Articles tagged "Self-Publishing"

EPUBs Made Even Easier with Lulu Ebook Enhancements

Getting your eBook ready for the world to see can be a learning experience – for authors and for Lulu. We always want to give you the best, easiest tools possible to get your eBook out there, and part of reaching that goal is making changes to the process to make it as painless as possible. Case in point: the new multi-file upload and table of contents preview features that help you to make sure you’re well on your way to having a distribution-ready EPUB file.

Making your EPUB file was already pretty easy. You can upload Microsoft DOC and DOCX, RTF, and ODF files, and we’ll take care of converting them into an EPUB for you. For print books you could always upload multiple files and we’d stitch them together into one coherent, print-ready PDF. Now you have the same convenience for your eBook. Maybe you’ve been serializing your work or maybe you’re just taking it one chapter at a time; either way, it’s simple to move forward. Just get  your individual files ready with the first line formatted as Heading 1, upload all of the files and move them around so they’re in the order you want, and you’re done! You’ll have a finished EPUB in no time.

(For more info on our recent enhancements, click on the image above.)

Speaking of those headings, if you’ve ever created an eBook on Lulu you might have received an error message regarding your NCX – the eBook’s table of contents that lets the reader jump instantly to any chapter or section. After all, it’s one of the top ten reasons why eBooks are rejected for retail distribution. Creating a proper NCX requires a pretty straightforward but very specific use of styles and headings so that all of your chapters, sections, and subsections line up appropriately. Not sure if you’ve done yours correctly? After you upload your eBook files you’ll now find a table of contents preview that will let you see how everything will be ordered in your NCX. If you’ve used the method above to upload multiple files for your EPUB, this preview is a simple way to make sure everything was put together just the way you wanted.

You’ve already got the Lulu eBook Creator Guide with all the information you could ever want about eBooks right at your fingertips, and these new additions to the Lulu site will help you out even more along the way. Plus, we still have our great paid services available if you want everything taken care of for you with no hassle. There’s never been a better time to create your eBook, and it’s never been easier to do it with Lulu.

Author Interview: Troy M. Cusson

What are your books about & what message are you trying to share through your children’s books?
Dawn The Deer & Dawn The Deer Enjoys The Fall are glimpses into what a quiet, peaceful little doe experiences in her day in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate NY. Colors, creatures, sights, sounds and smells are all around her, and she stops to enjoy them all. If I could convey any message with my children’s books it would be to do as our friend Dawn does: to stop, if only for a moment, and enjoy your day. Take in all the wonderful things around you. The way the sky looks at the moment the sun hits the horizon during a sunset, the way wet leaves smell on a wooded trail in October, the crunch of fresh fallen snow under your feet in the winter. There is so much to enjoy in every new day.

What inspired you to write?
I guess you could say it was Dawn herself. Everyday my family and I would see her out and about in our neighborhood and on one particularly beautiful July morning, while enjoying a cup of coffee on my porch with my wife, I said,”Ya know, that deer is around so much we should probably name her.” My wife then said, “I’ve been calling her Dawn as I always see her around in the morning.” I said, “Dawn The Deer, that sounds like a perfect name for a children’s book!” After a few more minutes of watching her it hit me, . . . I could write a children’s book about all of the things that Dawn sees or does in any given summer day. From there, the story pretty much wrote itself as I just put to rhyme all that I saw her experiencing. The birds, the squirrels, the children playing nearby, the ravens, all of them were going about their day and Dawn was taking it all in.


What have been the challenges you’ve faced with writing / self-publishing?
My first challenge was finding the right artist to illustrate my stories. In an effort to keep it simple I tried modifying photos I had taken in PhotoShop but was not able to get them dialed in. I asked a friend who had done some cartoons in the past if he would be interested but he wasn’t able to get me what I wanted either. It was then I thought about approaching the art department at the college I work at to see if maybe there was a student who was proficient in watercolor artwork who needed a project to work on for classwork. The director of our art department put me in contact with Crystal Cochell,

Could pay-what-you-want pricing models spell more money for creators?

In the fall of 2007, Radiohead released their seventh studio album In Rainbows as a digital download using a pay-what-you-want model. At the time, the decision blew some minds. Pay what you want? Whatever you want? For a RADIOHEAD ALBUM??

The decision to pursue such an untested marketing move exhibited real guts on the part of the band and, more importantly, a lot of faith in their fans. By reconfiguring the transaction and empowering the customers, Radiohead managed to flip the script. Although fans were given the option of paying nothing for the new album, pre-release sales exceeded total sales from their previous album Hail to the Thief, released via traditional means. 

Then again this summer, the internet was agog about comedian Louis CK’s no-frills sales approach. In December of last year, CK turned heads when he bypassed a corporate release of a comedy special, instead selling it directly to viewers for $5 on his website. Then, in June he pulled a similar move: selling tickets to his upcoming tour directly to fans, rather than through Ticketmaster (which can occasion a 40% service charge). The result of both experiments was stunning: CK made over $1 million dollars in just 10 days from his comedy special and bypassed $4.5 million in ticket sales in two days.

