How To

Expand Your Distribution and Reach More Readers

At Lulu.com, we want to give every author the tools they need to have a chance at success. After all, there’s a lot to do with your self-published book between editing it, formatting it and designing the perfect cover. That doesn’t even include writing it! But there’s one aspect you might not have given a lot of thought to yet: how exactly are you going to sell your book?

Selling on Lulu.com is a great start, but to reach the largest pool of potential readers you need to be in the most stores possible – that means Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and more. Luckily, Lulu.com’s globalREACH distribution service lists your book on websites around the world in a few quick steps.

So why should your book have globalREACH? Well, there’s no reason not to get it! Worried that it’ll take too much time and effort on your part to get everything set-up? Think again – it couldn’t be any easier.

NaNoWriMo 2014 Kicks Off: Tips for Success

It’s late. Your heart-rate is elevated. The coffee is still percolating. Your hair, unwashed, is now reaching skyward as you tug on it almost every minute. You look over at your wall calendar, but you don’t need to be told what month it is: it is November. It is National Novel Writing Month. 

Started in 1999 by Chris Baty and “20 other overcaffeinated yahoos,” the write-50,000-words-of-a-novel-in-a-month challenge started with 21 participants and 6 winners. In 15 years it’s grown exponentially. Last year, over 310,000 writers attempted the feat.

The word count threshold, 50,000 words, means that a writer must commit to writing just a little under 2,000 words a day, or, to us writers, A LOT OF STINKIN’ WORDS. While some established authors take months or years to craft a narrative, writers participating in National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), have just one month to commit to a draft. Several best-sellers have emerged from NaNoWriMo including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

We could not be more excited to be sponsoring NaNoWriMo again this year and hope everyone will take advantage of our 2014 Wrimo offerings. We also totally understand that finding the time and creative energy for this 30-day challenge is a huge feat, so here are a few ways to make the words flow!

Top 3 Ways to Ensure Self-Publishing Success

Yes you canContributed 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 Lulu.com. 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.

Rise of the Self-Publishing Author – Infographic

Download the Infographic here.

The Great American Novel. It’s a classic concept, one that endures because of the human instinct to share our stories.  Stories are a part of history, of art, of culture and, in some cases, one can actually achieve greatness through the sharing of those stories. So, if you have a story to tell or knowledge that can benefit others, the sharing of it shouldn’t be the hard part.

But it so often is. Aspiring writers have a less than 2 percent chance of being picked up by an agent or publishing house, and those that do often see sadly little return in terms of visibility, distribution or actual income. There’s struggling for one’s art, but constantly hitting walls when it comes to making it a reality is another thing entirely.

Fortunately, technology has made it so aspiring authors don’t have to be discouraged by rejection letters and cost prohibitive distribution. Though the Great American Novel trope includes the fantasy of wowing a publisher, getting a huge advance, shooting to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, getting a movie deal and retiring in Tuscany, the fact is, to be a successful writer, you don’t have to run the gamut of submissions and rejections, expensive production and distribution costs and constant second-guessing of your ability to succeed.

The proliferation of e-readers like Kindle, Nook and Kobo has driven the massive growth of the e-book market and, for authors looking to get published, opens up a wealth of opportunity for distribution and income without the obstacles that come with traditional publishing. Self-publishing and digital distribution enables authors to make their work widely discoverable and accessible with much less upfront investment and much higher potential to make money without a publisher taking the lion’s share of royalties.

The stats speak for themselves. Check out Lulu.com’s new infographic on the Rise of the Self-Publishing Author.

ebook-infographic

Avoiding Cannibalism and Bibliocide: More About eBook Metadata

Here at Lulu, we receive millions of letters every single day asking questions about metadata. While we can’t answer each one personally, we do read them all. On occasion, we come across a cry for help that we simply can’t ignore—a yearning that sums up the heartbreak and confusion of writers from all walks of life. We have no choice but to respond.

Today is such an occasion. So we’re sharing this question and answering it as best we can. Toby Maguire (no, not the Toby Maguire) of Hamburger, TN, asks:

Dear Lulu,

While it was approved for retail distribution, no one seems to be buying my eBook. It’s called “Murder a Book About Killing. Do you think my metadata is at fault? Please help!

-TM (not the TM)

Well, Toby, we think we know what the problem is. Your eBook is suffering from a fairly common affliction known as Title/Subtitle Confusion Disorder (T/SCD). Luckily, there’s a very simple solution: punctuation!

You see, “Murder a Book About Killing” sounds like you’re ordering the reader to actually murder a book, in particular a book on the topic of death-dealing. It’s confusing. Also, no one likes to be ordered around.

