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.

Beating the “Bookstore Blues”: 5 Tips for Getting Your Book into Bookstores

MJ Maccalupo, Lulu AuthorYou’ve written your first book, or maybe it’s your 20th one; no matter. You want people to read it – that is, other than friends and family – and you want it in bookstores, but you don’t know how to get it there. You have what I call the “Bookstore Blues.” So how do you go about getting your book into bookstores?

I can’t tell you the best way for you to do it; that depends a great deal on you and the bookstore owner/manager. What I can tell you is how I go about it. I have found in my years as an outside salesman that there are a few key things that will boost your odds of success when you approach a bookstore owner/manager.

Prepare for your call

Go into the bookstore with your “elevator pitch” ready, rehearsed and sounding natural – not rote. Know who you need to speak with and be sure they have the time to talk with you. That may mean a phone call and appointment scheduled ahead of your visit; or, if cold-calling, a short pitch with a follow-up visit.

And by the way, even if you do have an appointment, remember that indie bookstores need to serve their customers, not you. So be prepared to have your pitch interrupted. Just back off and wait. Also, being able to chit-chat about the store’s uniqueness and the neighborhood it serves to show them that you are interested in their business. It only takes a little research to find out about them, and it will be greatly appreciated by them.

Researching the store can also save you a lot of travel and time as well. You don’t want to drive 50 miles only to find it’s a used bookstore or a genre-specific one. Some others may call themselves bookstores, but have most of their floor space dedicated to everything but books.

Benefit sell

Give them a reason to put your book on their shelf. What is so exciting about your book to make them want to share it with their customers? In other words, how will it benefit them and their loyal customers to have your book in their store?

Anticipate resistance

They were not just waiting for you to show up and save the day. Remember, you’re not the first one to knock on their door attempting to get a book on the shelf. Be ready to show what is unique about your book. Also be ready to leave a copy, flyer or some other material with the promise of a follow-up call in a few days or a week, once they’ve had a chance to look over your work.

Show you’re really in the game

Treat them as if this is the beginning, not the end, of your relationship. Suggest activities that you can do to help boost sales, such as signings or readings by yourself or with other local authors. How are you going to help move your book off the shelf?

Be ready to negotiate

Especially if your book is non-returnable, be prepared to have it put on the shelf on consignment. You can negotiate the split with the store. Usually, it’s somewhere between 60/40 and 75/25. (Don’t forget, you are absorbing the cost of printing). And while the latter sounds much better, it is a business and they might be more inclined to sell a book when they get a higher percentage of the selling price. Unless, of course, you have a best-seller on your hands – then go for it!

With these five things in mind, take a deep breath and remember that while you may not be a salesman (or saleswoman), most bookstore owners/managers will give you a chance if you present yourself as professional, knowledgeable, polite and concise when you approach them to get your book in their store.

And finally – have fun!

 

Author Bio

MJ Maccalupo, Ed.D.

Michael is the author of three novels: Where the Road Begins, Murder at Ravenswood Hall and The Allentown Murders (the Hap Pozner series), and a collection, The Almost Definitive Collection vol. 1 (short stories, essays, poems and a play). His books are available online and in bookstores in Southeastern NC, Western PA and Western NY. He has appeared on radio and television (cable and network) with his books. His books have also been reviewed in magazines and newspapers. Currently he is working on several novels to be released late this summer and fall. He lives with his family in Wilmington, NC. Visit his website at: http://mjmaccalupo.com

3 Marketing Must-Do’s to Sell Your Book

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From L to R: Glenn Hunt, Lulu’s community manager; Kelli and Daniel Segars, the powerhouse couple behind FitnessBlender.com; and Dan Dillon, Lulu’s director of product marketing at the 2013 Self-Publishing Book Expo

It’s actually not so lonely at the top. Not if you’re a rock star author who has published through Lulu. At the recent Self-Publishing Book Expo, author, activist and cultural icon Kevin Powell was joined by Daniel and Kelli Segars, the power couple behind the Fitness Blender craze, on a panel featuring rock star authors. They shared copious insights and advice about how to reach as large an audience as possible and how to successfully market a self-published book. Here are the three must-do pieces of advice they shared:

1. Content is king
It’s easy to market a great product. It’s not so easy to market a bad one. The quality of your book — from the story to the format to the cover — is critical to its reception in the market. Make sure your book is ready for the audience you’re aiming to win over. If you’ve done all of the work that you can to make your book as remarkable as it can possibly be, your readers will market it for you. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising, and you can’t buy it with money. You earn it with an awesome book.

