Marketing Tips

What Lulu Readers Buy as Holiday Gifts

What you’ll learn:

  • Why hardcover books priced below $30 are the most desirable for holiday gift purchases
  • How readers find the books they buy as gifts and what influences their decision-making process
  • Where shoppers go to find the books that help them spread holiday cheer

The holidays are here! Parties are being planned. Stores are decking their halls. And people everywhere are scratching their heads as they try to find the perfect gift for everyone on those ever-growing holiday shopping lists. The question to you—independent authors – is how do you get your book in front of the shoppers interested in your book’s topic?

In order to help with this perplexing question, we’ve asked Lulu readers about their shopping habits and decisions, and there’s great news! For starters, over 70% of the nearly 1,200 respondents give more than 3 books as gifts over the holidays. Secondly, and an important consideration for you as you work through the steps in our free eBook, Marketing Your Book for Holiday Sales, most of the gifted books will be hardcovers.

So, what are these shoppers buying and how do they decide what to purchase? There are many factors that go into the decision-making process for Lulu readers. Let’s start by looking at one of the more fundamental pieces of the gift-giving puzzle — the price. According the Lulu readers, $30 is the magic number when they’re considering a book to give for the holidays with nearly 90% of respondents saying they’ll pay between $5 and $30. Only a small percentage of gift-givers, 8.4%, will pay more than $30.

How much, on average, are people spending on a book for a holiday gift:

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Now that we know Lulu readers are most likely to purchase and give hardcover books that fall below the $30 price point as they share their holiday cheer, let’s take a closer look at how gift-givers decide which books to give as gifts. When we asked the respondents about how they decided which books to give, an overwhelming majority of Lulu readers indicated that they rely most heavily on online research. This means that an online presence that effectively markets your book to the desired audience is critical to your success gaining holiday sales. Notably, the second most common way gift-givers found books to give as gifts was by giving books that they have already enjoyed and believe their friends and family will love, too.

Decision about which book to give:

Image1-HowDecided

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We also wanted to know what other factors contribute to holiday book purchase decisions, like delivery speed and media reviews. While 22% of respondents do, in fact, judge a book by it’s cover, we also learned that the familiarity of the author’s name and customer reviews contributed heavily to the decision to purchase a book.

Factors that play in to online purchases:

ChartExport

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Finally, we asked folks where they shop and make book purchases, both online and brick-and-mortar. Unsurprisingly, Amazon.com was overwhelmingly the most popular retailer, with independent booksellers, Lulu.com, Kindle and other eReaders, and Barnes & Noble stores following, respectively.

Where are people most likely to make their book purchases:

WherePurchased

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What does this mean for you?

Simply put, we hope this information helps you sell more books. By asking buyers what they typically buy and how they find these books for the holiday season, we learned not only how the book should look and feel (hardcover), but also the most desirable price point (less than $30) and the importance of having a strong online presence and distribution strategy.

To help each of you achieve your goal of creating the perfect hardcover for the holiday season shopper, we’ve introduced new premium options to make your book stand out. This includes new linen covers, foils stamping, dust jackets and archival paper to ensure your book is a gift your readers can cherish for years.

Be sure to check out the free eBook, Marketing Your Book for Holiday Sales, and sign up for your free First Edition Hardcover.

Happy Holiday Sales!

Your Friends at Lulu

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.

 

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 Authors are Using the Helix Review

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

Meet the first authors to use the Helix Review

Starting on Monday, August 5th – we’ll begin profiling the very first, the bold and brave, the curious and pioneering partakers of Helix, in an ongoing series of interviews through the end of October. Our feature schedule is below, and as we release new interviews we’ll update this post with links directly to them.

The Helix Review Featured Authors Schedule

Week Author Book Used for Helix Genre
Aug 5 Kay Gossage The Sword Of Ages: The Tallah Trilogy Fantasy
Aug 5 Jerry W Martin Moving Sideways Mystery Drama
Aug 12 Harley White The Autobiography of a Granada Cat: As told to Harley White Biographies & Memoirs, Unusual Habitats, Cats
Aug 12 Gregory L Truman Hitting the Wall Business and Economics
Aug 19 Ian Thomas Phillips 69 Poems poetry
Aug 26 Kareem Kamal El Gazzar 4 Steps to Your Authentic Career Business/Economics – Self help
Aug 26 Cristina Archer The Recidivist speculative fantasy fiction
Sep 2 Oluwagbemiga Olowosoyo God’s General Fiction
Sep 2 Protasio Chipulu Living with Cerebral Palsy:  A Parents’ Guide to Managing Cerebral Palsy Family and Relationships
Sep 9 Abdul Karim Musaliar The Transgressions of Achan Kunju Crime
Sep 9 John Locke Stuff I’ve Written So Far Political Science
Sep 16 Teresa Meola Vincent Running Blind Literary Fiction, Addiction, Psychological Theme
Sep 23 Laird David Elsworth Mason My McCurdy Family and Collateral Lines Including Native American and Some Royal Family Family History and Genealogy
Sep 30 Shontaine Married to Madness Urban Drama, Multicultural, Romance
Sep 30 Brett Russell Andrews Teaching Abroad: The People’s Republic of China Memoirs
Oct 7 Gary Briley Stalemate Mystery, suspense
Oct 7 Martin Wolt, Jr. Daughters of Darkwana Fantasy
Oct 14 Jack Gunthridge Broken Hearts Damaged Goods Romance
Oct 14 Geoffrey Lloyd Vough MULTNOMAH Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Oct 21 B.D. Salerno Forensics by the Stars:  Astrology Investigates Metaphysical / Astrology / Spiritual
Oct 21 William J. Smith Straight from Heaven;Delivered from Hell Science Fiction
Oct 29 Lisa Van Allen, PhD Your Belief Quotient: 7 Beliefs that Sabotage or Support Your Success Self help

Closing Thoughts

Thanks in advance to everyone above who contributed their feedback as part of our Helix Review featured author series. If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

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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Living in a DRM-Free World

Digital Rights Management, the software that helped protect the copyright of books, but turned out to be a rather large hindrance to many readers, is beginning to go the way of the Dodo. More and more businesses that sell eBooks are taking the plunge and ditching DRM (including Lulu). But has the loss of this security measure affected sales? Has the eBook market been flooded with pirated copies of books that drag down the market and result in losses in profit to authors and publishers? In short, no.

