How To

Okay, I Can Write…How Do I Get Published?

Introductory note: We don’t love to boast, but when one of our authors is wonderful enough to do it for us, well, we have to share it. Today’s guest post is from Jeffrey Strickland – follow him on LinkedIn for the fantastic articles and advice he shares!

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou

Who Are the Potential Authors?

In the past year, I have encountered many talented writers on LinkedIn, including Michael Spencer, Shashi Dhungel, Ivette Caballero, Brigette Hyacinth, Terry A Maiers, Steve Ater, Steve Cartwright and many others. All of these are potential authors and some have projects already in the works. So, what about you?

Who is Lulu?

I have published a book or two, and I do this as a self-published author. I am proud to be a Lulu author. is known for its remarkable books that Lulu authors create. Their support and author loyalty is unmatched. In recognition of their quality published products, Lulu was named the 2015 Best Online Book Publishing Company by TopTenLists.

“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” ― Barbara Kingsolver

What is a Lulu Author?

As a Lulu author, I have complete control over the content, layout, cover design, book size and binding. More importantly, I control the price, at least that portion beyond the cost to produce a bound and printed book. Many of my books would cost in excess of $100 and some as much as $200 from a traditional publishing company. Distraught by the outrageous profiteering by the big publishing houses and their disregard for the size of the wallet of a college student parent, I made a vow to keep my book prices under $50. Of course, there are trade-offs to achieve this.

Lulu for Any Budget

I do not have an editor, I do not have a marketing vehicle, I do not have a graphic designer. I only have my computer. I produce my own typeset, graphics and cover design. I do the layout, indexing and final document. I do it with an ounce of budget and a passion to write, coupled with a desire to transmit information at an affordable price. All this was doable, when I found I have sold hundreds of books and the only complaints I have had are related to my inability to use the English language properly and failure to dot my t’s and cross my i’s. When Lulu ships you a book, the print is on quality paper, covered with quality and bound the same.

Lulu Makes It Easy

Lulu makes it easy to publish with various templates and cover design tools, as well as PDF settings for a final product. If you happen to be someone who has received one of my PDF versions, you are getting the product that is printed. Moreover, you can find all my books on my Lulu Author Spotlight page and pay less than you would for the same book on Amazon (I set the discounts). But if you are a loyal Amazon consumer, you can find most of my books on my author page there.

I Ain’t Mark Twain

My wife tells me not to say “ain’t,” but that’s another story. I have said before that I had wanted to author a book for at least 10 years before I had the courage to do so. What if my grammar is not great (and it isn’t)? What if my content knowledge is not the very best (and it isn’t)? What if people do not like my writing (and I have found a couple that don’t)? But, I imagine that Mark Twain had doubts about Tom Sawyer, and J.R.R. Tolkien probably had second thoughts about a story of elves, dwarves, wizards, dragons and a hobbit.

“If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.” ― Somerset Maugham

You Just Need an Idea

Many of you have ideas in you – gray matter that is waiting to be unleashed on a wider audience than your bathroom mirror. You can write for yourself, your family and friends, or for the world. And Lulu can help you do it. If you are like me, once you start you will not want to stop. You can produce your work in hardcover, paperback or e-book with a variety of binding and cover options. You can also produce in color (I do not, because it costs more).

Lulu Fits Your Wallet

If your budget is bigger than mine, Lulu also offers editing and review services, as well as marketing packages, all at reasonable prices. I still have two kids that I have to put through college, so I save a dollar or two by not using these services. Maybe I will write all of their college textbooks, except for the one on grammar…

I Cannot Write!

Well, neither could I until I did…and I am not really that good now. So, you can write, even if it is just for you.

