Worth the Struggle: Advice for Aspiring Authors

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When I first started writing, I just didn’t understand how a story was supposed to flow. No matter how many times my English teachers told me that a story should be written in such a way, I would just stare at them with a blank expression; it just didn’t make sense. But, when I wrote my first story, Day Runners, I started to understand how it should all work and how a story should be written; it was like the fog had cleared and everything was crystal clear. So, when I started writing my second story, Parallel, the experience was definitely easier.

Parallel

Parallel

While developing the premise was still tricky, as all good premises are, the details, characters, and settings flowed like a river. For once, I understood what my teachers had been telling me; the story should flow at a pace that doesn’t require it to skip details. At the same time, the story shouldn’t be so slow that extra details flood in, and obscure the plot. Day Runners took so long to write because I was trying to find my writing style and my direction. Parallel, on the other hand, was easier because my style and direction were set before I started.

I remember my eighth grade English teacher telling me that once the first book is written, the ones that follow will be a piece of cake. And while I won’t compare writing to cake, I can say that it has become easier knowing that my first book was published and that people actually enjoyed reading it. Like my first book, Parallel has received nothing but praise since it was released. The fact that I knew how the process worked and how writing should be done, helped me to continue writing, and proceed along the road I want to go.

The advice I would give to aspiring writers who are struggling is to fight through that first book; make sure it is done well, not rushed. Rushing only leads to a bad story, and can make the writer feel worse about their ability. The other piece of advice I would give is to continue writing after the first story is done. I’m not saying that having one story finished will magically turn subsequent stories into a cake walk, but it will reduce the difficulty because you understand how and what you want to write, how a good character should be developed, and how to manipulate the story in the direction you want. With each completed book, the process only gets easier.


Tristan Jensen

Tristan Jensen

About the Author

Tristan is an aspiring author who published his first book at the age of 17.  He lives in a small home in Texas with his hounds Peaches, Ian, and Missy and his fat cat, Mater, who enjoys moist food and sleeping on Tristan’s keyboard. He hopes to one day write full time.


Calling All Lulu Authors

Do you have a story to tell about realizing your dream as a writer?
Do you have self-publishing knowledge or expertise to share with other authors?
Want to expand your digital reach?

If so, we are looking for authors like you to share your story with our blog audience. Email your story pitch to PR@lulu.com. Include a brief biography and a link to your published work. We will do the rest.

Guidelines for guest posting.

Market Your Book: Knowing Your Audience

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You wrote and published a book. Congratulations!

Now it’s time to think about the business of marketing and selling it. The most important challenge you face after publication is getting your book in front of people who want to buy it. Where do you start?

We asked 4,000 of our top selling authors to share some of their secrets to success. Over the next few weeks we will share their insights. While you may find some of their answers to be painfully obvious, others may surprise you. The first question asked why author’s why they thought their book had found success.

Lulu-Marketing-Your-Book-eBook28web-final29_pdfThe top 3 answers are all representative of understanding and providing content for a very specific audience. Again and again the words “niche,” “audience,” and “filled a need” came up in answers to this question. As one author said, “Make it your overriding passion to learn as much as you can about your audience and then give them what they crave.”

Take note of two related answers “Only book of its kind” and “Subject matter / topic.” Many authors stress that successful books require a fresh perspective on a popular topic or that they address a subject that’s never been written about. One author said their book was successful because “it fills a niche with no competition for content, quality or clarity of presentation.”

Also, take a second look at the votes for “Author platform.” Later on, we’ll look at the different elements of an author platform, and which parts of the platform our best-selling authors think helped them the most.

What Should You Do?

Define your audience. What are they interested in? Where do they spend time online and in the real world? How do they satisfy their need for content similar to yours – for example, blogs, magazines, social communities, events, or video? What can your book oƒffer this audience that’s not available anywhere else?

Key Takeaway

The most important step in effectively marketing your product – whether it’s a book, a business or a lemonade stand – is understanding your audience. Successful independently published authors credit knowing their audience and filling a niche as their key to success.

Additional Information:

How Authors Can Build Their Marketing Presence Online
Guest Blogging: Building Your Online Reputation

B Corp Update: Sooooooo Close!

best-for-the-world“The B Corp movement is one of the most important of our lifetime, built on the simple fact that business impacts and serves more than just shareholders—it has an equal responsibility to the community and to the planet.”

Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia

At Lulu we actively strive to make a positive impact on society and the environment – one creator, one creation at a time. We provide free tools for authors to tell their stories, children’s book-making kits to encourage creative learning, and tools that transform digital imagery into art. Better yet, we do all of this using print-on-demand technology that reduces waste and preserves our natural resources

It would be easy to simply stop there. We could sit in our comfy offices in Raleigh, NC, pat ourselves on the back, and call it a day. Instead, we decided to prove we were making a difference. This past February, Lulu was accepted as one of four local businesses to participate in North Carolina State University’s (NCSU) B Corp Clinic.

To achieve B Corp certification, businesses must prove they are:

  • Good for Workers
  • Good for the Community
  • Good for the Environment
  • Good for the Long Term
  • Good to the Core (establishing an innovative business model)

To reach certification, Lulu must score at least 80 out of 200 possible points. Our initial score was 37 points. That may not sound very impressive, but that score represented 37 reasons why Lulu is extra awesome.

By April we had increased our B Corp score to 66.5 points, due in large part to a diligent team of MBA students from NCSU and Duke University. In May we submitted our application for review and we are pleased to announce our current score is 79.6 points. Sadly, the B Corp review board does not round up, but we are working to further increase our score to blow through the minimum threshold of 80 points.

Lulu’s current initiatives include:

  • Reviewing vendors to ensure best employment practices.
  • Ensuring print partners use only sustainable FSC certified paper
  • Auditing waste and recycled material
  • Tracking utility usage
  • Developing collaborative work spaces
  • Writing policies for employing interns

We are also pleased to report that Lulu employees are making good use of their corporate volunteer days. Many employees have used their days to support favorite groups and charities. We have also had teams of Lulus work together on larger efforts.

We may be sitting on a C+ score, but you can be assured Lulu will soon be listed on the B Corp honor roll. Stay tuned. For more information on B Corp certification:

http://www.bcorporation.net/
http://www.ncbcorps.org/

Habitat

Habitat for Humanity

 

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Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

 

 

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Renata from Italian Support at the Habitat ReStore

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Luise from German Support at the Habitat ReStore

 

We Are Orlando: Stories Lost

We are OrlandoLulu was founded in 2002 to provide a better way to publish books. Our goal was to tear down the barriers that prevent people from sharing and benefiting from their stories, experiences and knowledge. Fourteen years later, nearly one million authors from all walks of life and nearly every country on the planet have written and published their stories on Lulu.

It is our belief that we all have common stories of struggle and perseverance, stories of defeat and victory despite the odds, as well as stories of faith, family, and love. When shared, our stories help us see our similarities and understand our differences. They bring us together through a universal desire for a safe home for our families, plentiful food, clean water, loyal friends, and hope for a happier future. Our common stories are the glue bonding us together into a human tribe.

This past weekend, 49 LGBT people were murdered in an Orlando nightclub. 53 others were injured. The lives of the victims’ families and their innumerable friends will be forever changed – as will those of the shooter’s family. How many stories came to an end that night? How much knowledge did we lose? How will our human tribe heal and come back together?

In the wake of these events, Lulu continues to believe that there is a better way. Our collective stories tear down the barriers that separate me from you, us from them, ours from theirs, the familiar from the strange – but only if we are willing to hear and learn from them. By passing along our knowledge and telling our stories we truly come to know each other, appreciate love in all its glorious forms, and cherish the diversity of our human family.

With profound sadness, the Lulu family mourns the loss of these lives. Our thoughts and prayers go to the families, friends, and survivors of this tragedy. Most importantly, we send our love to Orlando and the LGBT community. Although the world seems to be a little less beautiful today, we have faith that a tragedy can be transformed into a story of hope and love.

Tell your story.

Change the world.

Charlie Minds His Manners: Lulu Thank You Notes

Charlie is an indie author who recently self-published his book on Lulu.com. He wants to expand his marketing options by building a mailing list to communicate with his readers. He discovers Lulu Thank You Notes and puts them to good use.

For more information on developing your author platform, See:

Building Your Online Marketing Presence

Guest Blogging: Building Your Online Reputation

 

eBook Distribution: Understanding Your NCX or eBook Table of Contents

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Distribution Henry

As I perused  the Lulu mailbag this morning I was struck by the number of queries regarding NCX errors in eBook submissions. Some excerpts:

My eBook was recently rejected from retail distribution due to an NCX error. What does that mean? What do I do?

I Googled NCX and was directed to articles on sodium-calcium exchangers? Do I have to know chemistry to make an eBook?

Great questions that unfortunately come as no surprise. NCX errors are among the top three reasons independent eBook authors are rejected from retail distribution. Setting up a fully functional NCX requires some working knowledge of heading styles in MS Word—a feature that a lot of otherwise savvy writers ignore. But never fear, it’s not difficult. And once you’ve applied the proper styles to your document, Lulu’s Epub Converter will convert them into a fully functional NCX for you.

