001, it runs between 18 to 22 pages and covers prostate cancer prevention, detection, treatment and proton therapy. Currently his newsletter goes to 6,200 members and 1,000 additional readers.

Robert also encouraged both practitioners and patients to review his book on various retailer’s websites. His nudging definitely paid off — he’s garnered over 100 reviews on his Amazon page (a “must read for all men” says one customer) and close to 30 (“If you should buy one book about prostate cancer – this is the one,” says a reader) on Lulu. That said, explains Robert, his strategy mostly relied upon the strength of the product.

“Most of the marketing happens by word of mouth from men and women who have read my book and found it helpful. Many have told me it changed their lives.”

He may not have ever thought he’d be an author but Robert Marckini sure is now — and for aspiring writers he has some advice:

“Don’t put off starting your book. Just sit down and start writing. It will come to you. Go over your drafts many, many times. Have trusted friends and pseudo-grammarians review your manuscript. Read Zinsser’s book, On Writing Well. It’s the best book I read on how to write a book.”

As for Robert, he’s already at work on a second edition that will include an index, information on the latest developments in prostate cancer detection and treatment, along with considerably more graphics.

Creativity Strikes! Interview with Children’s Writer Sandra Arthur

As the social media manager here at Lulu, I have the lucky task of monitoring our Facebook Page. I can’t tell you what a delight it is to communicate directly with so many of our authors and to get a chance to see the creative ways you all have to reach your readers. I’m constantly impressed. The other day I saw a post from an author named Sandra Arthur and wanted to share with you about an ingenious workshop she created to get kids excited about reading and to teach them about endangered orangutans and the rainforest of Borneo. She kindly agreed to an interview (shown below), so I hope you will enjoy getting to read a bit about one of your fellow Lulu authors.

Can you please share a few words about the Jungle Workshop you organized?

I ran a “Jungle Workshop” to provide a fun storytelling experience for children. I was lucky to get support from a local, independent bookshop/café/toy shop. I created a Rainforest Room with a tent and decorations.

Author Success Story: The Walk-On by Matt Stewart

Matt Stewart knows what it feels like to be the underdog. As a freshman at Northwestern he walked on to the school’s football field and earned a position as the fifth-string free safety. But that didn’t deter him: through hard work and dedication he rose to second-string his sophomore year and in the process earned a full-ride scholarship. Stewart’s rise to success mirrored the team’s. In 1995, after 20-plus years of losing seasons, Northwestern’s footballers won 10 games as well as the Big Ten, and even played in the Rose Bowl.

Life changing for Stewart and his teammates, the school’s breakthrough season was a story he felt he had to tell, and after years of research based on his coach’s own book, the games Stewart’s mother taped, and the programs he saved, he finally finished. The Walk-On was released in May.

“I wrote this book to inspire others, to let them know that no matter what the odds, no matter what the obstacles, anything is possible as long as you work hard, believe in your abilities and approach your goals with a good attitude.”

From the get-go Stewart knew that publishing the book was only one of his goals. Making sure it got into the hands of the right readers was another—and to date his approach has worked. The Walk-On is sold on Lulu, Amazon, BN.com, the iBookstore and a number of brick-and-mortar stores. He secured indie placement by visiting the stores in person and asking them to consign his book — a deal that gives the retailer 40% of the profits and the author guaranteed shelf placement for at least three months.

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.”