I had an interesting conversation with an up and coming author recently who has a very specific vision. She wants to cut out any potential for a “middle-man” to distract her readers from finding and buying her works. She eventually even wants to run her own publishing business directly from her website starting with her own titles. This would enable her to maximize her profits and directly tap into her fan-base while helping other aspiring authors share their works too. The problem is she didn’t have an easy means of distribution, eBook creation, or order fulfillment. She needed someone to help her do all the heavy lifting on the backend, so she could focus on creating a successful business. That’s where Lulu and our Open Publishing APIs (Application Programmer Interfaces) come in.
An API is kind of like a Lego® block that makes a website or application work. All the “blocks” that make Lulu’s great self-publishing site function are available to the public so that anyone can use them no matter their needs or their market. With Lulu APIs, authors, publishers, businesses, and developers alike can take whatever pieces they need from Lulu and use them on their own websites to instantly produce, manage, and sell content. The best part? They are absolutely free.
Suddenly this up and coming author has a completely customized publishing solution to start that business she dreams about. She can sign up other authors but can relax while she uses Lulu’s global print-on-demand network to cut on shipping costs. She gets to offer her authors distribution through Lulu’s retail partners like Amazon, iBookstore(SM), and NOOK Bookstore – where many readers already shop. It’s all under her own imprint and designed for her to be more profitable than ever before possible.
Lulu is constantly rolling out new APIs too. Coming soon Lulu’s eCommerce APIs will be released for general availability, enabling customers to buy directly through an author or business’s own website. Also be on the look out for general availability of our Creator Revenue APIs which allow a business or imprint to easily keep track of an author’s earnings.
Indeed, the Lulu APIs are empowering people and organizations – like our friends at campus bookstores across the nation – to grow and monetize content in exciting new ways while diversifying revenue and expanding their businesses – all under one roof. Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for some more exciting news about how our APIs are helping to break down even more barriers for authors, for businesses, and for everyone in between.
Lulu was at the Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) March 2-6th this week and boy did we have a great time. It was our first year at the event and since we were partnered with the National Association of College Stores (NACS), the guys responsible for CAMEX, attendees were anxious to see what we had to offer. We did not disappoint.
Lulu got to show off our fancy new beta platform for college stores. What the heck does that mean? Well, we’re providing stores with the tools they need to effectively become their own publishing hubs. This is great for everyone including faculty and staff, students, and the stores themselves. The platform puts the power back in the hands of the community. Educators are able to create customized course materials and text books at prices they set. Students get more up-to-date and affordable content, and can publish works of their own. Stores get to diversify their revenue, take advantage of Lulu’s distribution partners, and look like the good guys they are to their customers – all while Lulu does all the heavy lifting on the backend. Cool huh? So far, the pilot program has sign-ups from Montezuma Publishing at San Diego State University, Jayhawk Ink at the University of Kansas, and Odin Ink at Portland State University.
You can learn more about Lulu’s partnership with NACS on the Lulu Press Center. In the meantime, check out these fun pictures from the show.
eBooks are the hot topic these days and with good reason. Industry analysts are estimating 24.5 million lucky folks will be unwrapping shiny new e-readers this holiday season, which is expected to double overall eBook sales over last year’s whopping $263 million.
eBooks provide both a speed to market and potential for a higher revenue share that are just too beneficial to ignore. With Lulu’s direct-live status an author can create an eBook and have it available for sale almost immediately and keep up to 90% of the profit. Each day, we see more and more traditionally published authors like Stephen Stark and Kevin Powell self-publish eBooks of their own.
“Suddenly all these people are publishing their content on their own because they don’t feel they’ll get the same money or value elsewhere and they are right,” says Stark. “We’ve reached a point where authors can make a much higher royalty by self-publishing and are free to experiment in ways big publishers can’t.”
It’s true; eBooks provide opportunities to reach huge numbers of new readers, and we want to make sure all of our authors are set to take full advantage of those opportunities. So this year, we’re proclaiming December 26th the first annual Download Day.
Much like Black Friday in November, the day after Christmas is the highest traffic shopping day for people buying eBooks. Think about it, you just got this cool new gadget; you’re gonna want to play with it and start filling it up with apps, games, and…(say it with me) eBooks! Will your work be one of them? It should be.
To sweeten the deal, we’ll give the Lulu author who sells the most eBooks on December 26th, 2011 (even if you’re selling for free) a brand new Barnes and Noble NOOK, and a $100 off coupon – good for anything on Lulu. Hit up your friends, your family, heck, even your mailman, and send them a link to your eBook. The bonus here is with more sales, you’ll gain more visibility for you and your work by moving up in bestseller lists in places like the iBookstore℠ and NOOK Bookstore™ so even more readers will discover your titles.
Want to create an eBook but don’t know where to start? Fret not, would-be digital author, with our Word to EPUB Converter, you can upload .doc, .docx, .txt, and .rtf files and have them made into an EPUB within about two – five minutes. You can also visit our eBook landing page for more information – your source for all things in eBook publishing.