2. Whet people’s appetites
There’s a trend in the book market where authors are releasing small pieces of a larger story to build an audience. Think of this as the contemporary version of serialization. The best ways to make sure your readers are satisfying their appetite for your work is by creating blog posts or podcasts to issue a chapter at a time, or do a reading of your book and provide commentary about how an aspect of the book was conceived — a key character, a plot device, the setting or some other interesting dimension of your work.

3. Dedicate time
Just as you set aside time to write your book, you need to set aside time to market your book. It’s a discipline, one that requires focus and resolve. In the free guide to marketing your book to maximize holiday sales, more than 60% of Lulu’s most successful authors spent fewer than 5 hours per week marketing their book. But the key here is that they spent time doing it. Set aside one hour each day to actively market your work and you’ll gain traction. For ideas on where to start and how to make the most of your one hour per week, download the free ebook, “How to Marketing Your Book for Holiday Sales”.

Follow this advice from our rock star authors, and perhaps you’ll be on Lulu’s successful author panel at next year’s Self-Publishing Book Expo.

How Authors are Using the Helix Review

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

Meet the first authors to use the Helix Review

Starting on Monday, August 5th – we’ll begin profiling the very first, the bold and brave, the curious and pioneering partakers of Helix, in an ongoing series of interviews through the end of October. Our feature schedule is below, and as we release new interviews we’ll update this post with links directly to them.

The Helix Review Featured Authors Schedule

Week Author Book Used for Helix Genre
Aug 5 Kay Gossage The Sword Of Ages: The Tallah Trilogy Fantasy
Aug 5 Jerry W Martin Moving Sideways Mystery Drama
Aug 12 Harley White The Autobiography of a Granada Cat: As told to Harley White Biographies & Memoirs, Unusual Habitats, Cats
Aug 12 Gregory L Truman Hitting the Wall Business and Economics
Aug 19 Ian Thomas Phillips 69 Poems poetry
Aug 26 Kareem Kamal El Gazzar 4 Steps to Your Authentic Career Business/Economics – Self help
Aug 26 Cristina Archer The Recidivist speculative fantasy fiction
Sep 2 Oluwagbemiga Olowosoyo God’s General Fiction
Sep 2 Protasio Chipulu Living with Cerebral Palsy:  A Parents’ Guide to Managing Cerebral Palsy Family and Relationships
Sep 9 Abdul Karim Musaliar The Transgressions of Achan Kunju Crime
Sep 9 John Locke Stuff I’ve Written So Far Political Science
Sep 16 Teresa Meola Vincent Running Blind Literary Fiction, Addiction, Psychological Theme
Sep 23 Laird David Elsworth Mason My McCurdy Family and Collateral Lines Including Native American and Some Royal Family Family History and Genealogy
Sep 30 Shontaine Married to Madness Urban Drama, Multicultural, Romance
Sep 30 Brett Russell Andrews Teaching Abroad: The People’s Republic of China Memoirs
Oct 7 Gary Briley Stalemate Mystery, suspense
Oct 7 Martin Wolt, Jr. Daughters of Darkwana Fantasy
Oct 14 Jack Gunthridge Broken Hearts Damaged Goods Romance
Oct 14 Geoffrey Lloyd Vough MULTNOMAH Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Oct 21 B.D. Salerno Forensics by the Stars:  Astrology Investigates Metaphysical / Astrology / Spiritual
Oct 21 William J. Smith Straight from Heaven;Delivered from Hell Science Fiction
Oct 29 Lisa Van Allen, PhD Your Belief Quotient: 7 Beliefs that Sabotage or Support Your Success Self help

Closing Thoughts

Thanks in advance to everyone above who contributed their feedback as part of our Helix Review featured author series. If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Capturing Love: The Art of Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography

When Thea Dodds, the award-winning photojournalist and founder of AuthenticEye.com called Kathryn Hamm, president of Gayweddings.com, to talk about an idea she had for a book on lesbian and gay wedding photography, little did the two women know that thousands of photos and seven months later they’d be publishing their debut book — Capturing Love: The Art of Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography.

Created for same-sex couples looking to secure the right person for their own weddings and industry photographers looking to better their portraiture of the community, Capturing Love has been — from the start — a true collaboration.

After their initial meeting, the two authors spoke weekly on the phone to create a business plan and discuss their joint vision. Explains Thea:

“Before we even began digging through images, we talked conceptually about how to organize the content, what it’s look and feel needed to be, and what we thought was working in traditional photography and what wasn’t.”

