Marketing Tips

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.

 

Why Authors Need Their Own Website

If you're an author, a website is crucial for marketing your writing career.

You’ve written your book. You’ve published it. Congratulations! So…what’s next?

If you’re like many authors, you want to start selling it. But it’s not enough to just make it available for sale and cross your fingers. After all, you have a lot of competition out there. And while you have a lot of control when you independently publish, that comes with a lot of responsibilities, too. You have to do a lot of the heavy lifting for marketing on your own. It may seem daunting, and you might not even know where to begin.

Why not start with a website?

While selling your book in bookstores is great, let’s face it: you need to be found online. Your job in marketing yourself is to remove as many barriers as possible for potential readers. You want it to be easy to find you, easy to learn about you, and easy to buy your book.

Part of this is building your personal brand. That’s right, brands aren’t just for multinational corporations to slap on packaging and billboards. Building your personal brand lets readers know you outside of your book and helps you connect with them and build relationships. This will make them more likely to want to buy what you’re selling.

Websites and social media have made this easier than ever, because it allows you to directly share your thoughts with people. If you have a marketing strategy that doesn’t involve a website, you’re missing out on a lot. Plus, having a site just might make you a better writer.

Here are four ways having your own website will boost your writing career.

Engage Readers

How do you stand out in a world full of millions of people selling their books? By making it personal. Build relationships with readers by sharing your thoughts, responding to comments and questions, and entertaining them – in other words, by being a real person and not just a name on a book cover.

Building close connections to a group of fans can add up quickly; in fact, it’s the whole idea behind Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans premise. If you can give people a place to find you and you have a conversation with them, showing that you care about them and not just about their money, you’ll be well on your way to building your fanbase.

Sell Your Book

Hopefully your book is available in every place that will carry it, from Lulu to Amazon to brick-and-mortar stores. But there are a lot of benefits to selling your book on your own. Setting up a storefront on your website – allowing readers to find out about you and buy right away, without needing to go to another site – removes a barrier for purchase and makes them that much more likely to click that “Buy” button.

Network

Readers aren’t the only ones you’ll be able to reach with your website. Fellow authors, publishers, and booksellers are also online, and your website will allow you to network with them. Guest blog posts, for example, let you share tips and tricks and, even better, let you tap into someone else’s audience to build your own. Writing collaborations, workshops, author events – the bigger you grow your network, the more inroads you’ll have to great marketing and writing opportunities.

Practice Writing

Sure you’ve published a book, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement! Even the best authors are always striving to get better. If you’re updating your website regularly, you’ll get a ton of practice writing, whether it’s responding to visitors, posting writing exercises, or learning how to write concisely with your author bio. When you’re an author there’s no such thing as writing too much, and when you’re writing for your site – contributing to your marketing efforts – you’re killing two birds with one stone.

Getting Started

Making your own site has never been easier. Using a blogging platform like WordPress is a great place to start; you can create static pages that will remain relatively unchanged – for example, your bio or contact information pages – and have a built-in blog for regular updates. Or you can choose a platform like Squarespace and use their templates to make creating your own page a snap.

Some platforms are free, only charging you for extras, while some will run you a small subscription fee. And even purchasing your own domain name only comes out to a few bucks a month. No matter what route you go, look at the time and money you’re putting into it as an investment: a little work now will pay dividends as you continue to grow.

Do you have your own website? Tell us about it in the comments! Share your insights with your fellow authors about what works for you (and what doesn’t).

Easy Ways to Sell Books at Events

Easy ways for you to sell your self-published book at events.Most independent authors are used to selling their books online. Sites like Lulu.com, Amazon, and other retailers are typically the place where you’ll get most of your sales. If you put in a little hustle, you can also get your books on the shelves of brick-and-mortar stores.

But what if you want to sell your books yourself? It takes some work, but that’s something you’re used to if you’re publishing on your own, right? Especially if you’re writing and publishing as a business rather than a hobby, selling your own books can open up a lot of networking and sales avenues; just listing on Amazon and leaving it be simply don’t offer the same opportunities.

If you find yourself at a lot of conferences, seminars, book signings, or other events, you might be leaving a lot of books on the table – literally – by not being proactive with your selling strategy. Here are a few ways you can be hands-on with your sales.

Sell Online
“But I already sell online! Isn’t that what Lulu and Amazon are for?”

