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.

How Self-Published Textbooks Bring Down the Cost of College Education

Dollars in the books, isolated on white background, business traAt Lulu.com, we’ve noticed a trend in publications from educational field leaders. In fact, 9 out of our top 20 authors for the past year published textbooks. This movement to self-publishing isn’t necessarily a big surprise when you consider the exorbitant prices of textbooks that continue to rise. USA Today reports an 82% increase in textbook prices between 2002 and 2013. The Economist also recently reported the nominal price of textbooks has risen more than fifteen-fold since 1970, three times the rate of inflation.

Based on a survey of more than 2,000 students from more than 150 college campuses across the United States this price trend is having an increasingly negative effect:

  • 65% or respondents said that in the past they have decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive.
  • Nearly half (48%) said the cost of textbooks has an impact on how many or which classes they take.
  • 94% of the students who had skipped buying a required book said they were concerned that doing so would hurt their grade in that course.

Professors and schools are paying attention. Rather than requiring students to pay for a textbook that contains only a few chapters of relevant information, members of the academic community are writing their own textbooks and self-publishing them. This allows instructors to publish what they teach and teach what they publish.

Self-publishing and print-on-demand technology keeps costs down. Since there is no inventory to maintain, only the books that are ordered are printed and there are fewer middlemen getting paid. Additionally, eBooks are an increasingly affordable and popular solution, since the eBook format allows professors to publish individual chapters or supplements that students can purchase as needed.

The biggest advantage with self-publishing is that textbooks can be revised and made available for purchase in real time ensuring the content is always current. This is especially important in medical, technology and other rapidly expanding fields.

Health InformaticsIf you would like to learn more, see this article in Publisher’s Weekly: Indie Authors on Campus. In it, Lulu authors Bob Hoyt and Ann Yoshihashi share their experiences self-publishing a textbook in the ever-changing field of health care and information technology.

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

 

Infographic: The Value of a Book

In honor of World Book Day, we have created an infographic that shows the value of a book when you go through the traditional publishing process vs. the self-publishing route.

Blog-Infographic

UNC MBA’s in the House!

Last week, we had the pleasure of welcoming three MBA students from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School to Lulu for a day of hands-on, out of the classroom learning. Elisa Lin, Caspar Xu and Zach Shapiro spent the day with us learning all about Lulu, how we’re structured and how the company is run day in and day out.UNC_KFBS_stacked_RGB

 

At Lulu, we’re passionate about serving the local community and helping to inspire the budding entrepreneurs in the area. So when UNC Kenan-Flagler asked us to participate in their program and open our doors for their students, we were thrilled to join in. UNC Kenan-Flagler has a reputation for knowing exactly what defines true business success and helping their students learn and put that understanding into practice. Elisa, Caspar and Zach will be a few of the exceptional leaders the school has shaped, that will go on to make a positive impact on the companies they lead and the communities they serve.

 
We sat Elisa, Caspar and Zach down with various members of our executive team and other key team members throughout the day to give them varying perspectives on Lulu, self-publishing and how we stay innovative in an ever-changing industry. At the end of the day, they shared their impressions of what they learned from us and identified opportunities they saw for the company based on the information they had.

In their own words:

“Thank you so much for taking the time to show us around. We really appreciated the exposure to so many different aspects of the company and the ability to meet everyone. We are impressed by Lulu’s driven culture and innovative business model. We have spoken with many nimble people, influenced by their persistence for customers and quality. Our biggest take away is always keep curiosity to serve customers better. The other lesson we have learned is to find a company which culture is a great fit is extremely important, because it can put you with others and achieve the goal together.”

photo 1
Lulu looks forward to seeing what these three bright young minds will do once they graduate!

2015 Writing Resolutions: 7 Tips for Staying on Track

new-years-resolutionsBy now, most people have realized their 2015 resolutions are in serious danger of falling to the wayside. You are not alone. On average, only 8% of New Year’s resolutionists are successful in reaching their proclaimed goals. But, with resolve and a little encouragement, you may count yourself among the determined 8% at year’s end.

Here are seven tips to help get your writing resolutions back on the road to success.

#1 – Define your why

You say you want to lose weight, quit smoking, start / finish writing your novel, devote more time to marketing your book, or find more happiness. But do you know why you want to do those things? Your “why” is your motivation. If you don’t know why, you are more likely to lose your resolve upon encountering the first setback.

#2 – Consider the why-nots

This is the flip side of your whys. As Noah St. Joan explains in his book, The Secret Code of Success, everything you do is caused by your why-tos weighed against your why-not-tos. Your brain is like an infinite weighing machine: It’s always comparing your perceived benefits (why-tos) against the perceived cost (why-not-tos).

Whenever you’re considering an activity — like spending time editing your novel, answering emails, writing press releases, or reading this article — your brain is going, “Why should I do this? How will it benefit me? What’s it going to cost me? I’d rather be watching TV.” Because our brains are always negotiating with us, our why must be a greater motivator than the alternative.

