How To

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.

 

Top ten errors writers make that editors hate

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 3.40.50 PMHelga Schier, independent writing and publishing consultant and founder of Withpenandpaper.com, recently gave a brilliant presentation at the Writer’s Digest Conference covering the trials and tribulations of book editors.  More specifically, she eloquently and succinctly outlined a list of the top ten errors editors hate — and often see — the most. For the writers in the room, this was a gold mine of valuable information and I would like to share what I learned.

First and foremost, there are three levels of editing and they should all build upon each other.

  • Editing that deals with the surface structure of the words on your page – copy-editing.
  • Editing that deals with style and voice, as well as, tightening your manuscript by getting rid of unnecessary sections – line editing.
  • Editing that deals with ways to make your world come to life, including ways to create your characters, build your world, and write good dialogue  – conceptual editing.

Before you hand your book to an editor, you should have already gone through these three levels of review…

The Basics: Writing

1. Editors hate it when it’s clear that you never ran that spell-check.

These are things everyone can fix.  This level deals with spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Your words are your tools so make sure they are in good working order. Some may argue that editors should care more about the story and characters. This is true, but these kinds of mistakes greatly distract readers from understanding and absorbing the book.  Your job as an author is to take the reader by the hand and take them on a journey through the story.  Bad grammar or spelling mistakes detract and sway from that journey.

2. Editors hate it when you serve leftovers.

  • Plot or character inconsistencies
  • Timeline issues

A good way to keep this from happening is to run a second reader check. Give your book to someone who will critically read it and ask them to report on things that don’t make sense to them.

Beyond the Basics: Writing in Style

3. Editors hate it when the writing is heavier than a ten-ton-truck.

  • Inflated sentences – polish your sentences, don’t use unnecessary lead-ins. Get to the point or meat of the sentence quickly.
  • Stilted language – you want to meet your readers through your work and you want to call the readers attention to your story or argument.  Unnecessary language reminds readers that they are actually reading and takes them away from being immersed in your world.
  • Overuse of adjectives and adverbs – makes a story feel cumbersome and lazy.  Most adjective and adverb phrases don’t do the description justice.

4. Editors hate it when style isn’t really style but writing in your comfort zone.

  • Repetitive use of vocabulary
  • Repetitive sentence structure and length

Every writer has a set of words that they fall back on and don’t often notice unless they specifically go looking for them.  Remedy: make a list of your most used words/phrases and go through your manuscript hunting them down.  Make sure your characters use their favorite words not yours.

Vary the length of the length and structure of sentences to provide a unique mix for the readers. Also, allow your characters to use varied sentence structure depending on their personality, background, and environment in which they find themselves. Step outside your comfort zone and find your voice.

5. Editors hate clichés. Except when they don’t.

  • Innovate and personalize clichéd images and comparisons.
  • Use clichés and stereotypes as character markers.
  • Turn stereotypes upside down to define a personality or relationship.

Leave trusted clichés behind. Clichés are predictable and writing should never be predictable.  Replace established clichés with your own creative ones. These images should be new and personal but, not obscure to your readers. You want your readers to turn the pages because they can’t wait to see what is beyond the next paragraph.

Far Beyond the Basics: Writing to make your world come to life

6. Editors hate it when characters resemble cardboard cutouts.

Don’t let your characters be predictable and don’t give your character’s entire back story all at once.  Readers can’t digest that volume of information and the story comes to a screeching halt with all suspension of disbelief gone. Giving the character’s back story is not the same as creating and developing a character that comes to life. You want fully developed characters with their own psychological make-up, who have a past, hopes for the future, and most importantly, a motivation or reason for their actions.

7. Editors hate it when the narrative tells rather than shows.

  • Scenes need to show how characters act and interact.
  • Narrative needs to observe, not comment.

