Make books, make bank: Understanding how to self-publish and make money

Whether you have a book published or you’re still considering how best to go to print, I’ve got no doubt that you’ve stopped and wondered “how long until I’m the next J.K. Rowling?”

I don’t want to shatter any dreams here, but the answer is probably never. Achieving that level of success is an outlier. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make some money still!

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Lulu Staff Picks: Meet Our Authors

Picks and recommendations are all to common on the web. I make almost all of my buying decisions after carefully poring over reviews. Because we value the experiences of others.

Books are no different. I’ve said it over and over and over: reviews are key to a strong marketing plan. Another piece of that puzzle is simple name recognition through lists and picks. So here we are with our resident Social Media expert to learn a little more about two of Lulu’s favorite authors.

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Standing out from the Crowd: Discoverability

What is Discoverability?

Like many things in the modern age, discoverability’s definition has evolved. Historically, discoverability meant “the quality of being able to be discovered or found.” But online, the meaning is more specific: discoverability is a measure of how easily you, your brand, and your content are found through search or on a website.

How easily discovered your book is online will directly impact how many people look at that book and ultimately buy from you. There is no shortage of content already on the web about discoverability (this Google search as evidence), but today we’re going to look at 4 ways you can help make your book more discoverable.

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The Ultimate Guide to InDesign for Authors (Part 2)

We’re back with the second part of our InDesign series! If you missed part 1, you can find it here. I strongly suggest reading the first part before diving into part 2.

Alright, you all caught up? Great! Today we’re going to get into the fine tuning for your manuscript and the export to PDF so we can take this beautiful file over to Lulu and turn it into a published book!

Continue reading “The Ultimate Guide to InDesign for Authors (Part 2)”

Author Interview: Hannah Russell and the Magic of Little Alf

Self-publishing attracts a wide and diverse range of writers. Like, staggeringly wide and diverse. You know why. Because we all have stories to tell, wisdom to impart, and a desire – almost a need – to share those stories.

Today we’re going to hear from just such an author: Hannah Russell, the author of The magical adventure of Little Alf. Her stories are geared toward younger readers, but show how anyone can take their ideas and their imagination and turn that into a story. Read on to learn a little more about Hannah’s unique author journey.

What do you do when you are not writing about Alf? 

Haha, funny questions, if I’m not writing about Alf I am usually thinking about Alfie and what he is up too, we are never usually that far apart. But in my spare time, I love reading, I think this is a common hobby in authors we are either writing or reading. I love all books literally I will read anything. I also love visiting quaint and quirky shops in the UK especially books shops there is something about them that is just so magical. And if I am not doing any of the above you will find me with my pets. I have 13 pets so I’m usually chasing one of them around the house or garden… they always create such mischief…

Tell us a little bit about yourself 

Hmm well, my name is Hannah Louise Russell, I am 20 years old and live in the stunning Yorkshire Dales. I live near a small market town called ‘Leyburn’ which is in the heart of Wensleydale. I have 13 pets all different shapes and sizes, I have 4 guinea pigs, 4 horses, 2 rabbits, 2 dogs and 1 robo hamster, who keep me on my toes. I love hot chocolate and drink at least two cups a day through the winter months and I love all things animal related! I’m usually in my office at home writing which has a small window where I can watch my horses in the fields.

Tell us a little bit about Little Alf

Where do I begin?! Little Alf is my little bundle of cheekiness. He is a miniature Shetland pony who stands at just 28 inches high due to him having dwarfism. He is 5 years old and is always playing in the field. Alfie has a best friend who is another miniature Shetland called Pepper.

How did the two of you come together?

Back in 2012 I heard about a miniature Shetland looking for a home, due to him having dwarfism his previous owner could not keep him and as soon as a saw him I fell in love, he was a hairy mess and looked like he belonged to a hippie rock band. Alfie came to live with me at a point in my life where I needed a new focus, I was 16 years old and had just found out that I had fractured my vertebras in my back and was likely never to ride again… He came to me at the ‘right time’ and completely turned my life upside down in the best possible way and gave me a new focus. I’ve never looked back since and couldn’t imagine life without him.

What made you decide to share your life with Alfie with the world?

I felt like I had a story to tell which could inspire so many, I was so stressed doing my A levels at college so ended up ‘dropping out’ which wasn’t very common although my family were really supportive. I felt with my story I could share it with other individuals. I’m a big believer in ‘Do what makes you happy’ and felt like my story could reflect that. I also wanted to share Alf’s story and his cheeky adventures and raise awareness about animals and pets in general. All of my animals are rescues and life for pets who aren’t considered ‘perfect’ can be unpredictable. In my book, you can read about all my daily activities with my pets and what extra care they need!

Are you surprised with how popular Little Alf has become?

