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.

How Free Books Build Your Brand as an Author and Authority

Scott Steinberg wants to help parents navigate the weird world of gaming and technology as they raise their kids. He wants to help them so bad, that he’s literally giving this advice away for free. If they want it for free, that is.

In an interview with Portfolio, Steinberg describes how his new book, The Modern Parent’s Guide to Kids and Video Games will not only be released in different formats, but at vastly different prices as well (ranging from $17.99 to zilch.) On his website, he offers a paperback version of the book (available through Lulu), and a digital version, available free for the Sony reader.

But how effective a business model is offering both a version that costs money and one that is absolutely free? Is that even a business model?

As Steinberg explained, “Free giveaways facilitate brand-building, cement subject matter expertise, and foster huge publicity wins. These opportunities not only allow you to do something positive that benefits readers, they can also potentially lead to new relationships, fruitful speaking engagements and heightened goodwill.”

By offering a free version, Steinberg sees the tradeoff between profit and publicity as being completely equal. It doesn’t mean completely giving up on the idea of turning a profit on your self-published book, but by giving digital copies (or excerpts) away, an author can help promote their name and foster goodwill (resulting in even greater exposure and sales).

In the traditional publishing model, authors have to promote their books. But in self-publishing, we’re finding more and more that authors are using their books to promote themselves — especially when it comes to how-to guides or areas of specialized knowledge. For Steinberg, who is established in the field of advising parents about technology, his book aims to help build his flourishing brand.

Sometimes, the best way to establish that you’re a qualified source of information, is to literally have written the book on it. If you’re pursuing a career in consultancy, self-help, or expert analysis, self-publishing is a great way to build your brand and establish you as a bona fide source of knowledge.

Put succinctly by Steinberg, “Many authors consider books the best form of business card available.”

For additional reading on the topic, check out our blog post Make More Off Your eBook by Selling it for Free.

Thoughts? What examples do you know of authors selling their eBooks for free? Did it incentivize you to download the book?

Fifty Shades of Grey on the Today Show

Success in publishing happens everyday, but what about for small to medium publishers?  Even they are empowered to expand their brands and imprints with the new tools and innovations self-publishing brings.  Why just this morning Fifty Shades of Grey was featured on the Today Show. Check out the full segment below:


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Download Day Winner Announced!

In a recent blog post, we predicted that Dec. 26th would be one of the highest traffic days for new readers buying eBooks.  We crunched the numbers and are happy to report that indeed, the day after Christmas – when millions of folks were playing with their shiny new e-readers and tablets – eBook downloads doubled, then spiked again Dec. 29th. Take a look:

With that, we’re pleased to announce the winner of Download Day and $100 off their new Lulu purchase :

 

Buddy World Books
by Paul Woodward
Paul used the free sample method for generating buzz for his works and climb to the top of the bestseller list.  You can learn how to use this method for your own works by checking out our recent post on Making More Off Your eBooks by Selling Them for Free.

 

Runner-up with their Lulu Short Story Contest submission:

 

The Littlest Ninja
by Criscelle Henderson and Micah Bonnell
These two authors submitted this work back in November for the Lulu Short Story Contest.  It just goes to show you how some promotion can help spike your visibility, no matter how recently you’ve published.  Way to go you two.


Winners of the Lulu Short Story Contest Announced!


Wow.

We just can’t get over how many truly remarkable stories we received for the first ever Lulu Short Story Contest.

Our panel of 25 judges carefully read through the 2000+ submissions, picked their favorite, then read it out loud to the rest of the judges. From there, judges voted on which stories they liked the best from the readings and tallied the results until there were three clear winners with the most votes.  Your stories made us laugh, made us tear up, and some of the judges even got into literary debates over their favorites that lasted for days on end (no, really).

It was amazing to see everyone take such a passionate interest in our authors’ work. I can’t express enough how hard it was to pick just three finalists. But, we had to…SO! Without further ado (and because the suspense is killing me)…here are the winners of the Lulu Short Story Contest:

1ST PLACE WINNER:

The Red Boots by Poornima Ram Kiram

$1,000 Cash
Barnes and Noble NOOK
A review in Shelf-Unbound Magazine
Free Lulu Publicity


2ND PLACE WINNER:

Grass by Charles D. Shell
$250 and a Barnes and Noble NOOK™:


3RD PLACE WINNER:

Revenge by Gail Kavanagh
$100 Gift Card to Barnes and Noble


Honorable Mention:

Persona Quietus by Jesse Lee
Lovely Stranger by Jennifer Porter-Kennard

If you didn’t win, don’t let it get you down.  So many of the stories were so excellent and hey, now you have an eBook version of your story and your name out in the world for millions of readers to see. All just because you believed in yourself. Neat huh?!?