Show don’t tell, but this does not mean that you should shy away from the description. “Show don’t tell” refers to the way your characters should interact. Scenes cannot happen in a vacuum. Your narrative must develop the scene.  Don’t simply say, “the restaurant was loud”, rather describe the conversation at the bar, the waiter dropping the tray, the phone ringing off the hook at the host stand. If you show something well enough, there is no reason to tell the reader.

8. Editors hate it when dialogues turn into speeches.

  • Dialogue requires that people interact with each other verbally and non-verbally.
  • Dialogue passes on information.
  • Dialogue defines characters and their relationships.
  • Dialogue exposes tension and conflict.

Dialogue in a novel is polished speech that serves certain functions…it shows relationship, moves the story along, creates scenes, etc.  None of your characters should ever lecture or pontificate. Dialogue should always have at least two people interacting verbally and non-verbally. The words a character chooses says a lot about the character’s background, personality, and status. Again, words should be theirs, not yours. Dialogue words must also fit the situation. Someone will speak differently given a different situation.

People don’t necessarily say what they mean or mean what they say. There is often a subtext. Do the characters have a relationship? Trust each other? Hate each other? Have a secret crush? This all can come through in the subtext of the dialogue.

9. Anything goes! But just because you say doesn’t make it so.

  • Events must be caused by earlier events and lead to the next.
  • Natural story development depends on the interplay of plot and character.
  • A character’s natural behavior must be motivated by his/her psychological disposition.

Remember, in a novel one event must lead to the next and the interplay of your characters and events should create the plot…in other words, it is the characters that write their own stories.

10. Editors hate hangnail writing.

  • Everything in your story has an impact on your readers.
  • Show and tell your readers only what is relevant. No more.
  • Show and tell your readers everything that is relevant. No less.

An extra scene, banter, subplots, or characters that don’t drive the story forward create boredom and distrust of the author.   Show the readers what is relevant, no more and no less. Readers take in everything about the story, so you must follow through. You absolutely must show everything that is relevant as readers only see what you show not what you may know.

Quick but hugely important tip:

Take time off from your manuscript, a step back, and gain distance. In that time…READ, READ, READ (other people’s work) then, reread your work.  First, start looking for the big picture stuff. Before you edit, read it again and look at style and genre. The third time, go for typos, spelling etc. DO ALL OF THIS BEFORE YOU BEGIN TO REVISE!

For access to Schier’s slide deck, click here.

 

 

 

Writing the breakaway self-published book…words of wisdom from Ivory Madison

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 11.40.30 AMIvory Madison isn’t only  the RedRoom.com CEO and Editor in Chief, she is an accomplished writer and author coach with numerous years of experience.  I was fortunate enough to catch her session at the Writer’s Digest Conference in Los Angeles, where Madison shared her “Red Room Method”, which helps authors blast through writer’s block and quickly develop into razor-sharp writers.

Her opening question to the audience and what you should contemplate while reading this post: is your book as good as it can be already?

A lot of people jump the gun.

One thing learned in teaching writing is that most people are doing it wrong.  They are trying to do too many things at once…worrying about marketing, if the structure is correct, do they need an agent, etc.

The Red Room method separates what you are doing into different buckets: Writing, Editing, and Marketing and focuses on getting your book done faster, easier, and at a better quality.

Writing (words of wisdom)