Tor Books, the high-profile science-fiction publisher dropped DRM last April, and they have seen “no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year,” according to their editorial director, Julie Crisp.

Consumers of eBooks have long been in favor of getting rid of DRM. It has made a hassle out of switching eBooks from one reader to another, and hindered the reading experience of readers who have paid to read their favorite authors.

Authors as well have applauded the move away from DRM. However, some larger publishers believe that DRM-free copies of their books published in other territories will find their way back to their own market, thus increasing the likelihood of digital piracy. Still, Tor’s report that there hasn’t been any discernible change in sales and readership is proof that DRM didn’t do much to protect authors.

“The move has been a hugely positive one for us, it’s helped establish Tor and Tor UK as an imprint that listens to its readers and authors when they approach us with a mutual concern — and for that we’ve gained an amazing amount of support and loyalty from the community,” Crisp reported.

When it comes to independent publishing, DRM has long been considered something that was once thought necessary, but is no longer needed, especially in a reading atmosphere that so proudly supports its writers.  Already, video games and music have begun to move away from these protections, as well.

What will be interesting is to see is if anyone will stick to DRM in the next few years. How have you felt as a Lulu author in a DRM-free world? What other minor changes in the publishing model would you like to see happen over the next few years?

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?

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.

 

Opportunities for Self-Published Authors with Shelf Unbound

A guest blog post from Shelf Unbound founder Margaret Brown.

When we launched our first Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Self-Published Book last fall, I was thrilled by the response (800+ entries), by the quality of the submissions, and by the sense of community I felt from engaging with these authors and their works. In response to all of that, Shelf Unbound has some new initiatives for 2013 that might interest self-published authors.

First, the call for entries for our second annual writing competition for best self-published book will go out in the middle of the year – if you sign up for a free subscription to Shelf Unbound magazine, you will be the first to know when we announce it. The winners of the 2013 competition will be featured in the December/January 2014 issue of Shelf Unbound magazine, which reaches 125,000 avid readers in the US and in 57 countries around the globe.

Second, we’re launching a regular department that will feature notable books submitted to our competition that did not make it into the “winners” issue.

Third, in an effort to provide a forum and community for self-published authors, I’m inviting self-published authors to be guest bloggers on the Shelf Unbound blog. I’m looking for 250- to 300-word essays on writing and/or self-publishing — feel free to talk about your book and give it a plug and include your website and/or links to your book. Just email me your text and I’ll let you know when I run it (margaret@shelfmediagroup.com). Please put “guest blog” in your subject line.

Finally, we have ad rates for self-published authors starting as low as $250 – shoot me an email if you’d like details – Margaret@shelfmediagroup.com.

I invite you all to be a part of the Shelf Unbound magazine community. I wish you all the best in the New Year. Keep writing. – Margaret Brown, publisher, Shelf Unbound.

BIO

Margaret Brown is the founder and publisher of Shelf Unbound book review magazine, a 2012 Maggie Award Finalist for Best Digital-Only Magazine. She is a lifetime member of the National Book Critics Circle.

How to Market Your Book During the Holiday Season

November and December are the most lucrative months of the year for retailers because people are in a crunch to find and buy the perfect holiday gifts for their loved ones. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the season and show off your written wares.

Publicize your ultimate holiday gift list. At this time of year, people looking for the perfect gift often need help in the form of suggestions and ideas. Offer up your suggestions on your blog, on a contact’s blog, or perhaps even for a local magazine or newspaper. Whatever you suggest should be in line with what your book is about. For example, if you’ve written a cookbook, then come up with a list of the best bake ware — and no matter where you publish your gift tips, make sure you provide a bio with a link to your book.

Make a donation. Giving during the holiday season means more than handing out shiny new presents to friends and family, it means giving back to your community. Pick a charitable organization that inspires you and offer to partner with them. Offer signed copies of your book as perks for donors who contribute at a certain level (perhaps the charity will even name that level after you or your book!) You can also vow to donate a percentage of your profits to a charity that you support. This is a great way to boost holiday spirit and to get a charity to help promote your book to their audience. You can also donate books to families, libraries and schools that are in need. There are countless ways to give back. Which will you choose?

Drop the eBook price. Between the iPad, the Kindle, the Kobo Reader, and the Nexus 7, among many others, e-readers are becoming more and more hot, and with every new user comes the potential for many more eBook libraries. So entice potential customers by dropping the price of your book for a limited time.

Give away copies to friends, family, and social media followers/fans. Perhaps the most obvious tip but not to be overlooked since the best way for people to learn about your book is to hear about it from others. So order extra copies and stuff them in stockings or offer signed giveaways to fans on Facebook or followers on Twitter.

Strategize for 2013. There are another 365 days coming up… soon. This means you have holidays to capitalize on, anniversaries to plan, promotions to fund, and even new books to promote. Spend the last few weeks of this year thinking about how you want to handle the next 52 weeks and come up with a marketing and social media plan that will get you to your new year’s goals. This may help: Pre-Publication Marketing Timeline for Authors.

Tell us, what are you doing to prepare for the holiday season? Are you buffing up your marketing efforts?