You can take that shiny new eBook of yours and promote it this holiday too for what we’re calling Download Day.  We did some research and figured out that December 26th is the highest traffic shopping day for eBook sales – much like “Black Friday” in November. So, we’re throwing a good old-fashioned author sales contest for Download Day and the author who sells the most copies of their eBook on December 26th, 2011 – even if you sell your eBook for free – will win a Barnes and Noble NOOK and $100 off coupon good for anything on Lulu.

Learn more about Download Day, the highest traffic buying day for digital content on the Lulu blog here. And thank you again so very much for helping make the Lulu Short Story Contest such a success.  Due to popular demand, we’ll soon be posting a full list of all 2,000+ submissions to the contest for everyone to read and we plan to publish an anthology featuring all the semi-finalists and three winners for all to enjoy.  More details on that to come soon.

All the best this holiday from Lulu.

Be Bigger Than Your Book: Author Spotlight with Jeff Taylor

Author Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor is a marketing genius with a heart of gold.

Having worked as a channel marketer for several top-tier companies such as Nortel and iContact over the years – Taylor started noticing a lot of common trends across all industries.

“Customers today want more than a product,” says Taylor.  “They need an experience or a  personal tie to a product and companies need to bigger than what they’re selling to build meaningful, lasting customer relationships.”

Taylor highlights exactly what he means in his new book Bigger than the Widget, available on Lulu.com.  And he has even taken his own advice in marketing his work by attaching it to a recognized brand and a good cause:  The V Foundation for Cancer Research.  All proceeds from Taylor’s book will be donated to the organization.

“If you want to have any success, if you truly want your product or service to be bigger and do bigger things, you have to be aware of the present trends and work to create an emotional connection with your customers,” says Taylor. “My family has been touched by cancer and the V Foundation was the most logical choice to associate with my book.”

Available Now on Lulu.com

When coming up with the idea of his book, Taylor was surprised by how many people tried to tell him it wouldn’t work.  But Jeff knew what his true motivation was:  this book was for his grandfather and he couldn’t be stopped.  He even considered going the traditional route first but couldn’t ignore the speed and customization self-publishing offers authors.

“The world of publishing is changing very quickly,” says Taylor.  “Companies like Lulu are so clearly the gatekeepers of the this new era of publishing.  I was honestly shocked at how easy it was to get to the right people and get my work done – even when it came to approaching organizations for sponsorships.  People are willing to help, you just have to know how to position yourself and be committed to your ideas. Then, you can accomplish anything.”

For more great marketing tips from a true professional, be sure to pick up a copy Bigger than the Widget by Jeff Taylor on Lulu.com and help support important cancer research today.


Self-Publishing: A New “Direct Democracy” with Stephen Stark

Stephen Stark is a master composer.

Instead of musical notes or instruments, Stark uses words and their natural rhythm to write award winning works that read as smoothly as listening to a classical concerto.

Author Stephen Stark

You may recognize Stark’s name from his previous, traditionally published works The Outskirts and Second Son – a New York Times Book Review “Notable Book of the Year.” With such success already, it’s natural to think Stark would stick to what has worked, but part of being a great and lasting author – especially in today’s rapidly changing industry – is paying attention to new trends, exploring all your options, and being a little adventurous.  That’s why Stark is publishing his new work The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door exclusively as an eBook, to be released by Shelf Media Group through Lulu.com December 6th.

“eBooks are not the future of publishing,” says Stark.  “They are the present and they are an unsettling present for many.  I want to do an eBook because being able to go from a PDF to having a fully published eBook in minutes is just incredible.”

Stark and Shelf Media are experimenting with a new paradigm in indie publishing. The tools that Lulu offers to the self-published are, Stark says, “creating new opportunities for small presses like Shelf,” which also publishes the indie-book ezine, Shelf Unbound. According to Stark, the convenience and speed-to-market enabled by the tools Lulu provides for self-publishing make it possible for a small, savvy publisher like Shelf to “plant its flag in an industry niche that the small publisher has the flexibility and agility to exploit in a way that ‘legacy’ publishers can’t.”

Stark calls this new paradigm “direct publishing.” ”Indeed,” Stark says, “in theory, anyone could become a publisher – not that they should.” Including Stark, who is using Lulu’s tools and resources to back his own imprint, GeekVoodoo Books, and republish Second Son electronically.

“Things are happening right now [in publishing] that are pointing in a clear direction that is very different,” says Stark.  “The idea that there is a company like Lulu that tears down the barriers to entry – no matter what you’re trying to publish – fundamentally changes the industry dynamic.”

Suffice it to say, Stark has been watching the industry very closely and is confident in the new direction he is taking with his works.  He notes that the potential inherent in eBooks hasn’t been particularly well understood or appreciated by bigger publishers – a phenomenon that he and Shelf are looking forward to capitalizing on by filling the gap with the eBook version of Final Appearance.

