Articles tagged "books"

Keep Coloring – Self-publishing your own Coloring Book

2 min read

Summer may be upon us, but we can’t spend every day this summer frolicking on the beach! If you need a great way to stay entertained (or keep some little ones entertained), why not a custom coloring book? We posted some time ago about the many therapeutic benefits of coloring. Nothing has changed, and coloring books are as popular as ever among kids and adults.

Lulu’s self-publishing tool makes it particularly easy to make your own coloring books!

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Writing Toolbox: Microsoft Word

3 min read

Microsoft Office is a widely-used tool for creation, design, editing, and formatting. And Microsoft Word in particular is powerful, and being the most common word processor on the market, it is the software the majority of writers will employ. At least at some point during the writing and editing process.

MS Word is a hefty tool, and has a variety of uses for authors, from word processing, to format, to layout, to review and editing. Some authors even use Word to layout their book’s cover! With the huge variety of applications Word has, we’ll focus today on how to best use Word as a self-publishing author, the benefits and challenges of Word, and some important publishing specific tips.

To begin with, the basics. If you are completely new to Word, I encourage you to use Microsoft’s vast support literature to learn about the software. With a rudimentary understanding the tool, you can create a manuscript entirely from scratch, and prep that same file for publishing.

The first phase (writing the manuscript) is the area Word struggles the most. It’s easy to get sidetracked in layout, or to tinker with design, rather than focusing on the project. And with no stripped down focus mode, the risk of distraction is ever present. [Note – Microsoft is introducing a Focus View, and some may already have access to it, depending on their version and updates]

Where Word really shines is after you’ve written the content.

First, you’ll be editing and proofing the book. Word has a function called ‘Track Changes’ under the Review menu.

Track Changes creates a column on the right side of the document, listing any edits performed. This includes deleting or adding text, updating any existing text, new formatting, and provides the opportunity for in document notation. The notes (called ‘Comments’) allow you and your editors/proofreaders to make changes and have a conversation within the document, without making anything permanent. The file will be a true living document, and the flow of ideas can run back and forth until you settle on phrasing, organization, and other elements of the manuscripts design. If you like a change, or have acted on a comment, they can be ‘Accepted’ to remove them from the running list of Track Changes and keep the interface nice and clean.

Once you’ve got the editing done and you’re happy with the text, you’ll move on to the layout and design of the pages. This is the second piece of MS Word that brings a great deal of control and flexibility to your document.

The layout and design options are so vast, we don’t have the time to go over all of them. But really, I could write a book about all the ways you can utilize MS Word to customize and tweak your manuscript. For now, we’ll focus on a couple of necessities for printing.

The first being page size. Your file needs to be sized to match your book size. Use the ‘Layout’ menu in Word to set the page size for the entire document. I recommend doing a Select All (Command/Control + A) prior to resizing. It’s key to note that the standard US Trade size 6 x 9 is not built into Word’s page size presets, so you’ll need to add it as a custom size.

The second piece to be closely aware of are the margins. Word can automatically build in a Gutter margin for you, and align this to the correct side of the page. These controls live under the ‘Layout’ menu. MS Word has a great help section about how to set up and manage Margins.

Along with the critical layout and design tools, Word can be used to manipulate the content on the page. Breaks (both Page and Section) give you control over the positioning of content, and images can be placed in line with text, behind text, or nested with the text through Word’s ‘Picture’ menu.

Here’s a quick list of the elements most relevant to self-publishing you should familiarize yourself with:

  • Page Size
  • Margins/Gutter
  • Styles
  • Font and Line Spacing
  • Header/Footer Control
  • Breaks (Page and Section)
  • Page Numbering and Table of Contents
  • Inserting and Positioning Images

Using the variety of tools within Word, you can control the line spacing, fonts, sizing, space between paragraphs, and so much more!

 

Share Your Sound

1 min read

Independent publishing is so easy to do, and the costs are so low, that a wide variety of artists and professionals can take advantage of Lulu’s free publishing tools online. All manner of individuals and groups you might not think of as “authors” have found uses for Lulu’s publishing tools.