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” – Ernest Hemingway

Who Wrote This?
Jeffrey Strickland, Ph.D. is the author of “Predictive Analytics Using R” and a senior analytics scientist with Clarity Solution Group. He has performed predictive modeling, simulation and analysis for the Department of Defense, NASA, the Missile Defense Agency and the Financial and Insurance industries for over 20 years. Jeff is a Certified Modeling and Simulation Professional (CMSP) and an Associate Systems Engineering Professional. He has published over 200 blogs on LinkedIn, is a frequently invited guest speaker and the author of 20 books including:

  • Operations Research using Open-Source Tools
  • Discrete Event simulation using ExtendSim
  • Crime Analysis and Mapping
  • Missile Flight Simulation
  • Mathematical Modeling of Warfare and Combat Phenomenon
  • Predictive Modeling and Analytics
  • Using Math to Defeat the Enemy
  • Verification and Validation for Modeling and Simulation
  • Simulation Conceptual Modeling
  • System Engineering Process and Practices
  • Weird Scientist: the Creators of Quantum Physics
  • Albert Einstein: No one expected me to lay a golden eggs
  • The Men of Manhattan: the Creators of the Nuclear Era
  • Fundamentals of Combat Modeling
  • Quantum Phaith
  • Dear Mister President
  • LinkedIn Memoirs
  • Knights of the Cross: the True Story of the Knights Templar

How Authors Can Build Their Marketing Presence Online

Want to be a successful author in the 21st century? You have to be online. It goes beyond a suggestion into the territory of necessity.

But how do you strengthen your online presence so you can be sure the greatest number of people see you and know to buy your work? Being visible, engaging with your readers, and having the right attitude online all go a long way in making sure you’re getting the most out of your digital efforts.

Be visible

In order to have a strong online presence, you need to make yourself available online. Seems obvious, right? Basically, you don’t want to make it hard for people to find you. We’ve talked before about the importance of having your own website, and that’s a great place to start. Free or cheap hosting services, premade templates, and easy-to-use software have made making your own website a snap. If you have a central hub, readers will know where to go for the latest news, writing, and where to buy your work.

It’s also important to look outside your own website. Take advantage of social media; it’s a great place to build a community because of the built-in audiences of these sites. No need to start from scratch when you can find readers already sharing their comments on Facebook and Twitter!

Finally, don’t be afraid of interacting with other authors, publishers, and thought-leaders on their own sites. After all, your goal is to be visible. See if there are any blogs looking for guest contributors. Sharing your own tips, insights, and experiences is a great way to engage potential customers, and if you’re writing for another site you can tap into the audience they’ve already built.

The key is being in as many places as possible. Different platforms have different audiences, so just because you have your own site doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on Twitter, and just because you’re on Twitter doesn’t mean you’re reaching the same audience you would if you were also on Facebook. Experiment and find out what works for you, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

Speak with readers

What’s the best way to grow an audience? Build relationships with your readers (and potential readers). Readers don’t want to feel like they’re just customers – someone you’re only trying to get a buck from. Make them feel like they’re partners in your writing and they’ll be a lot more likely to support you. Speak with them, not just to them.

Social media makes it incredibly easy to keep in touch with readers. Have conversations with them, but don’t always keep it just about your next book. Share your thoughts and interesting articles with them; respond to their posts, even if they aren’t directed at you, to show that you’re just as invested in them as they are in you.

In short, make yourself look human. One of the benefits of independent publishing is that you aren’t beholden to a giant publishing conglomerate that’s just looking for the next best seller. You have the chance to try new things and work on a smaller scale. Being a friendly face, and not just another cog in a marketing machine, is endearing to readers and likely to help you stand out from the crowd.

Choose Your Words Carefully!

You’ve heard the old saying: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s a good rule of thumb in general, but it’s never been more important than in the digital age. Why? Because as a newer old saying goes, the Internet never forgets. Comments on social media can be shared in an instant, screenshots and backups can be taken be complete strangers, and before you know it that one little snarky comment you said before you had your morning coffee is living in infamy.

So how do you say nice things, even when other people aren’t willing to? Sometimes it just means taking the high road. Ignoring negative comments is a good start; if you don’t engage the haters, they can’t gain any traction.

Of course, it’s not always a case of people being mean. A bad review of your book can sting. You might be tempted to shoot off a tweet about how the reviewer is a hack and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But what if you decided to look at it constructively instead? Take what the review says to heart, look at it as objectively as possible, and see what merit the comments have.