Available Dec. 6th

“Suddenly all these people are publishing their content on their own because they don’t feel they’ll get the same money or value elsewhere and they are right,” says Stark. “We’ve reached a point where authors can make a much higher royalty by self-publishing and are free to experiment in ways a big publisher can’t.  Lulu enables this and self-publishing or direct-publishing is in some ways analogous to direct democracy in that it bypasses an entrenched bureaucracy that is easily as beholden to its ‘shareholders’ as it is to its constituents – readers.”

Stark wanted to be a photographer growing up, but began writing when he realized he was better “creating pictures” with words than a camera.  As a teenager, he spent a lot of time trying to imitate his favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and J.D. Salinger.  He admits that his imitations were “pretty awful.” And he never came close to his dream of publishing a novel before he turned 20. He sold his first novel at 29, and notes that he didn’t really learn how to write until he learned to seek out and absorb constructive criticism.

“I went through seven or eight years of rejection letters,” says Stark. “But I found the comments from editors helpful.  You learn not to trust the opinions that just tell you what you want to hear. A statement like:  ‘Oh, I love your book,’ isn’t useful. You have to be open to good criticism to become a better writer.”

If you’ve ever read one of Stark’s books, you’ll instantly be drawn to how organic and real his characters feel.  Stark likens his method for character development to having a bunch of imaginary friends or people he has just met.  Even more important is knowing what the ending will be for both his characters and the overall narrative ahead of time.

“I’m always getting ideas or running through ‘what if‘ scenarios,” Stark says.  “You have to play your story through in your mind and really think about the most natural outcome.  I often know the destination of my story or where a character will need to go organically, but I don’t always understand why or what the in-between looks like.  Sometimes the characters will take on a life of their own and make for an even better story.”

Stark’s new book, The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door, will be available as an eBook on Lulu.com, the iBookstore, Nook BookstoreAmazon Kindle December 6th.  Stark’s latest is a smart, sexy, and thrilling tale of America’s “it girl” Ellen Gregory and her escape from the bright lights of Hollywood and a harrowing encounter with a stalker. Final Appearance is a fast-moving page-turner that you shouldn’t miss.

Stark is already working on his next work, The Bob Delusion, and has ambitions for the future that, while lofty, are certainly grounded on solid industry trends.

“I want Final Appearance to be the first book that’s only available electronically to be reviewed in the New York Times,” Stark says.

Based on his works so far, he shouldn’t have too much trouble. Check out The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door tomorrow, December 6th, on your favorite e-reader of choice.

 

Veterans Day Author Spotlight. An inside look at the life of a military family.

If my story can help overwhelmed military spouses gain a new perspective, I want to make it available to them.– Krista Graham, Author of Deployment Diaries.

In honor of both Veterans Day and Remembrance Day, we at Lulu want to take a moment, not only to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of our Veterans, but also to acknowledge military families – those who have loved ones currently serving. For some, today can be a very emotional day, particularly if a parent or spouse is deployed overseas.

Krista Graham is an Army Wife and a Marine Mom who recently published an account of her husband’s year of service in Kuwait. Krista was kind enough to share her perspective on Veterans Day, writing and being an Army Wife tasked with “holding down the fort” during her husband’s deployment.

How many family members do you currently have serving in the military?

My husband is a Warrant Officer in the Army National Guard and one of my sons is serving in the Marine Corps. He is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in 2012.

Tell us about your motivation for writing a book.

I didn’t set out to write a book.

Author Success Story: “If I Write It, They Will Come.”

Newly published author Rick Burton has built a career around sports.  Right out of college, he took a job with the Syracuse Post Standard as their sports writer.  He’s worked at the Miller Brewing Company managing public relations for sporting events.  While at ad agency DMB&B, Burton worked with clients such as the NFL and Reebok, and is currently the Professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University.  So Burton is about the last person you’d expect to write a World War II based thriller centered around the exploits of the B-17 100th Bomber Group, much less a great one.

Author Richard H. Burton

“Imagine this unknown sports guy pitching a WWII novel.” Burton says.  “Not only was I 20 years behind the curve of writers like Jack Higgins and Alistair Maclean, but I was entering the publishing industry at a time when the decision to publish an author virtually has to go to the CEO of a publishing company.”

Burton got the idea for his book, The Darkest Mission, while working at Miller Brewing Company after a life-changing chance encounter.  An actual bomber group, wanted Miller Brewing Company’s help staging a 40th anniversary reunion for those serving aboard the bomber appropriately named “High Life.” After meeting the crew, and hearing stories of the supposed “curse” placed on the group, Burton was hooked.

“I started doing a lot of research about World War II bombers and started the process of getting an agent and a publisher,” says Burton. “It became a nice distraction from my day job.  Regular guys golfed – I worked on my book.”

Burton soon realized how quickly the book industry is changing and that if he wanted to go the traditional route, he’d have his work cut out for him.