Once you’ve published, be sure to read our helpful eBook marketing blogs for tips on how to create an eBook and make sure all these new eBook reading customers will see yours. You might learn something you didn’t think of – like how selling your eBook for free can actually make you more money. Pretty soon, you’ll have readers all over the world flipping the digital pages of your remarkable work.
Happy Download Day!
The iBookstore is a service mark of Apple Inc.
The winner of Download Day will be notified in mid-January 2012. Contest is open to all Lulu authors that have titles available in EPUB format. Total sales will be calculated from lulu.com and our distribution partners.
Stephen Stark is a master composer.
Instead of musical notes or instruments, Stark uses words and their natural rhythm to write award winning works that read as smoothly as listening to a classical concerto.
You may recognize Stark’s name from his previous, traditionally published works The Outskirts and Second Son – a New York Times Book Review “Notable Book of the Year.” With such success already, it’s natural to think Stark would stick to what has worked, but part of being a great and lasting author – especially in today’s rapidly changing industry – is paying attention to new trends, exploring all your options, and being a little adventurous. That’s why Stark is publishing his new work The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door exclusively as an eBook, to be released by Shelf Media Group through Lulu.com December 6th.
“eBooks are not the future of publishing,” says Stark. “They are the present and they are an unsettling present for many. I want to do an eBook because being able to go from a PDF to having a fully published eBook in minutes is just incredible.”
Stark and Shelf Media are experimenting with a new paradigm in indie publishing. The tools that Lulu offers to the self-published are, Stark says, “creating new opportunities for small presses like Shelf,” which also publishes the indie-book ezine, Shelf Unbound. According to Stark, the convenience and speed-to-market enabled by the tools Lulu provides for self-publishing make it possible for a small, savvy publisher like Shelf to “plant its flag in an industry niche that the small publisher has the flexibility and agility to exploit in a way that ‘legacy’ publishers can’t.”
Stark calls this new paradigm “direct publishing.” ”Indeed,” Stark says, “in theory, anyone could become a publisher – not that they should.” Including Stark, who is using Lulu’s tools and resources to back his own imprint, GeekVoodoo Books, and republish Second Son electronically.
“Things are happening right now [in publishing] that are pointing in a clear direction that is very different,” says Stark. “The idea that there is a company like Lulu that tears down the barriers to entry – no matter what you’re trying to publish – fundamentally changes the industry dynamic.”
Suffice it to say, Stark has been watching the industry very closely and is confident in the new direction he is taking with his works. He notes that the potential inherent in eBooks hasn’t been particularly well understood or appreciated by bigger publishers – a phenomenon that he and Shelf are looking forward to capitalizing on by filling the gap with the eBook version of Final Appearance.
“Suddenly all these people are publishing their content on their own because they don’t feel they’ll get the same money or value elsewhere and they are right,” says Stark. “We’ve reached a point where authors can make a much higher royalty by self-publishing and are free to experiment in ways a big publisher can’t. Lulu enables this and self-publishing or direct-publishing is in some ways analogous to direct democracy in that it bypasses an entrenched bureaucracy that is easily as beholden to its ‘shareholders’ as it is to its constituents – readers.”
Stark wanted to be a photographer growing up, but began writing when he realized he was better “creating pictures” with words than a camera. As a teenager, he spent a lot of time trying to imitate his favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and J.D. Salinger. He admits that his imitations were “pretty awful.” And he never came close to his dream of publishing a novel before he turned 20. He sold his first novel at 29, and notes that he didn’t really learn how to write until he learned to seek out and absorb constructive criticism.
“I went through seven or eight years of rejection letters,” says Stark. “But I found the comments from editors helpful. You learn not to trust the opinions that just tell you what you want to hear. A statement like: ‘Oh, I love your book,’ isn’t useful. You have to be open to good criticism to become a better writer.”
If you’ve ever read one of Stark’s books, you’ll instantly be drawn to how organic and real his characters feel. Stark likens his method for character development to having a bunch of imaginary friends or people he has just met. Even more important is knowing what the ending will be for both his characters and the overall narrative ahead of time.
“I’m always getting ideas or running through ‘what if‘ scenarios,” Stark says. “You have to play your story through in your mind and really think about the most natural outcome. I often know the destination of my story or where a character will need to go organically, but I don’t always understand why or what the in-between looks like. Sometimes the characters will take on a life of their own and make for an even better story.”
Stark’s new book, The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door, will be available as an eBook on Lulu.com, the iBookstore, Nook Bookstore, Amazon Kindle December 6th. Stark’s latest is a smart, sexy, and thrilling tale of America’s “it girl” Ellen Gregory and her escape from the bright lights of Hollywood and a harrowing encounter with a stalker. Final Appearance is a fast-moving page-turner that you shouldn’t miss.
Stark is already working on his next work, The Bob Delusion, and has ambitions for the future that, while lofty, are certainly grounded on solid industry trends.
“I want Final Appearance to be the first book that’s only available electronically to be reviewed in the New York Times,” Stark says.
Based on his works so far, he shouldn’t have too much trouble. Check out The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door tomorrow, December 6th, on your favorite e-reader of choice.