If you have to engage the reviewer, thank them for taking the time to read your book and give their thoughts. It probably won’t change the review, but the reviewer – and every potential reader out there – will see that you’re willing to take criticism gracefully and are trying to improve your craft. They might be more willing to check out your next book to see how you’ve grown.

Independent publishing means putting in a lot of legwork to get some great rewards, and marketing is no different. Making sure you have a strong online presence is a great way to market yourself and your work for relatively little money. Growing your audience organically by putting a real human behind that author name

6 More Grammar Mistakes Writers Need to Avoid

There have been a lot of great showdowns throughout history: David vs Goliath, Yankees vs Red Sox, and…To vs Too?

We’re back with more simple grammar mistakes you should never make in your writing, featuring a whole host of matchups between similar-but-not-quite-the-same words. Take a look at the list – and our previous set of tips – and then give your book an edit to make sure you haven’t made any of these slip-ups!

Don't be like Fry. Know the difference between affect and effect.Affect vs Effect

Are you one of those people who writes “impact” because you aren’t quite sure whether you should be using “affect” or “effect”? Here’s a quick tip that will get you through most scenarios: affect is a verb – so one thing affects another – and effect is a noun. Just don’t get tripped up on “effecting change,” where you’ll use an “e” when you mean “to bring about” something.  Isn’t the English language fun (and sometimes aggravating)?

Insure vs Ensure

This one’s pretty simple. If you’re talking about insurance – as in limiting financial liability – use insure. Both start with an “i.” Ensure, when you’re guaranteeing something, is always with an “e.”

Then vs ThanCan proper grammar make you not sound like a crazy person?

Use then when something follows another thing: “I’ll learn these great grammar tips, and then I’ll proofread my books.” Than is used in comparisons: “Since I fixed all of my grammar mistakes, my book is selling better than it was before!”

I.e. vs E.g.

You might think these are interchangeable when you’re using an example, but there’s a very subtle difference between the two. I.e. mean “that is” or “in other words,” from the Latin “id est,” and you use it when you’re clarifying something. E.g., from the Latin “exempli gratia,” means “for example” and is used for just that – providing an example!

Everything you know is a lie - the fast checkout line at your store uses incorrect grammar.Fewer vs Less

As a rule of thumb, you use fewer when you can count the subject in question individually and less when you can’t. So I can have fewer cups of water than you, but your cups might have less water in them than mine do. And yes, that means your grocery store sign is probably incorrect.

To vs Too (vs Two)

Last but not least, one that you probably know but can slip your mind when you’re writing. Most of the time you’ll use to when you’re talking about a verb or going toward a place, e.g. “I’m going to write” or “I went to the mall,” but when you mean to say “as well” or “also,” or something in excess, use too – “Sally went going to the mall, too, and she ate too much.” And just in case, two is always the number 2. Seems obvious, but you can never be too careful!

That’s it – for now! The English language is a wonderful, complex thing and even the best writers get tripped up from time to time. If you’ve got a favorite tip or a “this word or that one?” that seems to always get the best of you, share them in the comments!

The Best Writing and Storytelling Podcasts for Authors

Boost your writing skills with podcasts recommended by Lulu for writing and storytelling.

We’re all book people here at Lulu. We believe in the power of telling stories and our mission is to give everyone the platform to do so. But technology has been as important to other forms of storytelling as it has been to book publishing. Case in point: podcasts.

There are dozens (or hundreds) of podcasts for every subjecg out there, and it’s no different for publishing, storytelling, and writing. If you’re an author with some downtime, you owe it to yourself to download some podcasts and plug in some headphones to make sure you stay at the top of your game.

Here are a few of the best podcasts to help you hone your writing skills and get your storytelling juices flowing.

Authorpreneur Lulu Author PodcastsAuthorpreneur Want to learn about the business of writing books? Whether they’re fiction writers or entrepreneurs, Jim Kukral gets tips and tricks from authors on how to make a living being an author in Authorpreneur. For anyone serious about making a living being a writer of any sort – or just for listeners who want to learn how people dedicated to their craft have carved out their niche – Authorpreneur is a valuable resource.

