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:

Lulu Joins Durham’s Inaugural Read Local Book Festival

Lulu Read Local Table

There’s nothing more refreshing than seeing readers, writers, and publishers come together to celebrate their love of all things books. It’s even better when they’re doing it to support a great cause. A few weekends ago, that’s exactly what happened.

In this case, the event was the inaugural Read Local Book Festival in downtown Durham, North Carolina, and the cause was raising money for the Durham Library Foundation. And since it was in our own backyard, we here at Lulu couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get involved and show our support.

Lulu author Jon Batson

Long-time Lulu author Jon Batson with lots of books on display.

The result was an undeniable success! Over one hundred local authors, both established and up-and-coming, turned out for the event. They showcased their work and participated in panels, talking and answering questions about writing and publishing. Thousands of readers showed up to walk the tables and find their favorite authors, as well as discover a few new ones.

Small publishers and independent bookstores were on hand to display the best new books they had to offer. There were even literacy-based volunteer organizations to help spread the message of the weekend. There was something for everyone, no matter how you were involved in the publishing industry.

Oh, and there were some favorites in local food and drink there to keep everyone well-fed, too.

Lulu author Rachel Pollock

UNC professor Rachel Pollock writes about restoring antique parasols.

Lulu was lucky enough to be right in the middle of it at the Exhibitor Fair, with our very own Jennifer and Gannon in attendance manning the Lulu table and mingling with the crowd. They were happy to see some familiar faces, like Jon Batson and Rachel Pollock. They met up with a number of authors who have used Lulu to create, publish, and sell their books. From popular fiction to niche hobbies, the breadth of content that’s available from Lulu authors was well represented.

On top of that, they were able to introduce a handful of people to Lulu; whether it was an aspiring author looking to publish a book, a reader wanting to find a great new independent writer, or a publisher trying to manage and print their entire catalog, next year’s festival is sure to have even more support from the Lulu crowd.

After three days and thousands of people coming together, the community managed to raise over $20,000 in support of the Durham Library Foundation. Lulu was proud to support the Read Local Book Festival, and we hope that this was only the first of many to come!

Helpful Hints from Distribution Henry: Making eBook Metadata Match

We’ve spoken before of metadata, but let me refresh. Metadata is, well, meta. It’s self-referential. It’s data about data–so it should match the data to which it refers.

If your eBook’s title (the data) is “The Adventures of Meta-Man” then the metadata about your title has to be “The Adventures of Meta-Man.” If the title page of your EPUB says “The Adventures of Meta-Man” and your marketing image says “The Adventures of Meta-Man” then your metadata (those fields you fill out as you create a project on should NOT say “Metaman’s Adventures.”

Don’t feel bad if you’ve done this. Happens all the time–particularly when you start throwing in subtitles, volume numbers, and multiple authors. Things get complicated. Bits of data slip through the cracks and metadata sometimes gets a little less meta.

Bottom line:

Metadata helps readers find you and identify the content they’re looking for. Have a trilogy? Make sure your metadata tells readers the series title and in what order to read the volumes. Otherwise your would-be audience might get confused or lose patience. There’s a ton of content out there; if your metadata isn’t clear or seems less than polished, it’s a fair bet that readers will keep searching for something a little more friendly and professional.

Take an extra minute or two to double check everything–title, subtitle, contributors. We know you’ve already done a lot of proofreading while preparing your eBook for publication, but bear with us for just a few words longer. Making sure your metadata matches your content means a quicker, easier journey into retail distribution–not to mention into your readers’ hands.


YSHS Students Turn Cookbooks into Scholarships

Students at Byimana Lycee des Sciences

In addition to memorizing vocabulary words, conjugating irregular verbs, and learning the subtle differences in pronouncing è and é, the French students at Yellow Springs High School (YSHS) in Ohio also plan and execute an annual French Café fundraiser. Proceeds from this dining and entertainment experience fund scholarships at the Byimana Lycee des Sciences in Gitarama, Rwanda.

The Byimana School of Science houses and educates 900 of the best and brightest Rwandan students in six grade levels (learn more). Each year since 2009, the YSHS French Café event has raised enough money to fully fund two high school scholarships for Rwandan students.