You’re right, but the ease of selling through an online retailer comes with the inherent drawbacks of being locked into their platforms and rules. Maybe you want to sell your book somewhere you can have complete control – running your own discounts, bundling books, adding non-book products, and more.

Luckily, selling online has never been easier to do. Squarespace, Shopify, Big Cartel, and Gumroad are just a few of the platforms that let you set up your very own ecommerce site in minutes. Add images, product descriptions, and prices, and you’ve got yourself a full-fledged storefront that anyone in the world can find at their fingertips.

The best part is, it still works great for people at events. Maybe they don’t want to carry around a book for the rest of a conference or have to find a way to pack it into their bag for their flight home. Or maybe they want to take advantage of those special deals that you’re able to do when you’re selling on your own, like a bundle that includes one of your previous book.

Plus, there’s a lot to be said about having a professional-looking site with its own store. People know to take you and your business seriously because they can see that you’re taking yourself seriously.

Sell In-person
Conferences and other events are great places to sell your books. After all, you’ve already engaged your audience with a talk that showcased your expertise, and there’s nothing better than a book to let them go more in-depth and keep you at the top of their minds.

But even if you have a stack of books and a line of willing buyers, how do you move those books? Do you cross your fingers that everyone will have cash on them? Do you direct them to the Internet and hope they don’t forget before they have a chance to check out your site?

The answer is easy, because today’s tech allows anyone with a credit card to become your customer. Products like Square, Shopify, and PayPal Here let you plug a credit card reader right into your phone or tablet and accept plastic like a pro. You can also use Stripe or PayPal for electronic payments.

Selling in-person has a ton of benefits. You’re meeting your audience face-to-face, which goes a long way in building relationships and networks. You’re also giving them instant access to your book; instead of waiting around for it to be shipped, they can start flipping through it right away and strike up conversations with other readers.

And hey, maybe you’ll even get asked to sign a few copies. There’s no easier way to get started down the path of a celebrity!

What To Watch Out For
Selling books through a third party is easy. Take Lulu, for instance: you set up your book and we take care of the listing, the checkout process, the payment transaction, and making sure your book gets to your customer. If you’re selling on your own, these are all things you’ll need to take into account yourself.

Which platform are you going to use? Are there fees involved with accepting payments? How are you going to ship your packages out? How many copies of your book are you going to keep in stock? Will you accept returns?

That’s the tradeoff between selling on your own and letting someone else do it for you. When you have control of everything, you have to control everything. That isn’t to say one is better than the other; you just need to know what you’re getting yourself into and how much time you’re willing and able to put into your business. Just remember to keep your options open, and strike when the opportunity presents itself!

Have you had success striking out on your own and selling your books? Let us know your best tips and tools in the comments!

Beating the “Bookstore Blues”: 5 Tips for Getting Your Book into Bookstores

MJ Maccalupo, Lulu AuthorYou’ve written your first book, or maybe it’s your 20th one; no matter. You want people to read it – that is, other than friends and family – and you want it in bookstores, but you don’t know how to get it there. You have what I call the “Bookstore Blues.” So how do you go about getting your book into bookstores?

I can’t tell you the best way for you to do it; that depends a great deal on you and the bookstore owner/manager. What I can tell you is how I go about it. I have found in my years as an outside salesman that there are a few key things that will boost your odds of success when you approach a bookstore owner/manager.

Prepare for your call

Go into the bookstore with your “elevator pitch” ready, rehearsed and sounding natural – not rote. Know who you need to speak with and be sure they have the time to talk with you. That may mean a phone call and appointment scheduled ahead of your visit; or, if cold-calling, a short pitch with a follow-up visit.

And by the way, even if you do have an appointment, remember that indie bookstores need to serve their customers, not you. So be prepared to have your pitch interrupted. Just back off and wait. Also, being able to chit-chat about the store’s uniqueness and the neighborhood it serves to show them that you are interested in their business. It only takes a little research to find out about them, and it will be greatly appreciated by them.

Researching the store can also save you a lot of travel and time as well. You don’t want to drive 50 miles only to find it’s a used bookstore or a genre-specific one. Some others may call themselves bookstores, but have most of their floor space dedicated to everything but books.

Benefit sell

Give them a reason to put your book on their shelf. What is so exciting about your book to make them want to share it with their customers? In other words, how will it benefit them and their loyal customers to have your book in their store?