Recommended episode: How Andy Weir Took ‘The Martian” From Blog to BestSeller to Blockbuster Movie (Starring Matt Damon)

The Moth The Moth isn’t necessarily about writing, but it is about something that’s important to all writers: telling stories. Whether you’re writing business books or paranormal romance, it’s important to engage your audience. The Moth showcases some of the best live stories about nearly every topic imaginable, and is a great tool for learning how to tell a compelling story.

Recommended episode: Neil Gaiman – Liverpool Street

Dead Robots Society Podcast Lulu Author TipsThe Dead Robots’ Society As the title implies, The Dead Robots’ Society is a little more irreverent than other writing podcasts, and it could be right up your alley if you want something more lighthearted. Still, the hosts take writing very seriously and have no problem sharing their (sometimes painful) writing experiences. The most recent episode as of this post is “The Horrors of Back Cover Copy” and is a hilarious take on trying to sum up your story in a few hundred words.

Recommended episode: Episode 349 – Kickstarters and Patrons

Helping Writers Become Authors Interested in avoiding common writing mistakes? Having trouble writing compelling character arcs? Not sure how to pitch your novel? Helping Writers Become Authors covers every aspect of the book-writing process that you could ever hope to come across. If you want a comprehensive collection of tips – especially for fiction writers – download Helping Writers Become Authors today.

Recommended episode: Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 32: Boring Opening Lines

Selected Shorts Brought to you by Symphony Space and WNYC, Selected Shorts is a collection of “fiction, sometimes classic, sometimes new, always performed by great actors from stage, screen and television who bring these short stories to life.” It’s a more traditional take on storytelling, as much a stage show as a podcast.

Recommended episode: Cannolis and Carroll

Lulu Podcast Snap JudgementSnap Judgement Sometimes the best way to tell a story is to combine it with other art forms. Snap Judgement features stories told to music and you’re just as likely to be inspired by the story being told as you are by the soundtrack it’s set to. Listening to stories is a very different experience than reading them, and hearing accompanying music brings that auditory engagement to a whole new level. It’ll make you think about how your audience interacts with your own stories.

Recommended episode: Snape #603 – Omen

The Writer Files Every episode of The Writer Files podcast is titled “How [Insert Author Here] Writes.” Could it be simpler than that? From bestselling authors to people who write for business – such as bloggers and copywriters – The Writer Files picks their brains to find out just how they get their work done. Learn about overcoming challenges, nurturing writing best practices, and more from a wide variety of authors.

Recommended episode: Standing Desks, Binge Reading, and James Patterson’s MasterClass

Is your favorite podcast listed here? Have some others that you’d love to share? Or maybe you have a podcast of your own! Let us know in the comments.


4 Tricks to Becoming a Prolific Writer

Lulu Author David BrownI have described myself as prolific, and after looking at my early track record no one could disagree. I waited many years before taking up the pen to write. But once I started I took off by most standards, writing four novels in two years.

Without hesitation it is impossible to be a prolific writer if you are always getting stumped by writer’s block. In fact it is tough being a writer at all if you keep getting stumped by anything, especially if you are just beginning.

No one but a writer is permitted the luxury of throwing up their hands and saying they can’t work for days, if not months! No doctor, lawyer, accountant or anyone else considers any type of block legitimate but writers. Imagine going to a doctor for a mysterious ailment and being told, “Come back in a couple of months. I have diagnosis block.” For myself, not having been trained as a writer, I had to choose whether or not to accept the odd notion of writer’s block. So when I started writing, I made a personal decision to reject the notion of writer’s block. Deciding to not accept writer’s block was easier than one might imagine.

Here are some of my tricks.

You Need Plots

It helped that I collected story plots for years before I began to write, but not having saved plots is no excuse. Once I committed to write I set my mind to develop original thoughts. Good and bad ideas all went down on a list. Being intentional with these ideas starts the wheels turning.

