How To

EPUBs Made Even Easier with Lulu Ebook Enhancements

Getting your eBook ready for the world to see can be a learning experience – for authors and for Lulu. We always want to give you the best, easiest tools possible to get your eBook out there, and part of reaching that goal is making changes to the process to make it as painless as possible. Case in point: the new multi-file upload and table of contents preview features that help you to make sure you’re well on your way to having a distribution-ready EPUB file.

Making your EPUB file was already pretty easy. You can upload Microsoft DOC and DOCX, RTF, and ODF files, and we’ll take care of converting them into an EPUB for you. For print books you could always upload multiple files and we’d stitch them together into one coherent, print-ready PDF. Now you have the same convenience for your eBook. Maybe you’ve been serializing your work or maybe you’re just taking it one chapter at a time; either way, it’s simple to move forward. Just get  your individual files ready with the first line formatted as Heading 1, upload all of the files and move them around so they’re in the order you want, and you’re done! You’ll have a finished EPUB in no time.

(For more info on our recent enhancements, click on the image above.)

Speaking of those headings, if you’ve ever created an eBook on Lulu you might have received an error message regarding your NCX – the eBook’s table of contents that lets the reader jump instantly to any chapter or section. After all, it’s one of the top ten reasons why eBooks are rejected for retail distribution. Creating a proper NCX requires a pretty straightforward but very specific use of styles and headings so that all of your chapters, sections, and subsections line up appropriately. Not sure if you’ve done yours correctly? After you upload your eBook files you’ll now find a table of contents preview that will let you see how everything will be ordered in your NCX. If you’ve used the method above to upload multiple files for your EPUB, this preview is a simple way to make sure everything was put together just the way you wanted.

You’ve already got the Lulu eBook Creator Guide with all the information you could ever want about eBooks right at your fingertips, and these new additions to the Lulu site will help you out even more along the way. Plus, we still have our great paid services available if you want everything taken care of for you with no hassle. There’s never been a better time to create your eBook, and it’s never been easier to do it with Lulu.

Tips for NaNoWriMo 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 12 years it’s grown exponentially. By 2011, 256,618 writers attempted the feat and 36,843 finished.

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 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!

Mozilla Popcorn for Online Video

As Mozilla’s Ryan Merkley points out in his TED talk, the nature of video on the web hasn’t changed much over the past few years. Besides a higher resolution and faster streaming times, videos remain static and non-interactive. Even books, with the advent of interactive eBooks, have found ways to become interactive and use the full resources of the Internet. But with a new product called Mozilla Popcorn, that might all change. Popcorn allows content creators to adorn videos with links, and other media, like maps or a photo stream, to create a full-content experience. The interface is simple, and the product itself, in keeping with Mozilla’s open-source principles, is free.

As content creators, writers are constantly looking for ways to promote their own work. While book trailers are popular, they often fail to capture the artifice of the novel they are producing or match the quality that other media outlets offer. Popcorn allows writers to promote their books by interlacing an online video with links to text, illustrations, and even the link to buy the book itself.

How To: Create Your Own Audiobook

When publishing an eBook, it’s smart to promote it with sample chapters or an author interview. But what about producing your own audiobook to accompany it as well?

Producing an audiobook can be time consuming, but it’s extremely fun and makes your book available in yet another medium. You can just choose a brief excerpt to use, maybe a funny scene or illustrative passage, which will help promote your book when you give it away on your personal website. Here’s a short guide to how to create your own audiobook, entirely for free.

1) Get an audio editing program. If you don’t have professional audio recording programs, like Protools or Ableton, don’t fear! A simple, free program called Audacity is incredibly simple to learn, and can be used on almost any computer. If you have an internal microphone, you’re all set to record.

2) Pick a passage to record. For starters, pick a manageable goal. Try not to aim to record your entire book. Consider focusing on a scene or chapter you find particularly strong, and maybe one that includes a variety of characters, to allow for some fun voice acting.

3) Cast and record. Cast your audiobook by either reading it yourself, or sharing the narration with a variety of friends or colleagues who have been assigned roles. You don’t even have to be in the same room — you can record different parts at different times.

