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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.

The Business of Self-Publishing: ISBNs


With publishing open to everyone, authors are now the CEOs of their own publishing companies. Self-publishing requires authors to make all product decisions including paper color, font, book layout, cover design, distribution and marketing strategy. As such, you must be not only a creative genius, but also a savvy business person. Otherwise, the siren song of literary success will cloud your business judgment. After all, who isn’t tempted by the prospect of seeing their book listed for sale in every online bookstore?

Publishing with an ISBN*

An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is the holy grail of book distribution and Lulu provides them for free if your book meets certain requirements. The ISBN is a bit like your book’s fingerprint; it is used to both identify your book and track its sales. An ISBN paired with Lulu’s free GlobalREACH distribution makes your print and eBook available for purchase in online bookstores such as, Barnes&, iBookstore, Kindle, and Kobo stores among others. Your book will also be listed in global bibliographic databases from which any number of institutions, bookstores, and online retailers can discover it and offer it for sale.  For authors seeking a broad audience, publishing with an ISBN is indeed a requirement.

ISBN ExplainedISBNs, however, directly affect pricing. Applying an ISBN to a print book results in an automatic retail markup being added to your book’s price. This markup is the amount a retailer can potentially earn from selling your book on their site. Retailers may choose to sell your book at its full price or offer it at a discount with “free” shipping – all of which is paid from the retail markup or retailer’s portion of the book’s price.

Regardless of the price your book sells for, you will always be paid the revenue you set when publishing the book. Unfortunately, retail markups often force authors to greatly reduce earnings per book in order to remain competitively priced. This revenue tradeoff is offset by the possibility of more sales being generated when a book is widely available for purchase and is a sacrifice most authors are happy to make.

*At this time, only Premium format books may be assigned an ISBN.

Publishing without an ISBN**

Depending on your ultimate goal and target audience, publishing without an ISBN may make more sense. Forgoing an ISBN allows more formatting choices and greater pricing freedom in the Lulu bookstore. These are advantages if you are publishing a book for sentimental reasons, for a limited audience, or to promote your business. For example, if you are a teacher publishing educational books, an ISBN is not required to reach your students who are your target audience. The same applies when publishing your family history or grandmother’s favorite recipes – your intended audience will be aware of your work and be happy to purchase it directly from you or from the Lulu bookstore thereby cutting out the middleman.

**Authors may choose Premium, Standard, or Photo Quality formats when publishing without an ISBN.

Publishing with AND without an ISBN

If your dream is to one day strike it rich as an author, you may wish to publish a Premium Paperback version of your book with an ISBN for wide distribution and publish another version without an ISBN using Lulu’s Standard Paperback format. This strategy allows you to maximize book exposure through online retailers while maximizing revenue through direct sales of a Standard Paperback. Sales from your web site, the Lulu bookstore, local bookstores, and events such as book signings do not require an ISBN. The Standard Paperback formats are printed using state of the air ink jet technology that significantly reduces manufacturing costs. Additionally, with no middlemen to pay, you have greater pricing flexibility that translates into higher earnings. The Standard Paperback format is also perfect for proofing, review copies, and giveaways.

ISBN bigstock-Barcodes-Seamless-vector-wall-25203968As you consider the future of your writing think about your goals, your audience, and the options described above. The manuscript and cover files you created for the book you sent into distribution are the same files you will upload to create your Standard Paperback, or “personal stock” copies. With a few minutes of effort, you can be on your way to increased sales and higher revenues.

Self-Publishing Book Expo Recap

This past weekend, was proud to once again be a sponsor of the Self-Publishing Book Expo (SPBE), which is now in its sixth year and was held in New York City. Originally created for authors considering self-publishing as an alternative to traditional publishing, the expo has expanded and now features lectures, panels and workshops targeting both novice and experienced independent authors.

This year, two members of our team and a author participated in panel discussions throughout the day. Dan Dillon (Product Marketing) led discussions on Team Building, Advanced Marketing and participated in the Ask an Expert panel. While Dan was sharing his expertise, I manned the exhibition booth and moderated the Formatting panel discussion. Even more exciting, author Pascale Kavanagh, author of Fish Tails & Lady Legs, was a featured speaker in the Romance Authors’ workshop.

What’s New at

Over the past few months, we’ve been focusing on ways to make an easier, more engaging experience for authors and shoppers alike. You’ll notice that as of today has a brand new look and feel, which has been developed with the goal of streamlining your experience. The new will help you connect with the tools or books you’re looking for faster. Here’s how:

  • 0814_Website_Rollout_Header_ENBookshelves on the logged out landing page will be continuously updated to highlight books to readers looking for a specific genre or book based on time of year.
  • If you need help, services and forum discussions are available from the page you’re visiting, putting help at your fingertips.
  • The book builder tool shows you the exact cost of the book you’re publishing as you build it so you can better understand your money making potential.