Writing a book is no small feat and you should be proud of yourself for all the hard work you’ve done. The next step is to let the world know about your story and where they can find it. A good press release can be just the thing to spread the word quickly and generate some buzz around your work. But what makes for a great press release? These 10 tips should help.
Know Your Audience and Stick to the Facts: Most press releases will be read by a journalist. They aren’t interested in being sold something or helping you drive visitors to your product page. The best way to increase the likelihood that your release will be picked up is to do as much of the work for the journalist as possible. Provide interesting facts, numbers, statistics from analysts, or quotes from yourself or your readers. Do your research and include it in the release – anything you can do to provide unique, interesting information will increase your release’s credibility and its chances of being picked up.
Write in Third-Person: A press release is always written in third person because you are announcing news to a fresh audience and need to make the subject of your release as clear as possible.
Say Who or What in the First Line: Journalists are very very busy and receive tons of releases everyday. A good release should be able to get your point across within the first paragraph because most journalists only have time to read that far. It isn’t always possible, but if you can mention the subject of your story within the first sentence, better yet, the first word of your press release, you can immediately set an expectation for what the release is about and if it is relevant to the reader.
Keep It Simple: Try to focus on one main point throughout your release – otherwise you risk confusing your reader. A great press release should make the journalist want to call you to learn more, not scratch their heads halfway through. A good rule of thumb to help is to keep your release down to one page and around 300 – 500 words.
Call to Action: Every release needs to finish with a call to action. In many cases, with a book release, the call to action would be along the lines of: “Jim Brown’s book, The Greatest Book Ever, is available at www.lulu.com.” Or, “To learn more, visit www.lulu.com.” Without a call to action, readers will finish your release and say: “Ok, now what?”
Avoid Buzzwords: A journalist is interested in finding the story in your release so they can write their own. Buzzwords like “innovative,” “breakthrough,” “revolutionary,” are all an immediate turn-off to a journalist. They are more interested in the facts that can back claims like this up.
Boilerplate: Every press release has a short, two to five sentence paragraph at the bottom called a “boilerplate.” This is a high-level summary about the press release’s subject material. For an author, think of it as a brief bio about yourself to give a journalist more information if they need it. Items like how long you’ve been writing, where you’ve been featured, where readers can find your work, awards and accolades, etc. are all good things to mention in a boilerplate and establish yourself as a reputable source.
Think of a Catchy, Thought Provoking Title and Subheading: I list this close to the bottom because a great press release title should summarize the content of the release in one line. A clever title can often be just the thing to catch a reader’s eye. If you can’t think of anything catchy, then try to highlight the most interesting, exciting news from the body of the release. You don’t have to use subheadings, but they can be a great way to give just a little more detail about your release upfront. This should be complimentary to your title, and aim to further hook the journalist into reading further.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Think of keywords associated with your work and the audience you want to reach. Good SEO can help drive your release up further in search results on sites like Google and Yahoo!. Simply including keywords relevant to your subject will increase your release’s visibility.
Sending It Out: There are many ways to send out a press release. I recommend a wire service like PRWeb, PRNewswire, or GlobeNewswire. Services like this typically charge a one-time fee that lets you use their distribution lists and will let you optimize your release in multiple formats such as a PDF, HTML, or plain text to ensure you reach the most readers. However, you may have your own list of contacts too. Emailing a release to a journalist is fine, but remember, you don’t like to be spammed and they certainly don’t. Emailing a journalist multiple times, addressing them by the wrong name, or sending them content that isn’t relevant to their field of coverage is a sure way to get yourself blacklisted from ever getting coverage from them.
Now that you’re ready to tell the world your story, feel free to use the handy press release template below. Just copy and paste the layout into a document and plug in your own information. Note the “###” at the bottom. This indicates the end of the release. Also, if you mention Lulu, please be sure to include this line at the end of your boilerplate: “The views and opinions expressed in this press release do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Lulu.com or its affiliates.” For more examples, also check out the Lulu press center.
In recent weeks, we’ve made some pretty big announcements about eBooks: an industry best 90/10 revenue split, distribution to Barnes & Noble’s NOOK, a handy new Word to EPUB Converter, and a new Manage Distribution page that lets you opt-in and opt-out of retail channels with the click of a button.
We’re on such a roll, why stop now? The opportunities eBooks bring to reach new readers is so great, we just keep looking for ways to enhance our e-offerings even more.
Today, we’re happy to announce another eBook feature to give you more selling flexibility over your digital works: Free pricing. eBook authors can now distribute and sell their eBooks in the iBookstore with a price tag of $0.00.
Right about now I’m sure you’re asking: “How will being able to sell my eBooks for free get me more sales?” Well, the answer is simple: Everyone loves free. Heck, we’ve built a business off the principle with our free publishing solutions.
So far we’ve seen authors use free pricing in a number of clever ways to better market their works:
So there you have it, you’re now free to play around with your pricing however you want to better reach your readers. To learn more, or to start your own eBook with just a few clicks of a button, visit our eBook publishing page.