4) Edit. Try to make the recording as clean as possible by eliminating pauses, editing out background noise, and re-recording unclear parts. If you haven’t edited audio before, it should take just a little practice to get the hang of it.

5) Add some character. Here’s where you get to have a lot of fun. Add some background music and sound effects to liven up your narration. Just a few additions can completely change the quality of the audiobook. For some free background music published under Creative Commons license, check out the Free Music Archive. For sound effects, be sure to explore FreeSound.

6. Post. After making sure everything sounds right (make sure to play it for a few people), post that audiobook! Be sure to post in a compressed format, such as .mp3. You can even post streaming audio at Soundcloud.

So now that you have the tools, the red light is on!

Who’s tried this? How’d it go?

Turning Your Blog Into Your eBook

One of the most frustrating truths of running a website is the ascendancy of new content. No matter how you lay out your website, more often than not, new content will take center stage, relegating older content to the recesses of your website, only reappearing when someone happens upon it through an internet search. It’s sad to see such good material get buried, and is clearly a limitation of the blog format.

But the blog isn’t the end of content, by any means. To get more mileage out of their content, bloggers have begun turning their webpages into eBooks. By turning old content into new profit, they also give some pieces that might deserve another look the chance to get one. This tactic helps bloggers advance their brand and provide offline consumption of their writing. Not only that, but bloggers already have access to a targeted audience (their site visitors) which makes publishing an eBook that much more viable. Besides the ever-present Tumblr-books (think cats doing funny things), some successful books have started out as blogs, including the basis for the film Julie & Julia.

EBooks also give a website the chance to showcase work around a specific theme or topic. If you run a cooking website, it might make sense to publish an eBook around Halloween that presents recipes for candy or other sweets. Or if you run a political website, an eBook that comes out highlighting your best writing about the upcoming election might also be a smart idea.

EBooks push the pause button on the lighting fast internet, and allow for reading to be more reflective and not reactive. Revisiting pieces before publishing them in an eBook, with updates of course, compels readers to get the eBook, and not just find the pieces on the blog itself. An eBook can also be a better way to engage contributors to the blog, who will see their writing published across multiple mediums, instead of flaming out quickly on the front page.

Turning a blog into an eBook gives old material new life, helps disseminate your content farther, and gives it an even better chance of earning money. What does a blogger have to lose?

Ready to start you own eBook?

You may be a Lulu Author, but are you a Google Author?

If you’re reading this blog it’s likely you’re either already a published author or aspire to be one (and nobody can make that dream come true faster than Lulu!). But are you a Google Author?

What is a Google Author?

By now you’ve probably seen search results in Google that look like this:

google-authorship-rich-snippet

This is known as an “author rich snippet search result.” Google supplies a photo of the author of the content that the search result links to. In addition, this author usually gets a byline (which links to his or her Google profile), and a link to search results for more of that author’s content.

How do you get such a result? By participating in the Google Authorship program. I’ll explain how in a moment, but first let’s talk about the “why.”

Creativity Strikes! Interview with Children’s Writer Sandra Arthur

As the social media manager here at Lulu, I have the lucky task of monitoring our Facebook Page. I can’t tell you what a delight it is to communicate directly with so many of our authors and to get a chance to see the creative ways you all have to reach your readers. I’m constantly impressed. The other day I saw a post from an author named Sandra Arthur and wanted to share with you about an ingenious workshop she created to get kids excited about reading and to teach them about endangered orangutans and the rainforest of Borneo. She kindly agreed to an interview (shown below), so I hope you will enjoy getting to read a bit about one of your fellow Lulu authors.

Can you please share a few words about the Jungle Workshop you organized?

I ran a “Jungle Workshop” to provide a fun storytelling experience for children. I was lucky to get support from a local, independent bookshop/café/toy shop. I created a Rainforest Room with a tent and decorations.

How To: Market a Self-Published Book

As an independent author, dozens of companies, sites and services will offer to show you how to market your self-published book – for one low fee, naturally. However, the reality is such: Provided you pick and choose your battles, and are smart about evaluating opportunity costs, doing so typically requires a greater investment of time than money.