“If I was writing about vampires, I’d have done fine,” jokes Burton. “Agents and publishers kept telling me:  ‘This is fantastic, but not for us,’ or ‘this is really good, I wish you’d brought it to us 10 years ago.’”

Not to be discouraged, Burton thought back to sports for inspiration, thinking about Michael Jordan and how he got cut from his high school basketball team, only to go on to become one of the greatest players in history.  Burton knew he couldn’t just give up.

“I understand the need for rejection,” Burton says.  “You take the criticism, you make revisions, you get better.  But there comes a point when being rejected doesn’t move you forward anymore.”

So Burton turned to Lulu’s open publishing platform for help and after a year of putting the finishing touches on his work, The Darkest Mission is available to the pubic and is selling quite well – there’s even a production company looking to turn Burton’s work into a movie.  Burton stresses that a large part of his success has come from setting realistic expectations and goals.

“At first I felt kind of like I was selling insurance to family and friends,” Burton laughs.  “But I thought conservatively and set thresholds for myself.  Can I sell 100 copies to people other than family and friends?  200? 500? By meeting these goals a step at at time, you can really feel validated.”

Burton also believes it is important for authors to step away from the “lottery mentality” of publishing, where an author writes a book and just instantly finds a publisher and becomes an overnight sensation.

“The myth surrounding publishers has historically been:  If I write it, they will come,” says Burton. “Great writing will always get picked up, regardless of genre eventually. Luckily places like Lulu exist to make the process easier, and I can move onto book two.”

Be sure to check out Burton’s new book, The Darkest Mission, available on Lulu.com today.

 

Author Tips: Avoiding Digital Distractions

As an author trying to complete a third book, I have to admit that one of the hardest things this time around has been avoiding digital distractions like: Facebook, Twitter, IM, Email, Angry Birds, DVR’d Shows, Skype, etc, etc, etc.

Chances are you may have seen the following cartoon image of a man sitting in front of a typewriter trying to finish a research paper. A short distance away from him is THE INTERNET with its bright lights, a girl in a bikini, dinosaur, two fighter jets and a birthday cake.  The image highlights an experience many of us have felt at one time or the other when trying to write – namely, the Internet’s ability to be highly distracting and totally awesome!

There is currently a great deal of debate on the impact the Internet has on our ability to focus, with authors like Nicholas Carr and Cathy N. Davidson offering different perspectives on the issue.  Whether the Internet is truly making it harder for us to concentrate on a single task is arguable.  I can say, however, that I’ve wasted plenty of hours on the Internet while trying to “write.”

So what is an author to do when the multitude of distractions constantly “lurks behind your screen, one alt-tab away from your word-processor?”  Blogger, journalist, and Lulu author Cory Doctorow addresses this question in a column for LOCUS online entitled “Writing in the Age of Distraction.”  As a prolific writer whose job dictates almost constant access to the web, Doctorow outlines techniques he’s used for years to help manage one’s need to access the Internet while having to write.  I highly recommend Doctorow’s column to anyone who has felt distracted while trying to write.

Doctorow’s full column can be viewed here.

What’s your passion? Pt. 2

Sketchnotes 2009 & 2010
By Eva-Lotta Lamm

This book contains 2 years worth of illustrated notes (also called sketchnotes) that Eva-Lotta took at dozens of UX / Design events and conferences, featuring talks from over 100 speakers and panelists. Some of the events covered in the book are UXweek 2009, d.construct 2010, Flash on the Beach 2010, etc.

1) What came first, the idea for the book or the sketches?

The sketches came first. For the last few years, I’ve been attending quite a few design talks and conferences and as I have a really bad memory, I need to take notes to not forget everything within days. I’ve always been drawing, sketching and playing around with my handwriting, so it came naturally to include little sketches and some nicely drawn type in my notes. Over time (and with the discovery of others doing these kinds of notes as well and giving them a name: ‘sketchnotes’) my style slowly became more and more visual. Since 2008, I’ve shared my notes online on flickr, but at some point I wanted to make the notes available to people in their original format as well: on paper. So the idea for the book was born. As the sketches are quite detailed, the format of a book is ideal: you can sit down and take the time to discover and let the eye and mind explore.

2) I love the concept, but I have to ask … with the explosive growth of online video and conferences like TED where talks are recorded and posted online, what advantage does one gain by consuming content via a format like sketchnotes?

First and foremost the sketchnotes are a personal tool for me to remember the parts of the talk I was interested in. They are my interpretation of what was said rather than a complete summary. I don’t see them in competition with the video recordings or as an alternative to actually attending a talk. They are an addition, an interpretation, a sort of digest and maybe an intriguing way of getting someone interested in actually watching the video or going to see a talk of the speaker. I leave it up to my ‘readers’ to decide if and why they are interested in looking at my notes.