#3 – Enlist the help of friends

The easiest way to fail is to try to do something alone. There are not many examples of people who did great things completely alone. Bill Gates had Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. Michael Jordan had his dad. Paul McCartney had John Lennon.

The way to overcome this mistake is simple: tell your friends what you want and why you want it, and ask them to support you in making positive changes.

#4 – Use positive peer pressure

This is the continuation of #3. Ask your friends to tell you when they see you straying from your goal.

Many people will feel uncomfortable about this one, but what they don’t realize is that your friends already know when you are not making an effort; they are just too nice to say anything. That’s why you must give them permission to tell you when you mess up or fall short of what you said you wanted to do. Just resolve to not get mad or be defensive when they tell you.

#5 – Recruit an accountability partner

An accountability partner is someone you communicate with at regular intervals (monthly, once a week, even daily) to check on your progress. The beautiful thing is, you can also be that person’s accountability partner and help THEM make positive changes, too.

#6 – Ask experts for advice

No matter what you’re trying to do – write a poem, sell your book, schedule an interview, be nicer — without a solid plan of action, your good intentions will probably fall short. That’s why it’s good to find other people who have succeeded at the thing you’re trying to do and ask how they did it.

There is always someone who likes to talk about him/herself who will share their experience with you if asked politely. Even if you don’t know anyone personally, there are numerous blogs on all subjects that you can peruse. If you can make use of others’ advice, you can avoid the most common pitfalls thereby increasing your chances of success.

#7 – Don’t set yourself up to fail

This is the worst mistake of all. The truth is, everyone knows how to write a book, quit smoking, or be nicer. Most people simply don’t believe they can do it — either because they’ve tried in the past and failed, or they just don’t believe they’re capable of doing it.

Most importantly, don’t’ give up. It’s still early in the year and there is plenty of time to get your writing and marketing resolutions back on track.

Your friends at Lulu.com

7 Questions to Ask When Converting Your Blog to a Print Book

After writing a teblog to bookchnology blog for a UK-based magazine for about three years and notching up hundreds of blog entries, I approached the magazine editor and suggested this interesting collection of articles was worthy of a book.

He immediately began asking questions, including, “Why on earth might anyone be interested in a series of blog posts collected together into a book?” He was also concerned about the complexities of publishing, but having already published with Lulu, I knew this was the least of our worries – I published the book in 2009.

Can anyone turn his or her blog into a book?

In theory yes, but there are some questions worth considering before you initiate that big WordPress download.

Is there an audience for the book?

You don’t need to do a lot of market research on this. You can publish with Lulu even if you anticipate a limited or specialized audience.

How much effort is required?

If you are doing this because you want to see your name on the spine of a book, you should consider that selecting your best posts and formatting them for the printed page will be quite a bit of work.

Will your blog work as a book?

The blog I converted to book format was mainly journalism and commentary, so I could easily imagine it on the printed page. On the other hand, turning your years of Tumblr posts into a book may be a futile exercise – and may even infringe copyright unless you personally own every image you shared. Remember, your posts may work well in the context of a blog where you might feature video clips, Instagram photos and other media that looks great when viewed on an iPad, but is not going to translate to the printed page.

Are the blog posts relevant now and in the future?

Blog content almost always features a date-stamp, which can translate to book content in an epistolary format – dated blogs in sequence – but there is an important time distinction between blogs and books.

Blogs are written and published in the now, usually referencing the exact time they were written. As time goes on, new posts may update or supersede earlier ones. As such, some of your blog entries will be completely unsuitable for use in a book because they are comments on a moment, rather than less time-bound thoughts or comments.

A book needs to be planned with a much longer shelf life than an individual blog post. When you publish a book, it is published at a moment in time and cannot be quickly updated except through new editions. In general, book content needs to be planned so that it will not become quickly dated.

Will the structure of my blog translate to a book?

It is worth viewing your blog in the round. You may have a hundred thousand words of great content, but you may end up stripping away half of that content to preserve your best posts. It is worth thinking about whether you want a literal version of your blogs in book format or whether you can do more with the text when planning how it might be read on the page. For example, you may be able to connect several blogs together and present them as longer essays.

Why should I do it?

If you are already blogging then you are a writer. Many writers have used short publications that were eventually collected together into a longer book format – The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens is one of the most famous examples. In fact, there is little to distinguish the way Dickens wrote then from a blogger today who releases short articles then collects them together into a longer book.

Posterity is as good a reason as any to take a close look at your blog to see if it might be worth publishing as a book. Even if your blog posts are individual and cannot be collected together into a coherent story, there may still be value in collecting them together. In my case, my articles from 2006-2009 that went into my “book-of-the-blog” have now been deleted from the magazine website. Now my book is the only place where they continue to live!

Mark Hillary

Author BIO

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