Want to learn more about our new look and features? Check out our latest Prezi which walks through the new site. So, take a look around the new and let us know what you think! Leave a comment for us on our Facebook page or tweet us with the hashtag #NewLuluDotCom.

How to make a great science eBook

Science journalism has always been at the forefront of innovation — the first to utilize diagrams in reporting, the first to experiment with the advantages of digital books. But what makes a great science eBook? Download the Universe, a wonderful new website devoted to reviewing science eBooks, has highlighted the best eBooks of the past year, and shared some of what makes them so great.

One of the things that they point out is something we take for granted in a lot of science books: get your facts right and include a lot of them! A lot of the books they disliked this year were thin on backing up their argument, and left a lot unexplained. As readers of science books know, they can sniff out a weak argument from a mile away. One of the advantages of publishing an eBook and not an article online, is that you’re working with a little more of a deadline — make sure you’re taking advantage by backing up your facts. Once it’s out there, it’s tough to edit your eBook.

Another tip they give is to take full advantage of the medium of eBooks (this might depend on your ability to code, however). If you’re writing about the body, interactive features help a lot, while if you’re writing about geography, maps are obviously the way to go. As the famed theorist Marshall McLuhan noted, the medium is as much the message as the book itself. Take advantage of the eBook’s ability to complement your science writing with some truly exciting animations, images, or audios.

Download the Universe gives high marks to book publisher The Atavist, which published a series of eBooks that took full advantage of the eBook medium, including some wonderful illustrations, audio features, and diagrams. Look for more, smaller publishers in the future to offer software that will allow independent authors (like yourselves) to put together simple interactive features that will not only enhance your eBook, but allow readers a much better understanding of what can be, at times, very difficult content.

The future of science writing is as bright as a supernova! Just make sure you’re using eBooks to their full extent with a wonderful assortment of features.

What have you used to enhance your eBook to better explain an idea or discovery? What do you wish you knew how to do with your eBook?

What to Read?

Finding recommendations for independently published books can be difficult. Over at The Guardian, Dan Holloway explains:

“As a reader, I believe life is too short: if I want a great thriller, there’s enough Mark Billingham and Tami Hoag to work through. If I choose to read self-published books it’s because I want something different.”

Holloway also outlines resources for finding well-reviewed self-published books. There’s the Indie eBook Review, which reviews recent self-published books, as well as IndieReader, which does an incredible job writing thoughtful reviews of some really interesting self-published books. All in all, Holloway paints a portrait of a burgeoning literary culture surrounding independently published books, one that’s sure to grow as self-publishing becomes the dominant force in the literary marketplace. As a writer, it’s incredibly important to keep track of who is writing reviews and what kinds of books garner attention, especially if you want your title to find a large audience.

Another great resource is, the “home of the Book Genome Project. Similar to how matches music lovers to new music, BookLamp helps you find books through a computer-based analysis of written DNA.”

A great way to make sure your own book gets reviewed is to look into some of Lulu’s reviewing services, including options to have your book reviewed by Kirkus or Clarion reviews.

So, where do you find help selecting books to read? What websites or book reviews are helpful? Do you think self-published books are getting the right amount of respect from reviewers? Have you ever reviewed someone else’s book online? Let us know!

Additional Reading:

Lulu Says Goodbye to DRM

Lulu was founded on the philosophy of breaking down barriers that prevent talented authors from sharing their knowledge and telling their stories. Our goal is to help authors reach the broadest possible audience by providing tools to create, publish, market and sell their remarkable work. In an ongoing commitment to our founding philosophy, we continue to remove barriers when we see them, which brings us to the subject of Digital Rights Management (DRM)…

Effective January 15, 2013, Lulu will no longer offer Adobe’s Digital Editions DRM as an option when publishing or revising eBook content in EPUB and PDF formats. DRM works best when administered by those who control how content is purchased and viewed. Companies like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble integrate a reader’s experience from purchasing to downloading and finally to reading. These companies do a fantastic job in this area, and eBooks published through Lulu and distributed through these retail sites will continue to have the same rights management applied as they do today.

For readers who download eBooks directly from to the device of their choice, removing DRM on EPUBs and PDFs will remove their need to create an Adobe account, authorize the purchase in Digital Editions or install a third-party application. This creates possibilities for the growing number of readers who want to shop, purchase and download books to their eReaders from sites other than large corporate providers. And we see that as a step towards helping authors reach the broadest audience possible.

Lulu authors with DRM-protected content available today will soon receive an email with additional information about how this change affects their DRM-protected eBooks and the steps required to ensure continued availability of these titles in the Lulu Marketplace. You can also find additional – and more detailed – information about the change here: Announcement: DRM and eBooks Published on the Lulu Marketplace.

We realize that any mention of support for or opposition to DRM in a public blog post, forum, or article will spark a heated debate between publishers and consumers. In the spirit of open communication, we welcome your comments and will respond to your concerns as needed.

Thank you for choosing Lulu to tell your story. We wish you great success in the coming year.