But would this work for books? (So goes the question in my head, always). Perhaps so! According to a story published this week in The Guardian, a pay-what-you-want experiment in eBook bundling is turning heads and making serious cash. Put together by Humble Bundle, Inc., the Humble ebook Bundle is a collection of 13 eBooks sold at a price determined by the purchaser, but of at least 1 cent. Customers who pay more than the average price — currently sitting at around $14 — unlock extra content (more books, in this case). In another interesting twist, customers are given the option of dividing the money they spend between several recipients as they see fit, including the authors, Humble Bundle, and a variety of charities such as Child’s Play Charity, the Electronic Frontier Foundation,  and/or the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

And how about the content backing up such a good idea? Surprise, surprise, it’s great stuff! The bundle includes work from contemporary sci-fi greats such as Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi as well as up-and-comers like Lauren Beukes, Paolo Bacigalupi, John Scalzi and Kelly Link.

Sales of the bundle are astounding. In just two weeks, the bundle has made over $1.1 million dollars, with over 80,000 bundles sold at an average price of $14.18. These sales figures are staggering (Lauren Beukes points out that 80,000 copies is “New York Times bestseller-level sales.”) The response to such a radical sales model is heartening.

Pay-what-you-want and direct sales models spell exciting possibilities for the publishing industry. Could a sales plan like this become more regular? How could bundling young authors and bestsellers benefit both? Let’s hear your thoughts on how this could change the game.

Additional Reading: Would you let readers price your book?

Author Success Story: Robert Marckini

When Robert Marckini was diagnosed with prostate cancer 12 years ago, his life came to a stop. He was devastated, but also motivated — to find the best care. Robert quickly ruled out surgery after seeing what it did to his brother, who’d been diagnosed with the disease years earlier. So he started looking into other options, such as external beam radiation, internal radiation, cryosurgery, and active surveillance. He read everything he could find on the Internet and in libraries, interviewed a number of doctors representing each treatment modality, and spoke to dozens of patients. With all this information, Robert felt a duty to help others make their best choice. Thus his book You Can Beat Prostate Cancer was conceived.

As many independently published authors can attest, once the manuscript was done, they turned toward traditional publishing but found mostly rejections and closed doors. Robert had the same experience. As he explains:

“When I approached publishers, they told me I needed an agent. When I approached agents, they told me I needed to have been published before. The decision to self publish was easy.”

Now You Can Beat Prostate Cancer is available on Amazon, Lulu, Ebay, and B&N.com.

Although Robert doesn’t have a social media platform, he still managed to spread the word by mentioning the book’s publication in his monthly newsletter. Started in 2001, it runs between 18 to 22 pages and covers prostate cancer prevention, detection, treatment and proton therapy. Currently his newsletter goes to 6,200 members and 1,000 additional readers.

Robert also encouraged both practitioners and patients to review his book on various retailer’s websites. His nudging definitely paid off — he’s garnered over 100 reviews on his Amazon page (a “must read for all men” says one customer) and close to 30 (“If you should buy one book about prostate cancer – this is the one,” says a reader) on Lulu. That said, explains Robert, his strategy mostly relied upon the strength of the product.

“Most of the marketing happens by word of mouth from men and women who have read my book and found it helpful. Many have told me it changed their lives.”

He may not have ever thought he’d be an author but Robert Marckini sure is now — and for aspiring writers he has some advice:

“Don’t put off starting your book. Just sit down and start writing. It will come to you. Go over your drafts many, many times. Have trusted friends and pseudo-grammarians review your manuscript. Read Zinsser’s book, On Writing Well. It’s the best book I read on how to write a book.”

As for Robert, he’s already at work on a second edition that will include an index, information on the latest developments in prostate cancer detection and treatment, along with considerably more graphics.

Last Day To Enter To Win Family Photo Contest

It’s the final day to submit photos to Lulu’s Family Photos for the Holidays contest to win a Canon Rebel T3i Camera (worth $650), 2 Google Nexus 7 Tablets, Target gift cards and Lulu bucks. After peaking at the submissions that have come in so far, we have to admit we’ve had a few “aaaawwwwww!!!” moments that make us all want to rush to the phone and call our relatives to remind them that we love them and miss them.

This whole contest idea got started when a fellow Lunatic made a photo book of her son’s Little League pictures as a gift for his coach. You really realize the power of a photograph when you see a big burly guy like him tear up as he leafs through the pages.

Creepy, Spooky, Scary Reads. Are you Ready for Halloween?

The temperature is dropping and golden leaves are beginning to litter the street, cobwebs are being strewn across porches and Jack O’Lanterns are being carved. Halloween is almost upon us.

Scary stories have always been a central part of my reading experience. From R.L. Stine to Edgar Allen Poe, readers are attracted to things that spook us out. I remember reading Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories underneath my blankets when I was little, scared of even the sounds of trees in the wind.

As writers, we use suspense in almost everything we write. We like getting readers itching to get to that next page, to get to that reveal. For horror story writers, their craft is creating the drive for each reader to finish the book, even as they fight sleep.

So to get into the mood for this most haunted of holidays, here’s a reading list of spooky titles written by Lulu authors.

