How To

Should you just give it away?

What’s better than free?

It might seem irrational, but one of the best ways that authors have found to gain popularity and profitability for their eBooks has been to, well, give them away. Authors have found that dropping the price of their books to $0, at least for a short time, leads to dramatically better sales when they do raise the price.

[Recommended Reading: How Free Books Build Your Brand as an Author and Authority]

Speaking on The Self Publishing Podcast, independent author David Wright found that this type of promotion works, especially with writers who work in genre fiction. “Free downloads drive sales,” he said. “Especially with the serialized fiction model, where if our readers get our first episode for free, they want to read on, so they buy the next episode or the full season.”

[Recommended Reading: How To Serialize with Lulu]

Dropping the price of your eBook can help raise your sales rank and visibility, while, at the same time, promoting other books you’ve written. Of course, the lost revenue can sting a bit, but who knows if readers would have taken the plunge on your book if you hadn’t taken the cost-free promotional plunge?

But is a free promotion right for you? For serialized fiction, the answer is yes. Get readers hooked, and then get them to buy the rest of your series or your other titles. For experts and speakers, the answer is also yes. You want to spread your brand and name, and an eBook is even better than just giving out your card. Use your eBook mainly as a promotional tool — not a revenue stream.

Here’s who this promotion might not work for: writers of long, literary fiction who depend on sales to make up for some of the painstaking work that went into their novel. It might also not work for historians, who also put in a tremendous amount of time and energy and whose specialized knowledge has a place in the marketplace and should be able to find a readership despite its cost.

Either way — it always helpful to experiment with different marketing tools. Dropping your price to zero might feel weird, but the eventual reward could be huge. If it doesn’t work out anyway, it’s just as easy to start charging more for your book, and go back to the drawing (or writing) board.

Have you tried this technique? What was your experience?

30 Ways to Combat Writer’s Block

At some point in your writing career, you’re probably going to face it — the dreaded writer’s block. For the lucky, it lasts only a few hours or days. For the unlucky, it can take weeks or even months to get over. Most writers have their own coping mechanisms, but what may work for one person is no guarantee for another. So what can you do when you’re faced with a blank white page and an unrelenting cursor?

A while back we asked you on Facebook to tell us your secret combat weapons for fighting off writer’s block, and you had some great ones, which are here. We also have a blog post from the past with helpful tips found here. But when desperate to get over the hump more advice is better, right? So to help you find at least one method that works, here’s a list of things to try in no particular order:

Take a walk

Write through it anyway

Workout

Cook a big, good meal

Listen to music

Try another creative medium: Strum a tune or paint a picture

Pick a random topic and do a 15-minute free write

Deprive yourself of sleep for as long as you can and then write until you can no longer stay awake

Write a positive note to yourself on special paper

Start (or keep) a daily log of your day in a journal

Go to a busy street/restaurant/bar and people watch for a bit and write down everything interesting you observe

Try writing an off-the-cuff poem

Write a friend a long letter by hand

Look at photos online of places that inspire you or, better yet, take a walk down your own memory lane and look at your own albums

Write a chapter of your story from another character’s perspective

Have a glass of wine or three (or chocolate)

Research your book’s subject matter

Visit a museum or art gallery

Pick a random object in your house and write 200 words about it

Find a different place to work. If you’re at home, try a coffee shop — or vice versa

Take a bubble bath

Call a writer-friend and commiserate first, then assign one another a writing project to be completed within a few hours

Try outlining your novel/essay/article, if you haven’t already done so

Write out a to-do list of every chore you need to accomplish

Spend some time pondering life in the yogic legs-up-the-wall pose

Stop berating yourself for not writing

Play with your dog/cat/reptile. If you don’t have one, ask a friend if you can come over and give their Fido some love

Try writing during a different time of the day

Take a nap

And finally… Drink a cup of caffeinated tea or coffee

We know this list isn’t exhaustive, and there’s room for more ideas, so tell us, Lulu readers, what’s worked (or not) for you?