(Photo by Jen Lynne)

 

From there they posted a call for photos on photography forums and went through past submissions to Gayweddings.com to find images. It was a huge undertaking, but in the end they secured photos from 46 couples in 19 states as well as Canada, the UK and Italy.

Once the project was complete Thea and Kathryn spoke with contacts who provided insight on the benefits of traditional versus independent publishing. Both women anticipated that 2013 would be a big year for same sex marriage in the wake of gay marriage victories in Washington, Maryland and Maine, so they agreed to go independent to get the book to market sooner. Now, Capturing Love is available on Lulu.com and will soon launch in the iBookstore as well as on Amazon.com and BN.com.

Given their public call for photos, Kathryn and Thea couldn’t keep project under wraps. They turned that buzz into an opportunity to build a fan base by launching a website and Facebook page almost immediately. They also decided to work with a communications firm that specialized in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender) community because, as Kathryn acknowledges, “for the book to have its best chance to be recognized and make the impact we hope it will, we would need extra support to get that message across.” Last, but not least, the co-authors sent a PDF of Capturing Love around to several “thought leaders” pre-publication, with the hope that having “known” third-party reviews published on the back of the book would be helpful to us.”

And their efforts have paid off. In the past few months they’ve been reviewed in Professional Photographer Magazine and featured on WeddingWire EDU Pro Blog and in Huffington Post‘s “Gay Voices” column.

Kathryn and Thea have come out of the publishing process with sage advice for aspiring authors:

“If you are writing a book that you’d like to see on a wider stage, spend some time researching the various components that go into publishing. There’s a lot of work to do—from being a good writer and seeking feedback to understanding marketing, social media, distribution and retail. It’s no small task, but if writing or producing a book is on your bucket list and you have a solid business plan, go for it!”

For now, Kathryn and Thea are spreading the word about Capturing Love by speaking at conferences where they also help educate photographers and others interested in same-sex wedding photography. Neither will rule out another book in the future because as Kathryn explains, “it’s been fun!”

Meet Molly: A Successful Author at Age 14

Although just 14, North Haven (Conn.) Middle School student Molly D’Andrea has always known her dream: to be a writer. She worked on projects here and there, but then inspiration struck — and she ran with it.

Most authors write from personal experience, but that wasn’t the case for me. I think my main inspiration was having the base idea of the main character, and him being broken/hurt or alone/lost in someway. And things just started turning from that point.

Still, like many writers her age and decades older, she felt unsure of the words she put to the page and kept her work private. Then, at the behest of friends, she showed them a few pages of what would eventually become her debut novel, Shattered Ones. They encouraged her to keep going. For Molly, that wasn’t enough. She decided to take it a step further by publishing her novel through Lulu. At this point she “likes how the online business is working so far.”

Molly stayed away from doing any pre-publication marketing and PR because she wanted her book to be complete before anyone — including her parents — touched it. Since Shattered Ones was released in September, Molly has appeared on Fox Connecticut News, Connecticut Style and the North Haven TV Channel, and has been featured in The Citizen and the Post Chronicle. She garnered this PR simply: Her mother found and emailed appropriate contacts at local and regional newspapers, radio, and TV stations. It has, overall, been a quiet campaign — but one that has worked.

Up next for Molly is a Shattered Ones prequel, the idea for which came from a friend. She is still pondering the “rise and fall of a plot,” as well as the climax, so she’s not yet started it, but expects to.

In the meantime, Molly has advice for any aspiring writer, young or old:

Keep your head up, and remember that tunnels end in light. Because you can feel trapped and lost and like you’re in the darkness, but if you keep working at it, you’ll reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

How old were you when the writing bug bit?

Additional Recommended Reading: It’s Never Too Soon To Become An Author

Making a Difference

Each month during our company meetings we take time to highlight customer success stories: authors who, after multiple years, have completed their dream or have realized an unforeseen sales increase. For December I wanted to depart a bit from that topic and instead look at a more timely and relevant theme. As we enter into the holiday season, let’s each consider how we make a difference on a daily basis. In the meeting I asked, “When’s the last time you made a difference?” Some of the replies we got were one employee who purchased a cup of coffee for someone that morning who didn’t have the money for it and another employee who showed his 3-year-old son how to hold his new born. Some of you may have recently donated blood, given your time coaching a youth recreation team, or helped your child last night with homework. In each instance, you made a difference.

Now, let’s focus on our creators who make a difference. The following Lulu creators are making a difference…for the Environment, for Animal Rescue, for Quality of Life, for Children’s Health, for Wildlife, and for Families.

Society for Wilderness Stewardship:

Help celebrate the importance of the National Wilderness Preservation System with your purchase.

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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.

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