It’s exactly this simple:

  1. Apply Heading 1 style to the Title and to each line containing a Section name (copyright, prologue, etc.) or section (Part 1, Section II, etc.). Heading 1 style will always appear at the top of the next page.
  2. Apply Heading 2 style to each line containing a Chapter name or number
  3. Apply Heading 3 style to each line containing a sub chapter or subsection.
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Create an eBook from your MS Word document.

 

Still confused? Click here to dip into Lulu’s Knowledge Base and learn more about formatting these headings.

One more thing. I foresee tomorrow’s mailbag asking:

But why?

Do I really need an NCX?

What purpose does it serve?

 

 

So. In a nutshell:

NCX is short for Navigation Control file for XML. (XML is a set of rules for formatting that both humans and computers can read.) It’s that first word in NCX—Navigation—that reveals its purpose. Like a table of contents in a printed book, an NCX helps your readers navigate your work.

But unlike a traditional table of contents, an NCX can’t simply list page numbers. The text in your eBook is scalable (meaning, the size can be changed), and just tilting an iPad 90 degrees can completely change the layout of eBook pages and how many words fit on them. So the number of pages in your eBook is variable from one reader—and even one moment—to the next. A table of contents built on static page numbers is useless, even a little misleading. Navigation has to be connected to something other than page numbers.

Enter the NCX. It contains links to your chapters, sections, and subsections. It lets readers jump from place to place in your eBook without thumbing or scrolling endlessly. You want your readers to have a good experience. So do we, and so do our retail distribution partners. It’s why we collectively urge you to have a fully functional, fully-enjoyable eBook.

Need help with something else? No worries — here’s a link to our insanely thorough Knowledge Base.

Go forth and learn, then publish.

The Dead Are Rising

About the Author

Distribution Henry is a member of the Lulu eBook Quality Review team.

He is also a Lulu author.

You can view his work here: It’s Going to Be Okay. I Promise.

Memoirs: If You Don’t Tell Your Story, Who Will?

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Memoirs of WWII

Memoirs of WWII

Here in the USA, we celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday of May. This day is a national holiday dedicated to the remembrance of our soldiers who died in war. It should also be a day in which we take a moment to remember the events and people who shaped our lives. We may enjoy or dread looking back on these memories, but when we reminisce, we should consider whether our story is one that will be helpful to others and if so, how it will be shared and preserved.

It’s likely that 99% of us think we lead exceedingly boring lives and that our story would be of little interest to others. But, we all have one thing in common, we are all trying to make sense of and find meaning in our lives. Hence the value in writing your memoir. Not only is writing often therapeutic for the writer, but it also preserves your story as you remember it.

All on Account of You

All on Account of You

“Memoir is about handing over a portion of your life to someone and saying, This is what I went through, this is who I am, and maybe you can learn something from it,” says Jeannette Walls, author of the bestseller The Glass Castle. “It’s honestly sharing what you think, feel, and have gone through. If you can do that effectively, then somebody gets the wisdom and benefit of your experience without having to live it.”

So, how do you get started?

10 Tips for Writing a Memoir

  1. A memoir is not an autobiography: An autobiography is a book-length depiction of your life from birth to present time. A memoir depicts a specific period or event from your life.
  2. Detail, detail, detail: Your readers want to know how you felt, what you saw, the color of the umbrella, the smell of the ocean, the taste of the wine, how the wine glass got chipped.
  3. You be you: Your readers want to know about you, how you think, speak, and feel. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not.
  4. Write like your Grandmother tells a story: We don’t know how people are connected or related. We don’t know the color of your hair. Include the backstory that makes the person relevant to your story.
  5. Believe it or not, your memoir is not about you.: A good book is built around a theme – survival, redemption, personal journey, reunion, coming of age, etc. You and your story serve to illustrate the theme.
  6. Don’t lie: Someone will know the truth and they will be more than happy to share it. Remember James Frey?
  7. What is memoir be about? How something happened is not nearly as important as why it happened, how it made you feel and what you learned from it.
  8. Your memoir is not a collection of your best stories: A memoir is about a specific event or time. If you have had an exceedingly interesting life, you probably have enough material for several memoirs so be selective.
  9. Check your facts. Who was the King of Spain when you moved there in 1983? Don’t guess, be accurate (See #6 above).
  10. Beginning is half done. Write your first draft. Then re-write, and re-write, and re-write until your theme is clear and you are ready to share your story with your family, friends, and the world.
Pressure Cooker

Pressure Cooker

 

Isn’t it time you told your story? If you don’t, who will tell it for you?

To further inspire you, we have selected a few memoirs specifically for Memorial Day reading.

 

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