  • Writing comes from passion and processing. First drafts WILL be bad…they are supposed to be. A writer should  focus on the writing ONLY at first. Stop trying to do two things at the same time, “It’s like trying to run a marathon and you keep stopping and saying ‘Oh, I got the first steps wrong’.” Your first draft has to be imperfect so that your can productively edit.
  • There is a level of self awareness that is required for writing…it is a shift of self-perspective.  Stop trying to write like a writer and write like yourself!
  • Ann Rice once said that the great thing about writing is that it can be an expression of you without any special training or access. In other less eloquent words, writing is about yourself and marketing is about everything else.
  • If your goal is to finish your book then, schedule your hours with other people. Sit down with the group and dedicate the full hour to writing. People won’t show up for appointments with only themselves. Just remember that you can’t win a Nobel Prize in an hour BUT, you can write about 1,500 words. Relish that accomplishment.
  • Quit worrying about the quality. A baby’s first few steps aren’t fantastic but, they are still wonderful.
  • Remember to not write.  Don’t forget the other things in your life and relax and don’t always worry that you should be writing. Stop torturing yourself. Enjoy the other parts of your life and let your brain process it.
  • Some people have “blocks” and only think about all the reasons they aren’t finishing their book: I don’t have enough time, money, knowledge, etc. Bottom line is you make time for what you make time for. Don’t feel like you SHOULD be writing…GO WRITE!
  • Some people believe the myths about being a writer. Remember, every brilliant, successful author was told by someone somewhere that they were terrible. Perfectionism is the opposite of high standards.  High standards means getting it done, perfectionism means never getting it done.

 

 

 

Editing the breakaway self-published book with Ivory Madison

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 11.40.30 AMI just had the pleasure of sitting in on Ivory Madison’s session on writing and editing breakaway books at the Writer’s Digest Conference. Madison is CEO and founder of Redroom.com, the “Facebook for authors”.  She was also named “Best Writing Coach” by San Francisco magazine and has been a guest lecturer to the faculty and writing coaches at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Stanford Publishing Course.

In this particular session, she provides some amazing advice and insights on editing your next book:

  • Once you have finished your writing, having said everything you have to say, in all it’s sloppy glory, you will want to get through your editing quickly, painlessly, and efficiently. Now, imagine a giant bulls eye.  Each ring is going to represent a stage and focus in your editing journey.
  • The outermost ring is very big picture questions: What type of book is this?  What are the themes? What are the cast or characters? How do they develop?
  • Then, we get into the inner structure ring (this is also the hardest part). Can you write a one-page hero’s journey? Does it flow and follow correctly? These aren’t necessarily templates but, rather insights into how people tell stories. Structure is also where you look at point of view, tense, pacing, and what kind of voice the story has.
  • Story Fractiles: scientific concept that posits that everything is ultimately a repeating pattern. Applying this to writing, you need to ask yourself “is this all the same book?” If you took a small piece of it, does it still reflect the overall work?  Does each chapter reflect a short story of the book? Your writing should ultimately sound like YOU speaking at your most eloquent…it must be real and authentic.
  • Copy-editing Ring: is everything fluid and in the right word? Is everything true? This is also where you look at metaphors…do your metaphors make enough sense to have an impact?
  • Mechanics Ring: Looking at each word, grammar, formatting, and punctuation.

Madison’s final editing words to live by, “it’s worst to not get published than cut things out of your book”.  Finally, sit down and have someone read the manuscript out loud at full volume, you will be surprised by what you find.

 

Elevator pitch answers

Popular books and their elevator pitch

Here’s the answers – how many did you get right?

No Country for Old Men

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. 

Twilight

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. 

The DaVinci Code

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.

Jurassic Park

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.

 

 

How to Raise Money for Your Next Writing Project

The Kickstarter of books is here, it’s Pubslush

You may have heard the term “crowd funding”, but may not be sure what it’s all about. Crowdfunding is a way that artists and entrepreneurs are raising funds for their projects, so they can take on less of the financial risk. With a successful crowdfunding campaign, you can raise funds – before you publish – rather than paying out of your own pocket.

Authors are already successfully raising money by pitching their book idea to potential readers and future fans, and now Pubslush has built a fund raising platform exclusively for you.

A Crowdfunding Platform for Authors
A number of authors are already finding success raising money for their projects, and gaining access to options they wouldn’t have had before – like investing in professional cover design, marketing campaigns, first run copies of their books and more.

pubslush kickstarter authors crowdfunding

Some of the top projects on Pubslush have raised over $10,000 from readers

 

Let us know if Pubslush is right for you in the comments

Take a moment to check out Pubslush, check out their successful projects, watch the video embedded below, and let us know what you think in the comments on this blog post.

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