Remarkable Finds

Who has the lowest prices on professional photo books and calendars? Lulu Studio does!

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 11.46.21 AMLet it be known that we are here to serve the people! We receive a lot of very helpful feedback, both positive and negative, from our wonderful authors and customers, and we strive every day to improve how we operate in response to the feedback.

Recently, we’ve been speaking with a lot of photographers and authors of photo-rich content about the pricing for photo books and calendars on Lulu Studio. Based on these conversations and the follow up research we conducted, we are excited to share some pretty big changes with you.

Today, we introduced new wholesale and volume discount pricing for professional photo books and calendars created using Lulu Studio. With photo books starting at $12.99 and calendars starting at $9.99, the newly introduced pricing allows photographers and other creators of photo-rich products to pass savings on to their customers, thereby increasing both your audience reach and resulting sales opportunities.

Self Publishing Momentum Continues!

The independent publishing industry has taken great strides since Lulu first made the option to self-publish books widely available in 2002. On October 9, Bowker released new data highlighting the strong adoption of self-publishing as the industry continues to build momentum.

Most notably, Bowker cites a 59% jump in self-published titles in 2012 from 2011. That’s huge! Similarly, eBooks continue to gain popularity among self-published authors with 40% of the ISBNs that were self-published in 2012 being eBooks compared to 11% the year prior.

Recently, there has been yet another groundswell of enthusiasm and participation in the movement. There is ever-increasing credibility and success among self-published authors, even those that have been traditionally published before. Writers everywhere continue to embrace the opportunities and control afforded by making their books directly and immediately available to readers everywhere.

Highlights from Bowker’s 2011 annual findings included the addition of over 148,000 new self-published titles, which translates to 43% of all print books released in the U.S. that year. Also, self-published books represented 12% of all e-book sales and as much as 20% of specific genres like romance and fantasy.

You can read more about these trends and Bowker by visiting these sites:

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.

 

 

 

Mythbusting: Traditional Publishing vs. DIY Publishing

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 1.32.51 PM“The only reason I’m here is to support and do whatever is possible for an editor to do to support a writer” is how Roy M. Carlisle started his presentation at the Writer’s Digest Conference.  This was refreshing…especially since it was being said by a man who lived in traditional publishing for years. Carlisle is currently the Acquisitions Director for the Independent Institute and gave us the inside scoop about traditional publishing and the myths associated with the industry.

A few things that are myths in traditional publishing:

  • Traditional publishers will always tell you that the self-publishing marketplace don’t exist.  Truth: that is completely false and your market is out there. Editors are often going to small publishers now to find authors.  Independent small publishers have grown by 5,000% in the last few years and there are 40,000 independent publishers now publishing really interesting, creative things.
  • You can’t do this on your own.  Truth, you CAN publish individually! You need to know what your strengths and your weaknesses are…in other words, know yourself. Reach out to experts from editors to cover designers and listen to their advice.
  • Only the GOOD books are published by traditional publishers. This is a blatant lie! There are numerous examples of amazing books done by DIY publishers. Refer 50 Shades of Grey sales figures. Don’t believe the hype!
  • Minor myth: Authors get rejected for specious reasons. Often times, traditional publishers are limited in their ability to respond in detail because of legal reasons. Get strong editorial critique from a qualified editor and don’t be afraid of it.

Final word: you are the future of publishing.

Yes, we are!

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.

 

Elmore Leonard, the great American writer

Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard

Author Elmore Leonard passed away this week at the age of 87, making this a sad time for the many authors he inspired and influenced, and the readers he excited with his work.

We know the Elmore Leonard of 2013 as a great success, with novels adapted for Hollywood films as well as the small screen, a Peabody Award for ‘Justified’ and a National Book Award. His career spanned nearly fifty years, and even Stephen King called him ‘the great American writer’.

But at Lulu we love Elmore Leonard for his beginning. In a time before self-publishing was feasible, he set out to be a writer but was forced to work on the side, with no promise of reward.  He entered many short stories in contests by sending them to magazines, some composed on the pad he hid in his desk drawer at work. We bet there are some Lulu-ers out there right now with  documents buried in the folders of their work computer, a manuscript that hasn’t yet seen the light of day.

Leonard was also well known for his Ten Rules of Writing, published in 2007, which also seem to be slanted for the aspiring writer, using simple guidelines like “Never open a book with weather” and “Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue.”

Join our Elmore Leonard Tribute

We are joining in the tribute taking place on Twitter, and thought you might like to share a message as well.

You can click on the links below to start a tweet to Elmore using the hashtag #LuluLovesElmore so we can share our remembrance together. Feel free to add you favorite one of Elmore’s books, quotes, movies, rules for writing or simply retweet the message below.

Click Here to Tweet Your Own Message to Elmore

Click Here to ReTweet Lulu’s Message to Elmore

 

Meet the Dropbox for Books…Ownshelf

OwnshelfIn only a few short years of existence, Dropbox has become indispensable for computer users the world over, who need to quickly share files with their friends, coworkers, and relatives. But until now, there hasn’t really been a popular way to share eBooks across platforms with the ease of simply accessing a communal cloud-based hard drive. So in that spirit, meet Ownshelf, which is marketing itself as the Dropbox for books.

Ownshelf lets eBook readers share their DRM-free eBooks (eBooks that are allowed to be shared without paying for them again) in a simple and fast way: you just add books to your virtual bookshelf, and your friends can browse them and download them to their reader or computer. Not only can you browse books posted by your friends, but you can also check out titles that have been recommended by complete strangers through the “Featured Shelves” component.