This year, as part of a project based learning initiative, students were tasked with developing a new product to sell at the French Café event. After a bit of brainstorming, students decided to create and print a French/English cookbook. Over the coarse of the year, students selected recipes, divided into teams, prepared the food, photographed their dishes, and designed the page layouts for the cookbook. They even shot and edited cooking videos for each dish and created a website.

This Spring, French teacher David Smith emailed us when he received the proof copy of his students’ work.

Cookbook cover

The finished product

“We really dug in back in the fall to find the best option for printing our cookbook. The students considered them all and decided was the best choice. But we just didn’t know, until our proof copy came this weekend, how it would really look. You should have seen the faces of my students this morning! The comment was invariably: ‘Wow! Oh my gosh, it doesn’t look like it was made by students! It looks like a real cookbook!’ I can’t tell you how happy I am with how this is turning out.”

We contacted Mr. Smith following this year’s fundraiser for an update. We were delighted to hear this project was a success:

“The cookbook has been a real hit and raised lots of money. Our French Café has typically raised enough for two full scholarships, but the addition of the cookbook sales raised that to three. In fact, we raised enough to provide a student with a full scholarship all the way through high school. Now, not only will high school be possible for this student, but there is a near 100% college placement rate from the Byimana school, with a great chance of a partial or full college scholarship. Someone’s future has really been changed for the better.”

We were excited to hear about the success of a project combining self-publishing and project based learning. The YSHS French students came up with a creative solution to a real world problem and, in this case, changed a student’s life. Bravo!


To share your PBL self-publishing experience, email us at
To view the recipes and cooking videos produced by the YSHS French classes, go to
Learn more about project based learning.

Future Authors Tour Lulu

Become-a-Published-Author-with-LuluOn April 17th we welcomed a group of students who wanted to learn about Lulu and self-publishing.

After sharing a snack of donuts and juice in the Pulitzer meeting room, we talked about how books get from computer to publisher to bookstore. We then provided a brief history of, how it was conceived, and how print on demand self-publishing differs from traditional publishing.

The students were really well prepared with questions about content, editing, formats, revenue, distribution and top selling categories. With all the questions answered, we began the tour stopping in the Information Technology, Engineering, Accounting, Fulfillment, Customer Support, and Marketing areas. At each stop, a team member explained how their group helps authors print, publish and sell their books all over the world.

The last stop on the tour included a demonstration of how our LuluJr bookmaking kits are received, scanned, typeset and prepared for binding. Then each student receiving a book making kit along with a tutorial on developing a good plot, story boarding, character creation, and instructions for returning the kits for printing.

LuluTour-BA few days after the tour, we received the following message from the group’s leader.

“I’ve heard nothing but fantastic comments about our time spent with Lulu, and there are many children hard at work on their LuluJr kits.  I can’t wait to see the finished products! Thank you for your time and generosity and for sharing your expertise in the publishing world.  These opportunities give our children not only great writing information, but also information about jobs, careers, and helps them steer their higher-level education in knowledgeable ways.  Thank you very much.”

We are also grateful for the opportunity to share our daily tasks with this group of students. Their visit served as a welcome reminder that 100 people working in an office in Raleigh, NC can have a positive effect on the lives of authors, educators and readers around the world – as well as a local group of future authors.




10 Tips for Creating the Best Photo Book


Sitges, Spain 2014

In the northern hemisphere, summer travel season is almost upon us. We will soon be packing our sunscreen, bathing suits, hiking boots, reading material, and digital devices for our next big adventure. While on vacation, it is great fun to post pictures of our feet on the beach or group shots taken at arm’s length, but footsies and selfies don’t tell the story of our great adventure in the same way as a photo book.


With today’s technology, your images, and a little know-how, you can create photo books equal to your experiences.

1) Why make a photo book?

Online photo galleries are convenient, free, and a great way to view your images from anywhere in the world with internet access. These galleries are quickly becoming the electronic equivalent of the box of printed images stored under your bed or on the back shelf of your closet.