What to Read?

Finding recommendations for independently published books can be difficult. Over at The Guardian, Dan Holloway explains:

“As a reader, I believe life is too short: if I want a great thriller, there’s enough Mark Billingham and Tami Hoag to work through. If I choose to read self-published books it’s because I want something different.”

Holloway also outlines resources for finding well-reviewed self-published books. There’s the Indie eBook Review, which reviews recent self-published books, as well as IndieReader, which does an incredible job writing thoughtful reviews of some really interesting self-published books. All in all, Holloway paints a portrait of a burgeoning literary culture surrounding independently published books, one that’s sure to grow as self-publishing becomes the dominant force in the literary marketplace. As a writer, it’s incredibly important to keep track of who is writing reviews and what kinds of books garner attention, especially if you want your title to find a large audience.

Another great resource is Booklamp.org, the “home of the Book Genome Project. Similar to how Pandora.com matches music lovers to new music, BookLamp helps you find books through a computer-based analysis of written DNA.”

A great way to make sure your own book gets reviewed is to look into some of Lulu’s reviewing services, including options to have your book reviewed by Kirkus or Clarion reviews.

So, where do you find help selecting books to read? What websites or book reviews are helpful? Do you think self-published books are getting the right amount of respect from reviewers? Have you ever reviewed someone else’s book online? Let us know!

Additional Reading:

You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover. But….

We’ve all heard the old idiom, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” And that’s totally right — judging something based on a first glance often leads to false impressions and close-mindedness. However, covers, even in the age of eBooks, are still an incredibly important part of the browsing experience, and are often the first interaction a prospective reader has with a book. A cover should be artful, interesting, and represent some essence of the book. Often, it’s the only actual image a reader will receive to spark their imagining of the world of the novel.

But, sometimes, especially with first-time authors, or authors whose art is solely the written word, covers can bring you the wrong kind of attention. For instance, you don’t want to show up on Nathan Shumate’s Lousy Book Covers Tumblr. While his site has caught a lot of flack, and unfairly ridicules artistic endeavors, he does offer some wise words in a Huffington Post article for authors when it comes to book design:

“Print design is a mode of communication all its own, and there is at least as much study and experience involved in gaining a competence in design skills as there is to becoming a credible wordsmith…a book’s author is not automatically qualified to design her own cover.”

It’s true that there are tons of authors out there who are also insanely capable and skilled artists, but sometimes, we writers tend to overreach. We think, because we have just finished a book, why not just knock off the cover art right there? It’s best to take a step back and think about different artistic skill sets. The last thing an author wants to do is put off a potential reader because of an unattractive cover.

Like everything else an independent author does, getting a nice cover for your book is a mix of networking and savvy. One idea is to take the whole cover design project and to make it into a promotion for your book. Post a sample chapter of your book and ask readers to use it to come up with ideas for a cover. Have a design contest, with the winner getting a free copy of the book they helped design. It gets the word out about your book before it’s published and can help you reach out to readers and fans. Another option is to use one of Lulu’s Book Cover Design services. A great way to avoid the “lousy cover” trap is to put the job in the hands of a professional artist.

And even though they are important, don’t fret too hard over the cover. As prominent book cover artist Chip Kidd reminds us in an Esquire article titled How to Make People Buy Books: “There are so many factors that go into whether somebody buys a book — the jacket’s just one of them.”

And, to end on a high note, we have plenty of noteworthy examples of exemplary book covers by independent authors. You can peruse them in our Pinterest Indie Cover of the Day Album.

 

Is it time to destroy your little darlings?

Photo by vogmae on Flickr

Your book is your baby. We get it. That’s why we know how hard it is to objectively edit your work. But just because it’s a hard step in the process, doesn’t mean you can ignore it. It’s important to find a way to remove yourself enough from your work in order to get a clear, outsider’s view.