Since the precipitous rise of eBooks over the past few years, readers have been looking for ways to share eBooks with one another through website and social media. Ownshelf takes advantage of this tendency by directly plugging into your Facebook, allowing friends to see which books you’re currently sharing with the world, and which other one’s you’ve been reading. Of course, if sharing with the world that sort of thing is not you cup of social media tea, then you might be out of luck with Ownshelf, which heavily uses the Facebook element of its design.

Ownshelf is still in the early stages of it development, but has the potential to grow into an indispensable part of the eBook ecosystem. Unlike other platforms that make readers choose between “bookshelves” only available to certain products and companies, Ownshelf opens up eBook sharing to everyone, and is one of the first projects to do so.

As a reader, how do you find eBook recommendations? Do you think products like Ownshelf will encourage independent authors to publish without DRM protection, or will writers be scared away by the threat of piracy? As always with eBooks, the situation is constantly evolving, and whether an application sinks or swims is entirely dependent on just how helpful the (voracious) eBook-reading population finds it.

Getting self-published books on store shelves

Compliments of Blogto.com

In an increasingly digital world, it’s still the dream of many authors see their books in print and on the shelves of their favorite bookstores.  Many stores order books from wholesale distributors such as Ingram Book Company, where Lulu authors can get their books listed through our GlobalReach distribution service.  That means that in addition to having your book on popular online retailers like Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, you’re also giving brick-and-mortar stores the chance to carry your book!

But there’s another way to go about it, and that’s by selling directly to bookstores yourself on a consignment basis.  Basically you, the author, purchase copies of your book and work out a deal with a bookstore to get those copies on their shelves.  The catch is that bookstores don’t pay for the books right away: money is only transferred when a book sells, with you being paid an agreed-upon, per-book price.  In short, you’ll need to foot the bill initially and will be responsible for any unsold copies.  Unlike your average print-on-demand sale, where there are no upfront costs to you and books are printed as they’re ordered, you’ll need to spend a little money to make a profit down the road.

Getting Started
The easiest way is to simply talk to someone at your local bookstore.  Each store will have their own practices on ordering books, so you’ll have to ask some important questions before signing any deals.  How many copies will they shelve at a time?  How long is the consignment agreement for?  Are there any fees?  How and when will you be notified of (and paid for!) copies that have sold?  What’s the revenue split between you and the store?  Check out the websites of any places you have in mind; stores often have their consignment policies posted online and you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with them before speaking to someone.

There are a few hurdles you’ll have to get past when selling on consignment – paying to print the books, dealing with the business side of bookstores, and so on – but the benefits make the effort worthwhile.  This method is great for bookstores – it’s less risk on their end since they’re not paying for a book until it’s already sold – and that means more stores will be willing to take a chance on you.  You also stand to make more money per sale since you’ll have more control over the final price of your book.  Overall, the relationships built with retailers and the lessons learned about what it really takes to sell your work can prove to be invaluable over the course of your self-publishing career.

A few final tips:

  • Go Local: You might have better success targeting local independent bookstores rather than big chains.  Small bookstores are generally happy to showcase local talent and might be more willing to work with you not only to display your books but also set up book signings and other promotional events to help sell books.  IndieBound’s store finder makes it easy to locate bookstores near you.  If you do go to a chain location, see if they have a section spotlighting local or self-published authors.
  • Look the Part: Getting your book into bookstores starts well before it hits the shelves.  Unlike online retailers, brick-and-mortar stores only have so much space so they’ll want books that look like they belong there.  Make sure you have an eye-catching cover and that your interior is edited and formatted.  If you don’t want to do this on your own, Lulu has you covered with our professional publishing services.
  • Buy Big: You already know that with Lulu’s print-on-demand model you can print as many or as few books as you like, but just because you can print only one book doesn’t mean you should!  If you have more copies you can make deals with more stores right away.  You also don’t want to find out that a store has sold out and wants more copies of your book and you don’t have any to give them!  With Lulu’s bulk purchase discounts the more you buy, the more you save.  You’ll never find yourself short of books, and you’ll end up saving money in the long run.

What a rookie writer learned from Neil Gaiman at BEA 2013

Neil Gaiman answering questions at BEA

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2013 BookExpo America in New York City.  Amongst the myriad of awesome presenters there, I was particularly looking forward to Neil Gaiman’s talk, which was really more of a discussion with aspiring authors.  Gaiman has been a favorite of mine for a while and his now famous 2012 University of the Arts  commencement speech, “Make good art” has consistently been an inspiration for me.

As Gaiman dove into the crazy world of how he became a writer, it became increasingly evident that this wildly successful author had gone through many of the same trials and tribulations that even the most amateur authors experience.  He never set out to become a world renowned author, rather he simply had always shared a love for reading and a passion for story-telling; perhaps the two greatest ingredients for a writer.  From the stories he told, I snagged a few tidbits of commonality that hopefully are beneficial for all aspiring authors:

  •     An insatiable hunger for reading is a writer’s best asset.
  •     On why fiction is dangerous: Fiction is dangerous because it lets you into other peoples heads and gives you empathy and shows you that the world doesn’t have to be like the one you live in…Letting people into other people’s heads is amazing and incredibly dangerous.
  •     On how to handle rejection or failure:  Two different things play out…I get things back and I’m either not good, which I do not choose to believe, or I’m just doing this wrong.  I vowed to myself to try to write things that no one could reject.  I worry now that no one will tell me I’ve written a dud short story.
  •     With 30 years of success, is there still doubt: Yes, and it hasn’t been 30 years of success. There have been things that have worked and things that haven’t.  Authors are combinations of complete arrogance and self-doubt.

I wanted to share these four points to spark thoughts, or even to provide a since of camaraderie that you are not alone as you work to create your next piece. What have you learned in your time as a writer? Please share your tips below! You may inspire a fellow writer.