Articles tagged "free tools"

Writer’s Toolbox: Evernote

8 min read

Evernote is a powerful note taking and organizational tool. It features a simple and easy to use word processor, but you shouldn’t begin using Evernote with the idea that you’ll craft an entire manuscript using this software. Instead, think of Evernote as a tool for recording and recalling information quickly.

Since all writer’s will have a different process and style for gathering and making sense of information, Evernote will not be for everyone. If you’re the type that needs paper notes piled high into a sort of impenetrable fortress of information on your desk, you will probably find Evernote too concise for you. Or if you already use another piece of software for writing with built in note taking options (such as Scrivener, mentioned in last week’s article), you may find Evernote unnecessary or redundant.

But if you are a writer who spends a lot of prep time and enjoys taking multi-media notes, Evernote is the tool for you.

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Selling Your Brand: Author Website

5 min read

Independent publishing demands an effort on the author’s part to self-promote. The task may seem daunting, as many of the tasks involved in self-publishing can, but thanks to the power of the Internet, you can promote yourself online with minimal effort. One of the most potent is the author website.

Creating and maintaining a website dedicated to your work can have a multitude of benefits and uses. Get your name out there on the web, and provide interested and potential readers a location to learn more about you and your work with an author website. The following list provides some basics about creating a website, the content you should include, and the benefits.

1. Hosting and Domain

The first step in creating an author website is actually locating the site on the web. There are a variety of low cost services like WordPress or Wix that can be used to create a simple website. These services, among many others on across the web, offer template and layout tools to help you design the page and keep it looking fresh and up to date. Remember, fashion and standards on the web are always evolving, so keep up to date on the latest trends in web layout and adjust your site accordingly. You don’t want your site to look like something from 2002. You’ll want to purchase a domain, preferably something using your name (like www.firstnamelastname.com) or something including the word “author” alongside your name. This is key for discover-ability and indexing in Google searches and will help potential readers find you.With your site domain ready and a service selected, the next step will be actually building your author website.

One very interesting new tool currently available to authors is TitlePager. The service is low cost ($12/month) and provides software to directly import your book’s information into a website template. For authors less interested in learning the ins and outs of website design, TitlePager is a good alternative to consider.

2. Design and Layout

Your website should have a few “pages” to segment information and help your readers find the information they need quickly and easily. Most websites will use a navigation bar along the top of the page to guide visitors. For an example, look at the navigation bar at the top of the Lulu Blog:


You’ll see Home, About Lulu Self-Publishing, Commentary, and Guidelines for Guest Posting. Each of these links lead to a unique page on the blog website. For your author site, you’ll want a home page, a page listing your books with sale information, a page with personal information about you,  and possibly a separate page for posting blog style articles.

Think about your audience when designing the site. Starting out, you won’t likely have the following of the world’s most well known authors, so you may want to avoid a site that is packed and busy like this one. A good example of a modern, clean layout that still has a lot of content like this site, shows how you can uses distinct pages for specific information, while keeping the front page interesting and inviting. Again, these are highly successful authors, who likely have a rather large budget for creating and maintaining their author pages. Look to these examples for ways you might pick and choose elements to emulate that fit your particular needs.

As the owner of your site, you have a tremendous amount of flexibility, and you should do some research to see how other authors build their sites for inspiration. The key elements will be the attractive home page, the succinct book’s page, and the about page. Consider your genre, the quantity of books you have or will be publishing, and the target audience when you are planning your website. For example, if you have accompanying video content, you might want a “videos” page to house this material. Or if your work is non-fiction and uses a number of references, you may want to make reference links and citation information available on a page of your website.

Another good idea for your author website is to include a subscription option and social media links. You want anyone who lands on your page to share on Facebook and Twitter, and capturing emails through a subscription box provides a way into their inbox, allowing for some direct email marketing and building a mailing list to promote events and new publications. Don’t underestimate the power of a mailing list. The ability to directly connect with potential customers is a tremendous asset.

3. Content

We touched on this above, but the most important piece of an author website will be the content. Is the layout appealing? Are the images relevant? Can visitor’s easily find and buy your books? Keep those questions in mind when working on the layout of your website. You’ll want the pages to be simple but appealing, and avoid cluttered or “busy” pages in favor of simplicity. Readers are coming to your site because they followed a link you provided or because they came across you while searching. Either way, they will likely already be interested in your content, and your site’s goal is to assure them that they should buy your book.

It’s not a bad idea to include a link to your Lulu Author Spotlight, along with direct links to your books. Many author websites will also include some publishing industry news or a feed of news from their favorite publishing industry sites. This kind of content will reward users for returning to your site, which can eventually lead to purchases of your back list. And it helps ensure they notice new works as they come available.

Another activity to consider is blogging. Keeping a blog and updating it regularly (as in, at least once a week) will provide a flow of content to drive readers back to your site, and gives you a great reason to make use of that mailing list you’re building. The goal is to give anyone who comes to the site, or follows you on social media, a reason to keep coming back.

4. Benefits

Your website will be the primary tool in developing yourself as a brand. It will serve as a location for your various marketing efforts to point to, a destination for those finding you on social media to learn more (and hopefully make a purchase), and yet another way for you to show your authoring skills. Think about the website as a project, similar to writing a book.

An author website gives you a means to connect with readers and potential readers, a way to display your skills and work (maybe you offer excerpts free or teasers for a new book), and a central location for your brand. As a self-published author, the key to success will be branding yourself. Highly acclaimed authors are read as much because of their brand as their quality. Your website allows you to promote your own brand, and when coupled with high quality writing, is the best way to grow your readership.

Marketing and promoting your book can be an arduous job. Take the first step to promoting yourself and building your author brand. Create an author website and start selling your book today!

 


 

 

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!

 

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.