Anticipate resistance

They were not just waiting for you to show up and save the day. Remember, you’re not the first one to knock on their door attempting to get a book on the shelf. Be ready to show what is unique about your book. Also be ready to leave a copy, flyer or some other material with the promise of a follow-up call in a few days or a week, once they’ve had a chance to look over your work.

Show you’re really in the game

Treat them as if this is the beginning, not the end, of your relationship. Suggest activities that you can do to help boost sales, such as signings or readings by yourself or with other local authors. How are you going to help move your book off the shelf?

Be ready to negotiate

Especially if your book is non-returnable, be prepared to have it put on the shelf on consignment. You can negotiate the split with the store. Usually, it’s somewhere between 60/40 and 75/25. (Don’t forget, you are absorbing the cost of printing). And while the latter sounds much better, it is a business and they might be more inclined to sell a book when they get a higher percentage of the selling price. Unless, of course, you have a best-seller on your hands – then go for it!

With these five things in mind, take a deep breath and remember that while you may not be a salesman (or saleswoman), most bookstore owners/managers will give you a chance if you present yourself as professional, knowledgeable, polite and concise when you approach them to get your book in their store.

And finally – have fun!

 

Author Bio

MJ Maccalupo, Ed.D.

Michael is the author of three novels: Where the Road Begins, Murder at Ravenswood Hall and The Allentown Murders (the Hap Pozner series), and a collection, The Almost Definitive Collection vol. 1 (short stories, essays, poems and a play). His books are available online and in bookstores in Southeastern NC, Western PA and Western NY. He has appeared on radio and television (cable and network) with his books. His books have also been reviewed in magazines and newspapers. Currently he is working on several novels to be released late this summer and fall. He lives with his family in Wilmington, NC. Visit his website at: http://mjmaccalupo.com

10 Things You Want to Know About Self-Publishing

The author of this article, Laura Shabott, and I were panelists at last year’s Self-Publishing Book Expo in New York City where we discussed and answered questions about book formats and formatting. Her advice is thoughtful and her tell-it-like-it-is approach is both refreshing and informative.

We all know this is a golden age for writing and publishing. Counterpoint?  The competition has never been more ferocious. With over 5,000 new book releases everyday on Amazon, today’s self-publishing author needs to be shrewd, savvy and prepared. Here are ten empowering things you need to know before entering the playing field.

1) You may write for yourself, but you publish for a defined audience.

Writing is all about you. Publishing is not. It’s about them, your future readers. Who are these people? If your quick answer is, “Well, it’s anyone who can read,” stop right there. Listen to me. You need to know who is going to read your book. Is it a professional network, your yoga students or your blog followers? Will you go to every bookstore within a hundred miles of your home and ask them to carry your book? Will you bite the bullet and plunk down 10,000 dollars for a publicist? Tough, tough question; who is my audience? Answer it and you have a book that sells.

2) Pick a book title that works with Internet algorithms.

Your title is organized by its exact words in search engines. Using the name “Confessions of an eBook Virgin” for my self-publishing guide groups it with “Confessions of a Virgin Sacrifice.” If the focus of your book (yoga, diet, novel, anthology, divorce) isn’t somewhere in your title or subtitle, it will drift aimlessly in the vast oceans of digital content.

3) Editing is EVERYTHING!

People often balk at paying for a seasoned developmental book editor or writing coach, copy editor and proofreader. So WHAT if it costs a couple of grand? Anyone can get a part-time job, but no one can reverse a sloppy book launch.  You, a David against the Goliath marketplace, have a shot at rising to the crème de la crème of books if it’s tight. Use pros to ready your manuscript for market. Skip this part and be relegated to the miles-high heap of self-published typo-filled slush.

4) Choose the formats that work for your readers.

My readers? Every last one wants a book in the hand; digital natives, baby boomers, artists, writers and actors all want that. Once I produced a paperback edition of “Confessions,” sales took off at speaking engagements and local stores. This is ironic, since the book is about publishing eBooks. But, hey, audience is King. Give them what they want.

5) Manage your time wisely.

I manage my 168 hours a week like a dragon guarding a priceless treasure. If I am going have to be my own writer/designer/producer/promoter and financier, the case for any self-publisher, I need to get the most out of every minute – and so do you.

6) Don’t rush the publication of your book.