The Book of Halloween: For an introduction to the holiday itself, check out The Book of Halloween by Ruth Edna Kelly. Featuring the origins of the holiday, from a pagan celebration to an all-American tradition, it makes for some pretty great trivia while devouring your candy.

Creativity Strikes! Interview with Children’s Writer Sandra Arthur

As the social media manager here at Lulu, I have the lucky task of monitoring our Facebook Page. I can’t tell you what a delight it is to communicate directly with so many of our authors and to get a chance to see the creative ways you all have to reach your readers. I’m constantly impressed. The other day I saw a post from an author named Sandra Arthur and wanted to share with you about an ingenious workshop she created to get kids excited about reading and to teach them about endangered orangutans and the rainforest of Borneo. She kindly agreed to an interview (shown below), so I hope you will enjoy getting to read a bit about one of your fellow Lulu authors.

Can you please share a few words about the Jungle Workshop you organized?

I ran a “Jungle Workshop” to provide a fun storytelling experience for children. I was lucky to get support from a local, independent bookshop/café/toy shop. I created a Rainforest Room with a tent and decorations.

Grandparents in Revolt & The Lulu Contest to Give ’em What They Want

If you’re a mom or dad, you answer to a lot of different bosses — chief among them, the grandparents. And that group often isn’t shy about sharing suggestions and directives.

In a new national poll commissioned by Lulu, 96 percent of grandparents told us that family togetherness makes for happy holidays, and 90 percent said that they long for more time with their grandkids. But with families scattered every which way and gas prices high, is togetherness too much to ask for?

To avert a national crisis, Lulu launches our first ever Family Photos for the Holidays contest. Even if you can’t be together in person, you can still get face time through photos.

How To: Market a Self-Published Book

As an independent author, dozens of companies, sites and services will offer to show you how to market your self-published book – for one low fee, naturally. However, the reality is such: Provided you pick and choose your battles, and are smart about evaluating opportunity costs, doing so typically requires a greater investment of time than money.

Thanks to the rise of technology, online and social media tools, suddenly, anyone can advertise and promote their works affordably – meaning, for the most part, that you can tell coaches and consultants to take a hike. However, for those who do choose to go the DIY route, it also bears remembering: Even in the best of cases, from a promotional standpoint, due to the sheer volume of products, services and announcements competing for attention, you’re still screaming into a wind tunnel.

Happily though, with a little ingenuity and a good hook, you too can effectively market your works to the masses, potentially scoring high-profile placements and media mentions. Interested in getting started? We counsel keeping in mind the following hints, tips and advice.

Image is everything: People are visual creatures, and tend to accept what they see at first glance: From book covers to websites, social media profiles and business logos, everything needs to look top-notch, as it directly impacts perceived value. So if you have to cut costs anywhere, don’t let it be on presentation: If a picture says a thousand words, they should all be positive. Happily, professional-looking covers needn’t cost a fortune, crowdsourcing design sites can aid with affordable graphics and you can easily use off-the-shelf blogging solutions and plug-and-play visual templates to create high-quality websites.

Source advance quotes to build credibility: Ask recognized experts in your field, including thought leaders, well-known executives and other authors to read your manuscript and offer some endorsements (“Joe Smith’s work is a must-read!”) before even announcing the volume.

Is it time to quit your day job and become a full-time writer?

As the market shifts toward benefiting authors who use open-platform publishing, it’s good to temper expectations and think about how much profit you might realistically make with your book. While it’s easy to get starry-eyed when looking at the profits of prominent self-published writers, it’s also best to consider the average, and even the low end, of the spectrum. This CNN article cites that Do-It-Yourself authors earn an average of $10,000 a year (which means that many self-published authors earn less than that a year.) While $10K is a significant amount to supplement an income, it does not make for a full-time job.

It’s rare to find an author who gets to write for a living, rarer to find one who makes a good living doing it. There’s a long history of writers who have taken jobs to supplement their income while they worked on their writing. MacArthur “Genius” and fabulist George Saunders worked in a slaughterhouse. Nicholas Sparks sold dental supplies by phone. Stephen King was a high school janitor.

Jobs have a way of getting in the way of writing, but they also have a way of providing inspiration. Stephen King thought of the opening scene for Carrie while pushing around a bucket to mop hallways, and T.S. Eliot thought of scenes from The Wasteland on his way to work at a bank.

Writers tend to take advantage of the weekend or late nights to work on their writing outside of the office, and to make sure they don’t put aside their passion in lieu of a living (you can really have both). A great portrayal of this was this season on Mad Men, when Ken Cosgrove, an ad executive, revealed that he stays up late at night, writing, and becoming a successful science fiction author. Watching that scene, I found myself realizing I’ve been in the same position — staying up late, the only time in the day I had time to write.

So what are your day jobs? How has your work inspired you to be a writer? How do you find time in your busy schedule to write, and how do you make sure it doesn’t get put off?

Related Reading:

Setting Realistic Goals for Marketing Your Book: Part 1 – Treat Yourself Like a Business

Setting Realistic Goals for Marketing Your Book: Part 2 – Realistic Expectations