Articles tagged "Self-Publishing"

Marketing Toolbox: 3 Step Book Marketing Plan

8 min read

Over the past few weeks, we ran a series called “Writer’s Toolbox” aimed at revealing some of the more useful tools a writer can utilize to improve their productivity. There are other programs writers use but we’ll have to consider those another time. Today we’re looking at marketing your book.

If you’d like to read the Writer’s Toolbox series, you can find them here:

Writer’s Toolbox: Overview

Writer’s Toolbox: Microsoft Word

Writer’s Toolbox: Scrivener

Writer’s Toolbox: Evernote

Selling your book (or books) can be as challenging, or even more challenging, than writing. There are a number of specific things you can do as a self-published and independent author to promote your work, but there is never a guarantee any of these will result in sales. So many factors go into selling a book, and transitioning initial sales into regular sales, that laying out a definitive plan is almost impossible. The genre you write in, the style you write with, the people you know, the time you have to spend on marketing, the appetite of readers, the price you set, the design of your cover…I could go on and on listing factors that play into how well your book sells.

In an effort to be useful to our readers, I’m not going to advocate for a specific or definitive plan. I don’t think there can be one. Your marketing strategy will have to be unique to you, your goals, and your work. What we can do with this series is examine some best practices and consider the ways others have found success in marketing their  books, while retaining the understanding that anything I suggest (or anyone giving market advice suggests) should be taken as broad suggestions based on past experience.

That said, let’s think about marketing in three phases:

  1. Planning – developing a plan based on your book, your goals, and your audience
  2. Acting – following through on the plan
  3. Maintaining – retaining readers through consistent efforts after the initial release of your work

This week we’re going to focus entirely on the first phase. Let’s develop a marketing plan!

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B-Corp: Resolution Renewals

2 min read
Happy belated Second Half of the Year Day!

For many of us, we began the year by setting a resolution or two. Back in January I thought 2017 would be the year I’d finally train myself to stop squeezing toothpaste from the middle of the tube. Alas, it hasn’t happened…yet.

July 1st is the 182nd day of the year. Believe it or not, we are halfway through 2017.

There’s still time to embrace change and make 2017 a year of improvement.

No, this isn’t a public service announcement about eating more green things, cutting impulse purchases, or committing to a robust writing schedule. (Although, we do have tips for keeping your 2017 writing resolutions.

Instead, we’d like to share the tool Lulu uses to keep our company mission-oriented and considerate of all Lulu stakeholders – our employees, suppliers, community, environment, and our content creators and readers!

The B Corp Impact Assessment is a free online tool anyone can use to measure their company’s social and environmental performance. The tool was created by B Lab, a nonprofit that certifies all B Corps. The Impact Assessment analyzes the entirety of a business with a focus on the Environment, Workers, Customers, Community, and Governance. The tool even adapts to the specifics of your particular industry, number of employees, and location.

For example, Lulu’s assessment as an online publishing company looks very different from the ice cream extraordinaire, Ben & Jerry’s; or Forrest Firm’s, an agency providing corporate legal services in Winston Salem, NC. Businesses that produce physical goods generally have a greater affect on their environment. The Impact Assessment takes this into consideration and will ask more environmental questions and give greater weight to this category.

The assessment awards points for positive actions and gives businesses a way to measure what matters **trademark symbol here** Anyone can market their company as “green” or “eco-friendly,” but not every business has the metrics and data to prove it.

To become a certified B Corp, businesses must reach a minimum of 80 points out of 200 on the Impact Assessment.

More importantly, the Impact Assessment includes suggested improvements and examples of best practices. For instance, Lulu does a terrific job with our workplace flexibility. All employees are expected to be in the office from core hours 10am – 4pm, but start and end times are largely determined by individual Lulu employees. However, there is still room for Lulu to improve our sustainability. While we do compost, recycle, and monitor our utilities, we have not yet set goals to reduce our energy use or waste. That’s where the B Corp Impact Assessment is particularly helpful. It provides numerous examples of how to accomplish those goals.

 

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Lulu certified with 80 points and continues to improve our score. We’re participating in the B Corp Inclusion Challenge, training all Lulu employees to be environmental stewards, and improving our community outreach.

You can see our Impact Assessment score here: https://www.bcorporation.net/community/lulu-press-inc

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Remember, you don’t have to commit to official B Corp certification to use the Impact Assessment. It’s free and open to anyone that wants to improve their business.


 

Sheridan Howie is Coordinator of Sustainability and Outreach here at Lulu. She describes herself as a friend to all cats everywhere, a clog aficionado, and an art maker.

Check our Sheridan’s featured blog, Better than Yesterday, for more environmental and socially friendly efforts Lulu and our community are making.

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!

 


 

 

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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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!

 

Bookend Your Book: Front Matter and Back Matter

2 min read

Books consist of many components, all of them important when creating a full, complete, and professional work. One of these components that often causes self-published authors pause is the Front Matter and Back Matter.

While these components are in two separate locations in the book (the front and the back), they serve essentially the same purpose: they bookend you content, propping it up with important information that your reader may not need, but should have available. Allow me to elaborate.

Front Matter

The front matter is everything on the pages leading up to the actual content. This will include title pages, copyright, dedication, acknowledgments, and a table of contents. Now this is self-publishing, so none of this content is mandatory (except the copyright page for a book in distribution) but it is best practices to hold to some publishing industry standards.

A common layout for front matter pages might look like this:

  1. Half title
  2. Blank
  3. Full title
  4. Copyright
  5. Dedication (Optional)
  6. Also by {{Author Name}}
  7. Acknowledgments (Optional)
  8. Blank
  9. Table of Contents

From here, you’ll start your contents, remembering that odd pages appear on the right, so you may have to insert a blank page to locate your first contents page on the correct side of the book. Again, how you organize and utilize all of the front matter materials is up to you. The above example is a common layout and one many authors use. You may need to edit to suit your specific needs. For example, some authors prefer to add the Acknowledgments to the back matter.

Its also common to use a different font or a slightly smaller font for the front matter. This serves as a visual clue for readers, so they’ll know when the book’s contents begin.

Back Matter

The back matter should be after the contents end. This material serves to prompt your reader to continue engaging with you and your work. The back matter consists of the following pieces:

  • Acknowledgments (Optional)
  • About the Author
  • Advertising for back list or upcoming titles
  • Sample from a forthcoming title
  • Connections to your social media, author website, and Newsletter

You can be creative with your back matter more so than your front matter. The goal is to prompt readers to continue to engage, so a call to connect is a very good idea. Using images here can be very effective too. Include an image with your about the author page. Show an image of your forthcoming title’s cover. Even if you’re printing in black & white, having an image will catch your reader’s eye. If they pause only a moment on the page, they might see your call to connect, like you on Facebook, subscribe to your newsletter or blog, and be that much more likely to buy your next edition.

Remember, there is no strict formula for setting up the front and back matter for you book. These elements bookend your content, the front matter providing specifics related to the content primarily, and the back matter focuses on keeping your reader invested after they’ve consumed the content. Make the most of your book, include high quality front and back matter.

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