“Oh, I don’t have to line up 25 to 100 post-launch online reviewers,” thinks the new author/publisher. Or, “I don’t have to have a blog tour or get a professional review service. People will find my book because I am amazing!” No, they won’t and you will cry bitter tears of anguish.

You have to have a marketing plan. The checklist in the back of my book is a good place to start.

7) Beware heat-seeking sharks in the water.

Do your research before hiring or trusting anyone. Get at least three referrals from people like you when going with a vanity press or any publisher who will have control of your edition. Protect your asset; that book you spent months or years on is your intellectual property. But don’t shy away from a collaborative publishing arrangement with a small or mid-size press, a growing option instead of going it alone.

8) People will say bad things about your book.

Amazon trolls, your neighbors, reviewers and friends will say idiotic things about your book. Unless they are in the writing business, in which case you will think that they are cruel. Lighten up or it will crush you.  If you keep hearing the same thing over and over (I don’t like your protagonist), then it’s a real problem that you, the author, need to fix.

9) Self-publishing gives you total control. Use it.

If, after all this work, there is a fatal flaw in your first effort, yank it. Start over. Put the title back out fixed. That is power. You are the boss of your book and anyone on your team.

10) Go Local

Take a carton of your print-on-demand edition or short run and sell directly. Canvas your own region through library talks, independent bookstores, fairs, flea markets; anywhere you can grow an audience. Going local is organic, affirming and actively engages your community in your work.

 

Takeaway: Self-publishing a good, if not great, book is a rite of passage. The experience can lead to a career in writing more books, providing support services like editing, reviewing or designing – or something totally unexpected!

Laura Shabott

Laura Shabott

Laura Shabott is a Provincetown based writer, a dynamic speaker and an empowering self-publishing consultant. She is the author of Confessions of an eBook Virgin: What Everyone Should Know Before They Publish on the Interneta five star rated primer for anyone curious about online publishing. Go to http://www.laurashabott.com, tweet @laurashabott or email laurashabott@gmail.com.

The Business of Self-Publishing: ISBNs

ISBN Gold

With publishing open to everyone, authors are now the CEOs of their own publishing companies. Self-publishing requires authors to make all product decisions including paper color, font, book layout, cover design, distribution and marketing strategy. As such, you must be not only a creative genius, but also a savvy business person. Otherwise, the siren song of literary success will cloud your business judgment. After all, who isn’t tempted by the prospect of seeing their book listed for sale in every online bookstore?

Publishing with an ISBN*

An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is the holy grail of book distribution and Lulu provides them for free if your book meets certain requirements. The ISBN is a bit like your book’s fingerprint; it is used to both identify your book and track its sales. An ISBN paired with Lulu’s free GlobalREACH distribution makes your print and eBook available for purchase in online bookstores such as Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, iBookstore, Kindle, and Kobo stores among others. Your book will also be listed in global bibliographic databases from which any number of institutions, bookstores, and online retailers can discover it and offer it for sale.  For authors seeking a broad audience, publishing with an ISBN is indeed a requirement.

ISBN ExplainedISBNs, however, directly affect pricing. Applying an ISBN to a print book results in an automatic retail markup being added to your book’s price. This markup is the amount a retailer can potentially earn from selling your book on their site. Retailers may choose to sell your book at its full price or offer it at a discount with “free” shipping – all of which is paid from the retail markup or retailer’s portion of the book’s price.

Regardless of the price your book sells for, you will always be paid the revenue you set when publishing the book. Unfortunately, retail markups often force authors to greatly reduce earnings per book in order to remain competitively priced. This revenue tradeoff is offset by the possibility of more sales being generated when a book is widely available for purchase and is a sacrifice most authors are happy to make.

*At this time, only Premium format books may be assigned an ISBN.

Publishing without an ISBN**

Depending on your ultimate goal and target audience, publishing without an ISBN may make more sense. Forgoing an ISBN allows more formatting choices and greater pricing freedom in the Lulu bookstore. These are advantages if you are publishing a book for sentimental reasons, for a limited audience, or to promote your business. For example, if you are a teacher publishing educational books, an ISBN is not required to reach your students who are your target audience. The same applies when publishing your family history or grandmother’s favorite recipes – your intended audience will be aware of your work and be happy to purchase it directly from you or from the Lulu bookstore thereby cutting out the middleman.