Thanks to the rise of technology, online and social media tools, suddenly, anyone can advertise and promote their works affordably – meaning, for the most part, that you can tell coaches and consultants to take a hike. However, for those who do choose to go the DIY route, it also bears remembering: Even in the best of cases, from a promotional standpoint, due to the sheer volume of products, services and announcements competing for attention, you’re still screaming into a wind tunnel.

Happily though, with a little ingenuity and a good hook, you too can effectively market your works to the masses, potentially scoring high-profile placements and media mentions. Interested in getting started? We counsel keeping in mind the following hints, tips and advice.

Image is everything: People are visual creatures, and tend to accept what they see at first glance: From book covers to websites, social media profiles and business logos, everything needs to look top-notch, as it directly impacts perceived value. So if you have to cut costs anywhere, don’t let it be on presentation: If a picture says a thousand words, they should all be positive. Happily, professional-looking covers needn’t cost a fortune, crowdsourcing design sites can aid with affordable graphics and you can easily use off-the-shelf blogging solutions and plug-and-play visual templates to create high-quality websites.

Source advance quotes to build credibility: Ask recognized experts in your field, including thought leaders, well-known executives and other authors to read your manuscript and offer some endorsements (“Joe Smith’s work is a must-read!”) before even announcing the volume.

How To: Serialize with Lulu

There was such great response from Lulu authors at our blog post about a resurgence of interest in novel serialization, that we thought it would be helpful to talk about…

What’s the best way to make a serial novel with Lulu?

EBooks are really the way to go with serialized material, and the most important reason is length. Sizing options for print books require 32-page minimums for the best results. Don’t get us wrong, Lulu print books are a great way to compile and release your whole, finished novel at the end of the serial novel process, but most of us can’t write 32-page chapters on a regular basis. The short length of a single chapter of a novel is much more suited to a Lulu eBook. In order to harken back to the golden age of serialization, when a reader could sit down with the newspaper and read the latest installment of a Dickens epic after current events, you’re going to need a Lulu eBook. Don’t forget that Lulu will turn your .doc, .docx, .rtf, and .odt files into an EPUB eBook file for free, and provides retail distribution.

EBooks are also less of an initial investment for the author, of both time and money, and that matches the low initial investment that comes with serialized novels. Think of eBooks as a chance to test the waters with whatever project or concept you just haven’t been able to get out of your head but you’re not sure will work on a large scale. You can write one chapter, and see if readers are engaged and excited about it. If you release Chapter One and decide, based on reader feedback, that your hero needs a sidekick, guess who you’ll be able to introduce in Chapter Two? You guessed it, the pun-hurling partner in crime of your terse heroine.

Whether you decide to go with print or electronic publication (hey, if you crank out chapters Dickensian in length, more power to you!), there are some things you’ll want to consider for your personal writing process, and some of the decisions you make after you finish an installment.

Explode Your Author Fan Base with Google Plus

Anyone who loves books eventually falls in love with their authors. I don’t necessarily mean romantically in love (although I’m sure that happens!), but simply that when people have spent significant time in someone else’s thought world, they feel like they know that person. Then anything that makes that connection more real and solid in any way takes on immense significance for the reader. It’s one of the major factors in someone going from reader to “fan.”

That kind of connection used to happen primarily through personal appearances, at a reading or bookstore signing. For a fortunate few, there might have been a radio or television interview. But now social media has opened up all sorts of possibilities for authors to reach out to their readership, and for readers to feel more connected than ever.

The Green Machine

For some of the most popular authors today, social media has been key to their success. One of my favorite examples is young adult writer John Green (author of bestsellers like Looking for Alaska). On YouTube and Twitter Green built a community of intelligent, disaffected young people who identified strongly with the characters in his books. They even formed an impromptu “organization” known as the Nerdfighters (not fighting against nerds, but rather against “worldsuck”). To the Nerdfighters, Green isn’t just a favorite author, he’s their leader.

That might just sound like a bunch of fun and games, until you hear something like this: When Green announced pre-orders of his latest book on his Twitter account, it went almost immediately to #1 on Amazon…six months before the book was published.