For example, musicians. One does not commonly associate musicians with publishers. Self-publishing can help musicians monetize their work in alternative forms, to offer products for their fans, and to share their musical creations.

Create custom songbooks for your fans. Publish tabs, chords, sheet music, lyrics, and more. Expand your audience by reaching a new group of potential listeners, earn extra income at the best rate in the publishing industry, and offer your fans more of what they want.

Visit publishmymusic.lulu.com to learn more!

 

Opening the Writing Toolbox

5 min read

We’ve come a long way from pen and paper. A long way. In fact, with modern technology we have more options for writing than any one person can easily process. With this excess of choice, it’s wise to take some time to consider the different tools available to you and make informed decisions about how to spend your writing budget.

Today, we’ll look over a few of the ‘standards’ in terms of writing software.

Microsoft Word

MS Word is one of the most accepted and versatile writing tools in the world. Despite Word’s perfectly adequate word processing, it is the tool you’ll want primarily after you’ve written. Word, at its core, is a formatting and layout tool.

Because the word processing is relatively easy, many writers will use Word exclusively as their writing tool. And for most this will be just fine. But for some, the tools and style controls will be cumbersome, and the sheer volume of options overwhelming. For the writer who demands a simple, versatile writing tool focused on just getting the text typed up, Word may be too much.

The best way to use Microsoft Word is as an editing and design tool. You can take a completed manuscript and give it the final touches it needs prior to publishing, as well as export a PDF in a variety of formats to accommodate your printing needs.

It is also worth noting that Word, as part of the Microsoft Office Suite, is one of the more expensive writing tools on the market. Thanks to all the editing and design tools built in, along with the utility of the entire Office Suite, Microsoft’s product is important for any serious writer, and is generally considered the standard for word processing tools.

Libre Office

A free, what you see is what you get, Microsoft Office replacement. Libre Office offers much the same functionality as Microsoft. For those who want the editing and design power of Word without the price tag, you’ll get that same functionality with Libre Office. The controls and navigation will differ, so a user familiar with MS Word may be put off by the learning curve when using Libre Office’s word processor. If you’re very comfortable with Word, the transition to Libre Office may be jarring. But as a completely free to use, open source alternative, Libre Office is a powerful tool.

Another difference to note is that Libre, being free and open source, doesn’t have any dedicated support in the way MS Word or other commercial software d0es. If a problem arises, you’ll have a fairly thorough wiki page and a community forum to rely on, but nothing more.

Scrivener

While Microsoft and Libre Office offer tools for writing alongside layout and design, Scrivener is a writing focused tool with a multitude of functions to assist in the creation process. This includes storyboard layout, utilizing a ‘Binder’ to contain all elements in one easily navigable location. Focused Mode puts all other tabs and programs in the background, allowing you to avoid distraction while writing.

Scrivener is a complete writing tool, though it should not be relied upon for formatting or layout details. Many common features (page sizing, margins, font control) are present, and allow you to play with some of the layout, but the real power of Scrivener is in organizing your ideas and generating the initial content. The utility Scrivener offers, coupled with the clean, no nonsense writer will appeal to writers of all sorts.

As an added benefit, the software stores your files through a Dropbox link, meaning you can work on your content across multiple machines, and even with an iOS app on your iPhone or iPad. What Scrivener lacks in versatility, it makes up for in utility.

Sigil

Sigil is a unique program designed specifically for working with EPUB files. It is also a fully functioning word processor and if you plan to release your book primarily as an EPUB, the option is there to work solely in Sigil.

For most writers, I would not recommend using Sigil as your Word Processor. The tool will be too foreign, and the output can only be an EPUB file, so working in Sigil alone will not produce anything appropriate for print ready use.

But, for a more advanced user interested in fine tuning a book for EPUB use, Sigil is a powerful, easy to use tool with all the options you’ll need to create a high quality EPUB. Unfortunately, Sigil does not have an option to import a text file from other word processing tools like Word or Libre Office, but text can be copied into Sigil. More often than not, users will find Sigil most beneficial for editing and fine tuning an existing EPUB file.