**Authors may choose Premium, Standard, or Photo Quality formats when publishing without an ISBN.

Publishing with AND without an ISBN

If your dream is to one day strike it rich as an author, you may wish to publish a Premium Paperback version of your book with an ISBN for wide distribution and publish another version without an ISBN using Lulu’s Standard Paperback format. This strategy allows you to maximize book exposure through online retailers while maximizing revenue through direct sales of a Standard Paperback. Sales from your web site, the Lulu bookstore, local bookstores, and events such as book signings do not require an ISBN. The Standard Paperback formats are printed using state of the air ink jet technology that significantly reduces manufacturing costs. Additionally, with no middlemen to pay, you have greater pricing flexibility that translates into higher earnings. The Standard Paperback format is also perfect for proofing, review copies, and giveaways.

ISBN bigstock-Barcodes-Seamless-vector-wall-25203968As you consider the future of your writing think about your goals, your audience, and the options described above. The manuscript and cover files you created for the book you sent into distribution are the same files you will upload to create your Standard Paperback, or “personal stock” copies. With a few minutes of effort, you can be on your way to increased sales and higher revenues.

E-book or “Real” Book – Which Should You Publish First?

eBook print bookIn the past, traditional publishing followed a well-defined path of first releasing a “real” book in the most expensive format possible, followed by a less expensive paperback and an eBook. Today, with self-published authors determining the formats and release order for their work, is the traditional path still relevant? Should a print book be released prior to an electronic book?

Most of the books I have published are available in both print and electronic formats, but when I published Reality Check, I only published it as an eBook. The reason was that I wanted the book to be available quickly with a minimum of delay. The book was an exploration of the issues I faced as a Brit who moved to live in Brazil in 2013 and I wanted it to be very fresh with comment on current affairs during this time.

The book did well. Amazon featured it as the #1 book about Brazil for a long time and as I look at their charts while writing this article, I see it remains in the top 20 for books about South America. Yet, I now believe it was a mistake to release it only as an eBook.

The real answer to the question eBook or print book is “both.” I don’t think the publishing order matters now, so long as the versions are released at approximately the same time. Some readers are eBook fanatics. They only download books and consume them on their Kindle, iPad, phone, or other reading devices. Other readers want to feel a physical book in their hands and to decorate the bookshelves of their home with beautiful objects.

However, the process of self-publishing an eBook and a print book is slightly different. You will probably need to take your final edited manuscript and subject it to two separate preparation processes.

Getting your manuscript eBook ready for publication means the manuscript must be formatted in a machine-readable format, usually HTML (Lulu provides an excellent eBook conversion tool for non-technical authors). You can’t specify details such as the font size because the reader may change all of this on their eReader anyway. You will also need to add links, similar to website links, so the reader can click and find key places in the book, such as the index or chapters.

Getting your print book ready for print publication is more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get process. You need to ensure that your document is formatted to the correct size for your printed pages, that your font and character sizes all look exactly as you expect in the book, and details such as page numbers and starting a chapter on an odd-numbered page are applied.

These are two separate processes and having done both a number of times now, I suggest the quickest way to get your book out there once you have a final edited manuscript is to launch the eBook first. The preparation process for an eBook is quite fast as there is only a limited amount of formatting allowed and you can use free preview tools, such as Calibre, to see how it will look on an eBook reader. Once submitted to Lulu, your eBook will be available for purchase almost immediately.

Once you have the eBook out there you can focus on taking the same manuscript and formatting it for the physical book. This process takes longer because once you have the book ready, you still need to purchase a single copy and check that it has printed correctly. You might get it right the first time, but I have found that I usually miss something the first time around and get the printed version right on the second attempt.

With luck, you can have the eBook and physical book published within a week or two of each other and both available so that customers who like either format will be satisfied. And, that book I wrote about Brazil? The second edition is going to be published as a paperback on Lulu next month because I don’t want to ignore all those people who still love “real” books!

Author BIO

Mark Hillary

Mark Hillary is a British author, blogger and advisor on technology and globalization based in São Paulo, Brazil. He is a regular contributor to journals including The Huffington Post, Reuters, The Guardian, and Computer Weekly.

Mark live-blogged the 2010 UK General Election for Reuters. He was an official blogger at the 2012 London Olympics. He was shortlisted as blogger of the year in 2009 and 2011 by Computer Weekly magazine.

Contact Mark: www.markhillary.com (@markhillary)

Mark on Lulu: http://j.mp/lulumarkhillary