We think your intended eBook title/subtitle pairing is “Murder: A Book About Killing.” That colon makes a huge difference. It now reads more like a title (Murder) with a descriptive (though somewhat obvious) subtitle (A Book About Killing). In the same way that “Let’s eat grandma!” and “Let’s eat, grandma!” mean very different things, improper punctuation or formatting of your title and subtitle can alter the impact and the meaning of your title.

T/SCD is also prevalent among series of eBooks. The Lord of the Things Part One The Fellowship of the Thing (it’s not fanfic, it’s a pastiche) needs punctuation. This is the eBook metadata equivalent of a run-on sentence. It needs a break between elements. For example:

The Fellowship of the Thing, Part One: The Fellowship of the Thing

Much better, right? And such a simple way to improve your metadata. It only takes a moment. When you’re entering your project title in the Content Creation Wizard, simply insert a colon followed by a space (: ) or a hyphen preceded by and followed by a space ( – ) where you want the title/subtitle split to occur. Either method will break your metadata into more digestible chunks for readers and catalogers alike.

Toby, make your eBook metadata accurate, make it easy to understand, and make it more catchy than confusing. Do this and you’re that much closer to reaching your audience. (And you’ll have fewer people killing innocent books.)

 

Metadata vs. Zombies: A Love Story and Weight Loss Guide

Readers are smart. They aren’t mindless drooling zombies driven by keyword searches. And yet eBook metadata sometimes assumes a startling lack of reader judgment.

“Meta what?” you ask. Metadata is data about data. In eBook terms it consists of your title, subtitle, author name, category, etc. For those of you who remember the 1900s, metadata would be the cards in a card catalog. When eBook buyers search for something to read, it’s your metadata that they find.

Let’s take a look at an example of very bad metadata. Imagine putting this in your title field:

“My Journey to Self Fulfillment and Profit Relationship Singles Conspiracy Diet Recipe free Coupons Weight Loss (A Book About Moving to The Beach and Learning to love titled “Love on the Coast” – You Can Get Healthy. Vampires.)”

Let’s ignore the obvious issue of length for now and talk about the content of this title. What exactly is it describing? No idea. Were I a mindless keyword zombie, I might zero in on “Weight Loss” and decide to lose a few pounds. But, brains intact, I’m not about to slap down my hard earned cash for the eBook equivalent of spam. Readers are more than their searches.

That last bit bears repeating. Readers are more than their searches.

Loading your title metadata with keywords that you think will turn up often in searches won’t bring you appropriate readers. Instead, eBook buyers will quickly scroll past your less than legitimate looking title.

What’s more, cramming as much as you can into a title results in other issues. For example, metadata that doesn’t jive with the info on your marketing image, or improper capitalization—to name two very common issues that kick plenty of otherwise good reads out of retail distribution.

Of course the example above is exaggerated to make a point, but it never hurts to take a long hard look at your metadata. Does it accurately describe your content? And will it, in addition to showing up in the proper searches, inspire downloads?

Lulu wants to distribute your work. It’s why we exist! Your providing accurate metadata helps us do that… and helps you reach readers who will connect with your work.

Crafting an Elevator Pitch for Your Book

Entrepreneurs are often challenged to come up with an “elevator pitch” for their business – it’s a short, interesting way to explain what value their business offers to the world. For you as author, the elevator pitch for your book may sound a lot different from that of a start-up, but it can help you successfully position your book just the same.

Popular books and their elevator pitch

Below we’ve presented some elevator pitches for popular books, as if the author was trying to pitch them to readers today. We’ve hidden the books from these pitches, to see the answers, go here. [Hint: All of these classic books have been turned into blockbuster films]

Western meets suspense meets a Tarantino-esque hit man. A cowboy stumbles on a drug deal gone bad, takes the money, only to find that he’s being hunted by a relentless killer. 

Hearts will race for lovers of fan fiction. For the tween girl that would risk her soul for the everlasting love of the vampire version of James Dean. 

If you love puzzles, religious symbolism and a great crime mystery, you’ll hang on every action-packed moment as our hero decodes his way across Europe to uncover an ancient secret, zealously guarded by a clandestine society that will stop at nothing to protect it.

What if dinosaurs could be cloned? For the child in all of us that still marvels at T-Rex in the natural history museum, this sci-fi adventure novel set in the modern age, tells the story of an adventure theme park whose proprietors have done just that. 

Crafting your elevator pitch

The formula for an elevator pitch is simple:

1. Explain in your pitch who will like your book

2. Share one simple hook that will draw the reader in

3. Provide a proof point that your book is good. In our case, it was sharing that all of them are blockbuster films. You can use things like reviews from readers or the press, or your own expertise and credibility in the topical area.

Practice!

Share your elevator pitch in the comments and see how it feels to lay it all out.