If you are planning to only create an ebook (no print files necessary), you might find Sigil a nice tool for writing and editing, as the simplified text tools will limit you to only the options an EPUB can support. And once you’ve completed your ebook, Sigil can be used to generate the necessary metadata and table of contents for your work.

Evernote

Evernote is a handy note-taking and organizational tool. You probably won’t be composing a complete piece within Evernote, but you can easily write on the go and export to standard file types. You’ll have the security of cloud storage, so your Evernote files will be secure and accessible.

The real power of Evernote is in its versatility. If you are already an Evernote user, you’ll know how handy it can be to have an App capable of organizing your calendar, holding your notes, reminding you to go to the grocery store after work, and so much more. Evernote is a one stop, cross platform, multi-purpose productivity tool.

With an array of features, Evernote is really a very powerful tool to have available. But it is not the best when it comes to being a useful writing program. Yes, it’s helpful for catching notes on the run (using mobile) and syncing to your devices. Organizing and writing up anything more than a few hundreds words is going to be tedious, and probably beyond the purpose of Evernote. Same thing goes for formatting. Evernote is a not a formatting tool.

The bottom line? Evernote is a great tool for note taking and organizing, but not ideal for layout or story boarding.

FocusWriter

FocusWriter is less well known than the other software we looked at today, but it boasts a couple of useful and unique features worth mentioning. FocusWriter, like Scrivener, stores your files in the cloud, allowing for easy cross platform use and the security of knowing your files are safe. FocusWriter also features a focus mode like Scrivener, allowing you to push all other functions on your device to the background and focus on just writing.

The biggest upside of FocusWriter is that it is a free text editor and word processor. You can download the tool and begin writing immediately without paying a cent. Formatting and design will need to be handled elsewhere, but for a cost effective, clean, and efficient first draft tool, FocusWriter is well worth a look.


These are just a handful of the more commonly used word processing tools out there. For a more in depth look at some of these programs, check out our complete series:

Writer’s Toolbox: Microsoft Word

Writer’s Toolbox: Scrivener

Writer’s Toolbox: Evernote

 

 

Getting Global with your Book

1 min read

Self-publishing is a tremendous boon to the general writing public. From printing and binding a family history, to crafting a lavish work of fiction, to a manual or text book companion to your work or teaching career–print on demand and self-publishing have opened up a new world of possibilities.

Lulu employees, at book fairs and conferences, over the phone with our customers, and even just talking with our friends, are greeted roundly with astonishment when we reveal that anyone can not only publish for free, but can also put their book online for sale for free as well. You could publish a book today, and in less than two months time that book would be available for sale on retail sites around the world.

“Really? Free?”

You would not believe how many times I’ve heard those two words. They’re most often followed by ‘What’s the catch?’ or something similar.

There is no catch. Lulu publishing is completely free. And accessing our distribution network is completely free.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

I’m not going to lie to you; it is a bit more complicated than it sounds. It’s still free! But you will have to comply with distribution requirements, format your files to specification, and take the reins for editing and designing your book. This is self-publishing after all.

If you’re ready to take on the challenge and want to get your book out there to the world, Lulu’s GlobalReach distribution service is the perfect tool for you. Free listing on major book retail sites, free publishing tools, a free ISBN. And you’ll be able to take advantage of Lulu’s high quality print on demand network to earn the best returns in the industry.

 

Keywords: Get your Self-Published Book noticed

2 min read

Marketing your book is tricky business. Here at Lulu, we appreciate that many of our authors are not marketing experts, but still would like to amplify their sales. The Internet makes it easy to list your book and for readers to perform searches among the many books out there. The trick for authors is to make their book stand out from all the noise, to distinguish itself so that readers can find your book when they search.

How do potential readers find content?

Almost all content online is found through searches. Authors must align their book with the common search terms a reader might use. To do this, you’ll need to use ‘Keywords.’

Keywords are search terms users will type into a search engine (like Google) to find something. A reader might want a book about healthy eating for women over forty, so they would search something like:

“books, healthy diet, women over forty”

The resulting search will be thousands of books that have utilized these keywords.

Now you’ll have to decide which keywords to use for your book. This can be a challenge, but we can recommend a three part strategy to help narrow down the keyword options. First, sit down and write out as many words as you can think of associated with your book. At this stage, anything that comes to mind if fine.