Research Fuels the Idea Engine

The best time for research is before you write. My research goes into an auxiliary Word file that I create for each project. The things that I learn not only fuel the evolution of the story but helps establish the breath of the story itself. Research has to be part of the joy of writing. It is an opportunity to expand one’s tent, so to speak.

Make Use of Pericopes

The word pericope comes to us from Greek through Late Latin and means “piece cut out.” Stated more succinctly, pericope is defined as extracts from a text that form a complete account or story. Pericopes come in different lengths and level of detail.

I apply the concept of pericopes to build out sections of a story, so at any time I am building story blocks that fit nicely within one unified plot. Once included, these sections require the same finishing touches that the overall novel needs. Pericope blocks work nicely to include visualization of settings.

Pericopes also work well to add layers to characters that explain actions and motivations. To me a flashback is just another pericope. By writing pericopes, simple stories can become delightfully complicated without becoming unorganized.

Guiding Question to Keep a Story Moving

Let me leave you with a small sampling of the guiding questions that I use to begin my writing day.

  1. Where is the story going and where do I want it to go?
  2. Where would most people expect this story to go?
  3. What is a good place for a pivot in the plot and should the transition be gradual or dramatic?
  4. Are the likeable characters sympathetic and are the unlikeable characters truly detestable?
  5. Is it time for a character to undergo redemption?
  6. Does the story make sense?

And always remember, half of the enjoyment of a good story is to take the reader someplace that they did not expect.

Author Bio

David Brown

David Brown is the quintessential Renaissance man. He holds degrees in Quantitative Economics, Business and even Theology. To go with that David has held CPA licenses in multiple states. He was also ordained by a major church organization and pastored for several years. This makes him a writer with great insight into human reasoning, passions and motivation. See his books at:

How Do You Judge a Book? By Its Cover, of Course

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 11.55.38 AMToday’s article was contributed by Ron Miller – author, cover designer, and Lulu community contributor.

Making sure your book has a good cover is like making sure you are neatly dressed and well groomed when going on a job interview.

Although everyone says you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, this really doesn’t apply to books themselves. In fact, the cover is one of the most important parts of a book. It’s the first thing anyone will ever see and for that reason it needs to make a good impression. If a cover is unreadable, looks amateurish or misrepresents a book, the potential reader may give it a pass and move on to the next book in a catalog or bookshelf.

There are no hard and fast rules in book cover design. Just take a look at some of the superb covers displayed here . They are all creative, effective and no two look alike. Yet, they all follow the same basic guidelines. Even if you are not an artist or designer, you can still make a cover that – while perhaps not as artistic or inventive as some of these covers – can still be attractive and effective. Here are some basic rules of thumb to keep in mind:

  • The most important thing on a book cover is the book’s title.
  • Keep things simple typographically. You may own a thousand fonts, but there is no need to feel compelled to use them all. Especially avoid really fancy, decorative fonts or using a lot of Photoshop effects on the title. If no one can read the title of your book, you may as well not have it on the cover at all.
  • Likewise, keep your artwork simple. Try to limit yourself to just one image that best represents the book’s genre or what it is about. Avoid the temptation to create a “kitchen sink” cover, where you try to cram in everything you think is important.
  • Another reason for simplicity is that a cover needs to work at all sizes—and even in B&W. Most people will first see your cover as a thumbnail image on a webpage. Therefore, it needs to be as readable at postage stamp size as it is on the actual printed book.

Having read these suggestions, go back to the Indie Cover page and see how many of those covers reflect these ideas.

About the Author:

In addition to the books he has published with Lulu, Ron Miller is the author/illustrator of more than fifty commercially published books. These have received numerous commendations and awards, including a Hugo, the IAF Manuscript Award, the Booklist Editor’s Award and the American Institute of Physics Award of Excellence. Several of his books have been Book-of-the-Month Club feature selections. In addition to the artwork he does for his own books, Miller provides illustrations for magazines such as Scientific American, Astronomy and Discover. Specializing in science fiction and fantasy, he has also created several hundred book covers for publishers such as Tor, Baen, Berkley/Ace, Warner, Easton Press, Subterranean Press and many others.