Each of these images, whether stored in digital or print format, is a moment in time you experienced. Each snapshot captures and records a bit of your story. Photo books allow you to choose those special moments that when viewed together tell your story – or the story you wish to create.

2) Choose the best book format for your story

On Lulu you can create photo books in both hard and softcover formats in a variety of sizes. When making your choice consider the following:

  • Where will this photo book be displayed – on your coffee table, bookshelf, etc.?
  • Is this photo book for personal use or will you be purchasing lots of copies for friends and family?
  • Is the subject matter of momentous import – does it tell the story of your life, your child’s milestones, the vacation of a lifetime?

The story you are telling will help determine the proper format for your book.


Key West, Florida 2015

3) Tell your story with photos

The best photo books have a cohesive theme and tell a story. They are not just a collection of your very best photographs. Think about the story you wish this book to tell and select images that tell that story. This is not to say that you can’t include those beautiful sunsets, landscapes, and pictures of lovely buildings, but you should use these as a means to set the stage for your story rather than allowing them to be the star.

4) Select the right images

A well-crafted story requires atmosphere, character development, and a tight plot. The same applies to your photo book. Careful image selection is the first and often most difficult step of putting together a photo book. Our natural tendency is to include every picture from our latest adventure. When selecting images for your photo book, remember you have a limited number of pages to tell your story and think about how can you tell this story with the images you captured?

5) Include what you want to remember

When sorting through your pictures, you may think, “How silly – who would want to look at a picture of ___?” If the answer is “I would,” that’s reason enough to include it in your photo book. We all want to make an interesting and beautiful keepsake from our experiences, but in the end, these are your memories and this is your book. Make it yours by including images of the moments you don’t want to forget.

6) Image order – Telling the story

Once you have selected the images that best tell your story or tell it the way you want it told, start putting them in order. Consider the flow of the narrative provided by the pictures. Avoid grouping all the landscapes, buildings, and food shots together on a page. Instead, use these images as filler to provide atmosphere to your story.

One way to present your story is to create your photo book in a linear fashion (“On the first day we did this. On the second day…”). Another option is to place complimentary images on adjacent pages or in a collage of similarly themed pictures such as food, shopping, or selfies. Remember, it’s your story, how do you want to tell it?

7) Presentation is everything

Once you have selected your photos think about how they are going to appear on the page. The Lulu photo book wizard provides a variety of book themes and page layouts. Choose a theme befitting the story you are telling, then have a look at the available page layouts. Themes and layouts help you to further organize and more effectively present your images. Depending on the book size and selected theme, page layouts will include full-page images for your best photos, as well as pages with two, four, six or eight frames for grouping similar shots.

8) Is your picture worth a thousand words?

Text and image captions are not required, but they can add useful details to your photo book. Include information like the date, place, name, or event if it is not readily apparent from your image. When adding text to your photo book, use the same font throughout to provide cohesiveness and place text so that it compliments your images rather than overwhelming them. Text should serve as a prompt to help you tell the story and recall the details.

9) What about the cover?

There are several cover designs to choose from in the Lulu photo book wizard. You can choose to insert a picture into a frame or select a cover that is created entirely from your image.

Regardless of the cover format you select, the image you place on the cover of your photo book should capture the feeling of the book as a whole. It can be an image included in the book or an image you select specifically for the cover. The image should be high quality and immediately identifiable with the book’s story. For example, a wedding album cover should include a picture of the happy couple, a travel album cover may include an iconic picture from the destination, and or course a baby book would include a picture of the baby on its cover.

Scrapbook supplies

Photo Books: No supplies needed

10) Keepsake albums

Like the scrapbooks of yore, today’s photo books allow you to capture, organize and present your digital memories. Instead of paper, tape and glue, you choose a theme, upload your pictures, then drag and drop them onto the page. The best part of creating a digital album is that you can experiment with different themes and page layouts until you have a photo book that’s perfect for you. A bound photo book printed on high quality photo paper is a much better way to tell the stories of your life than either that forgotten box of prints or those electronic photo galleries.

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, tweet @laurashabott or email