In that spirit, here are some tips for editing your novel:

1) Walk away. Not forever, but it’s incredibly important to read your novel with some fresh eyes. Even a week away will allow you some critical distance that you can use to help edit and see your whole structure better.

2) Destroy your little darlings. We all love the cute little sentences we’ve written, that flowery prose that convinces us we’re just the most talented writers we know. Guess what? This is hard to admit, but those pretty little darlings of yours are probably not so great. Beautiful moments in literature often emerge from simple descriptions and observations on the human and natural world — anything too convoluted will reek of trying just a little too hard. Keeping it simple doesn’t mean eliminating beauty.

3) Enlist trusted friends and editors. This could be the scariest moment of editing. The world has not yet seen your masterpiece, and this is the first step. And boy, is it a rough one. Your trusted editors and friends will be reading a piece of fiction that hasn’t yet been seen by other eyes. They will be of great assistance, pointing out flaws in grammar, continuity, and things that downright just don’t work. Inversely, they will also let you know what parts are great, where you shouldn’t change a thing, and how much they like it. It’s a quick dive into a cold pool, but for your novel’s sake, you have to do it.

4) Enlist professional services. Start with the Editorial Quality Review, in which, “a professional copy editor will review your book and provide a diagnostic tool of invaluable advice regarding the editing needs of your book. This service also includes a helpful 5-8 page sample edit to illustrate the level of edit recommended for your book.”Follow up with a Copy Edit Service.

What helps you edit your piece? Has editing made your novel’s better or worse? Do these tips work? Let us know in the comments below.

Additional Reading from the Lulu Blog:

DIY Proofreading

How To Choose An Editor

The Editorial Process

Creative ways to ‘gift’ an eBook (since you can’t put it in wrapping paper)

When we think of the holidays, we think of children ripping off wrapping paper in a near-psychotic frenzy, holding up their gifts, and then profusely thanking their parents (or sometimes not — sweaters from aunts just don’t get treated with that much excitement). Adults tend to be more restrained when receiving gifts, but still look forward to the mystery of gift-giving, be it in a large plastic bag or cardboard box (I still prefer ripping off the gift-wrapping).

But how does one give an eBook? I mean, it’s obvious why someone would want to do it, but it lacks the physicality of, say, a new personal electronic, or that beloved Lego set. So how do you capture that magic in something that will be electronically delivered?

By getting creative.

Slate has a wonderful roundup of ways to give an eBook. They point out the great idea of matching an eBook with beloved reading accouterments like blankets or coffee mugs. I would throw in a “Snuggie” for good measure. While Slate‘s piece is a little tongue-in-cheek, pointing out how difficult it is for an eBook to replace the physical nature of some other presents, The Chicago Tribune points out that most readers and online shops allow you an option to buy an eBook as a gift, which will automatically download eBooks to your loved one’s reader.

While it doesn’t quite match the wrapping paper frenzy, it will pack quite a wallop when all of a sudden someone’s e-reader is now packed with new titles.

Personally, I’m still a little attached to gift wrapping. By pairing an eBook with something that will enhance the reading experience, like an e-reader holder or a bean-bag chair (those still exist, right?), you make your gift larger than just an eBook — you make it a whole experience.

So how do you give eBooks? How have you surprised your loved ones, and how are you planning to do so this year?

Life After NaNoWriMo

We’re well into December, and it’s almost the end of the year, but let’s take a minute to talk about last month. How did you spend your November? Maybe getting ready for the change in seasons or braving crowds to get a head start on holiday shopping? If you participated in NaNoWriMo you can add “writing an entire novel” to that list. Fifty thousand words in thirty days is no small feat so first things first: congratulations! Now that you’ve got everything all typed up and had some time to go over it, the most important question is…what’s next? You wrote your book in record time, so why not publish it just as quickly? Lulu has the professional publishing services to put a little shine on things and get your work ready for the world.

Cover Design


They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but let’s be honest, a nice cover goes a long way and can hook a customer before the first page is even turned.