Black Cat Studios

Let’s Go Viral: Five Tactics for Boosting Your Clicks, Likes, and Shares

Author PlatformA few years ago, every indie-writer’s conference I attended focused on developing an author platform. This was a fancy, buzz wordy way of saying that independent authors who want to sell books also must create and maintain an internet presence consisting of a website, a blog, and social media pages. Today the buzzwords have changed and conference sessions are still being conducted about why an internet presence is necessary, but many of them fail to provide specific tactics for marketing your book once your platform is in place.

For the sake of this article, we will assume your platform is up and running. Now let’s make more effective use of these tools to get your marketing efforts noticed and your book sold.

#1: A Picture Is Worth 1000 Likes1000 Likes

Images are the most effective way to capture a person’s attention as they scroll through their social media feed. A fun way to get people talking about your work is to take and share screen shots or photos of your writing and publishing milestones to share on Facebook. For example, you can post a screenshot of your book’s product page when it is available for purchase on a new retail site, a screenshot of your book’s sales rank as it moves up the charts, or photos of you receiving and editing your proof copies. Sharing these milestones allows your fans to share in your excitement.

Don’t forget to include a link back to your website, blog, or book page to capitalize on the interest you generate. And, don’t assume your fans are all following you on Facebook. Be sure to post this content on other image-centric social sites such as Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.

#2 Scatter Tastier Breadcrumbs

Tasty BreadThe entire reason for developing an internet presence is to capture a potential reader’s attention while maintaining the interest of your existing fans. All the little pieces of information shared in social media are like virtual breadcrumbs you scatter into the world to lure readers towards your content. So, its really important you  choose “bread” your readers will love.

For example, you could spend hours writing a blog post contemplating the causes of writer’s block and how it has affected your output. Or, you can take a few minutes to post a picture of your character’s favorite car, perfume, whiskey, etc. with a link back to a blog post about that character’s back story and why their predilection for this object is important to the story.

Using this strategy, you can also share images and insights relating to settings, locales, and general research: “While researching <fill in the blank>, I learned this interesting fact about…..” Remember the 80/20 rule of social media marketing: 80% of your posts should include useful information while 20% should be dedicated to marketing your product.

#3 Make It Easy to Spread the Word

Share buttonsAdding social share buttons to your website and blog pages may seem like an obvious step, but it is often over looked. These buttons are powerful marketing tools that essentially turn your fans into marketers every time they share your work with their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn network of friends.

And even better, it’s quite easy to add these buttons to your web pages. Here are links for adding the Facebook Like button, the Tweet button, and the LinkedIn Share button.

#4 Add Facebook Comments to Your Webpage

CommentsFacebook allows you to add a commenting system to any web page. This can be particularly effective in maintaining fans because it allows you to communicate directly with your readers from within your own website. It also allows you to nurture and develop your super-fans – those readers who will buy everything you write, share all your social content, and tell all their friends about your books. These people are your most effective marketers and they will be thrilled to receive answers directly from you instead of your Facebook Marketing Page profile.

To learn more about adding Facebook Comments to your webpages, see: Facebook Comments Plugin

#5 Your Fans Love Free Stuff – And So Do Their Friends.

You probably have fans who follow everything you do – if not, see above. Why not reward them by allowing them to download a PDF version of the first chapter of your upcoming book? They will be delighted to get it first and will be eager to share the experience with their friends.Retweet Button

You can make it easy for them to share their happiness by including a Retweet button in the free PDF content. You can pre-populate the text of the Tweet and include a link for others to download the free chapter. “I’m reading @AuthorName’s new book: <Book Title>. Get the 1st chapter free here:”

For more information, see: Adding Retweet buttons to PDFs.

These are just a few social media tactics you an easily implement with minimal effort. If you have others you would like to share, leave a comment below. And don’t forget to Like and Share this content with your friends. (See what I did there?)