With this list completed, the second step will be going on some retail sites and book review sites (like Goodreads) and search reviews for books similar to yours. Look at the words readers are using to describe these books and make a list.

In the third step, ask your beta readers (or if your book is already published, any reader) for their list of words they would use to describe your book, and/or any terms they might have searched if they were in the market for a book similar to yours.

Any words that fall on all of these lists will of course be good to use. Create a refined list with all the words that span the three lists, as well as any other words you think might be highly valued for your readers. This last part will take a bit of guess work and intuition on your part. It’s not an exact science, but aim for quantity over quality.

With your keyword list in hand, what you’ll want to do is integrate the keywords into your blurb/synopsis. Readers will perform searches, and because your keywords were thoughtfully chosen and added to you book description, they’ll find your listing coming up in the search results, ultimately leading to a sale. Apart from using the right keywords to draw in readers, you’ll also need to craft a compelling blurb. Weave in the keywords as they make sense, and if need be write new material to incorporate keywords you deem too valuable to exclude. Check out this post for some advice on synopsis writing for self-published authors – Writing your blurb/synopsis

Conscientious and careful application of keywords can do wonders to boost the discoverability of your book. Help your readers, grow your sales, and enjoy the success a little bit of market research and keyword application can bring!

 

Literary Dads

2 min read

Father’s Day is right around the corner. And in celebration of this national day honoring dad, let’s look at a few historic literary fathers and the important roles they play in defining ‘dad’ for all of us.

Atticus Finch

In American literature, its almost impossible to talk about fathers without acknowledging Atticus, the father in Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird. In a novel centered on the roles society imposes on individuals, Atticus teaches his children to be themselves, and to recognize the importance of making their own choices. Atticus Finch has been a quintessential role model in American literature since the first printing, and his character remains an everlasting example of the ideals a father can strive for.

Arthur Weasley

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series has no lack of interesting and exciting characters. Arthur Weasley, the father of the Weasley brood, is perhaps not the most memorable of the bunch. Still, he presents a soft spoken but wise, heroic if not boisterous, and completely unflappable father figure. During the lighter moments, Arthur is a fun loving and jovial man, and when things get serious, he sets an example for his children (and Harry of course) to be strong in their convictions and willing to stand up for what they perceive as right.

Bob Cratchit

Bob Cratchit does not have an easy life. As the long suffering clerk for Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Bob endures his bosses scorn and mood swings with endless optimism. His attitude, always positive, always looking for a bright side, keeps him from succumbing to Scrooge’s misanthropy. And, as we all know, the tale ends with Scrooge realizing the error of his ways, vindicating Bob’s outlook. As an example for his family, Bob Cratchit represents the idealist, the father who unceasingly encourages and promotes. His kindly attitude leads to an incredible bond with his children, in particular Tiny Tim, and demonstrates how a father can be a positive influence despite circumstances.

Mr. Bennet

The father of five daughter’s in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet endures his challenging wife with a reclusive and somewhat distant attitude. But what sets him apart is his love and affection for his daughters. Most notably, putting circumstantial needs and desires behind their happiness. He never allows his own wants to come before theirs, and he continually guides and encourages his daughters to strive for what they want in life. Mr. Bennet is both protector and cheerleader for his children.

Calvin’s Dad

The father from the the popular Calvin and Hobbes comic strip penned by Bill Watterson, Calvin’s Dad is the epitome of patience. This father figure provides some sarcastic humor in his interactions with his son, but on the whole he endures Calvin’s antics and imagination by both encouraging his son and giving him the room he needs to explore for himself. Calvin’s Dad is never phased by Calvin’s many questions or sometimes incredible adventures. Despite numerous moments when patience can be seen to stretch thin, Calvin’s Dad remains a perfect example of how a father can support and encourage their children despite the many challenges parenting presents.

All of these fathers serve as examples, as role models for their children and other characters in their stories. Father’s day is an opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate the role fathers play in shaping us, and providing lessons by which we can grow. This father’s day, take a minute to thank all the dads (both real and fictional) for being a part of your story.