Yes, 100%! When I was 17 years old (2 years ago) I was just a girl writing about my pony, and now his fan based is completely crazy. It’s been hard work over the past 3 years, it’s not that easy being an author but this year with his memoir been published I’ve felt incredibly proud of what we have both achieved together it’s all still very overwhelming! Alfie even gets fan mail which is so adorable we get the best drawings and presents sent to him!

What made you want to write a book about Alfie’s adventures?

Alfie! Alfie is my inspiration he always has been, he’s full of life and mischief and he’s just the perfect character for a story, he’s always up to no good but that’s what makes him him!

Have you always enjoyed writing?

No, not all! I hated writing and English at school I was more of a maths and number type of girl. I never imagined one day I would be a writer and author. I loved reading through school and also liked writing stories but did not enjoy anything to do with English literature or language. I’m actually a terrible speller and really struggled with writing through schools. Once I left college and Alfie came to live I started writing a blog about him and loved it… then a few months later his first children’s book was published.

How did you come across Lulu?

Word of mouth actually! I knew of a local author who lived nearby and my mum went and knocked on his door actually which was very nice of her, I was so shy at the time! He invited us in and told us all about LULU and how to use to the online site. I have kept in touch with him ever since and he is a big supporter of the Little Alf books.

How did it feel to publish your first book with Lulu? What was it like when you got it in the post? 

Amazing! I felt so proud of my first ever book, I remember holding in my hands and just been so proud and overwhelmed… Who knew back then that one day Alf would have his own empire.

What kind of impact do hope your books will have on the children that read them? 

My children’s books have lots of magic and adventure, I hope it gives them a sense of adventure when they read the books and makes them believe in the magic…! I visit schools quite regularly for talks and it’s always lovely to hear what children think of your books!

Can you tell us a little bit about the awards the books have received?

I currently have 5 awards sat on my shelf at home which have been for the books, which is very overwhelming! When I was 17 years old I was nominated for a local award close to home it was ‘5* book review’ it’s quite a big award for authors in Yorkshire, one of Alfie’s fans had nominated his Christmas book and very surprisingly we won. I remember being told the news I think I just sat in my office and cried it meant too much. Then after that, we received an author award for inspiring children with the stories. And in 2016 me and Alf where shortlisted ‘young entrepreneur of the year’ for the whole of the UK, where we came runner up! This year me and Alfie got a very special award from HRH ‘Princess Anne’ which was unbelievable, that was for the Little Alf children’s books and helping raise awareness for the Riding for Disabled Association – It’s been quite a whirlwind the past few years.

Has writing these books provided you with opportunities that you would not have expected?

Yes! I would have never imagined getting an award of meeting Princess Anne one day! I’ve had the most exciting year this year, I’ve met some Olympic horse riders and been to huge events book signing, it’s been crazy.

What advice would you give to others out there that may be interested in writing a book, but are afraid to give it a chance?

Go for it and believe in yourself. Everyone has a story inside of them it’s just whether you wish for it to come out. Make some notes, start writing and go for it! It’ll be the best thing you ever do, whether you write a chapter every night or on weekends just start writing! Believing in yourself is a huge aspect in life, it’s something I never did until now, it’s hard I must admit as sometimes you take 1 step forward and 2 back but you’ll get there. Hard work does pay off and it’s really worth it!

What’s next for Hannah and Little Alf?

Who knows! Even I don’t really know, this year I opened up the first ‘Little Alf’ shop in Leyburn Market Town. It’s really small but perfect for me and the Little Alf products. I would love to open up more shops across the UK. I have a few exciting campaign I’m working on for 2018 for charity and one campaign for a feed brand which is very exciting! Next Spring I’ll be publishing the next children’s book so at the moment my office is covered in sticky notes and coffee mugs. Other than that I’m not sure I just love spending time with Alf!


Hannah Russell is the Author of the Little Alf adventure series, her first book ‘The magical adventure of Little Alf – the discovery of the wild pony’ was published when Hannah was just 17 years old.
The Little Alf books are based on Little Alf, who is Hannah’s miniature Shetland pony who stands at just 28 inches high. Hannah had the idea to write books about Alfie due to his huge cheeky personality!

Check out her Author Spotlight for all of Little Alf’s Adventures!

LULU launches global print and fulfilment API software for all content owners

Lulu is proud to announce the release of our Print API, the first of several API connections we plan to offer the publishing and developer communities.

What exactly does this mean for you?

I’m glad you asked! Are you a content aggregator, publisher, a developer, an entrepreneur, or a business owner? Are you a web-savvy author with your own website who would like to sell directly to your readers? If you fall into any of these categories, the Lulu Print API will allow you to take advantage of our print network directly.

Let’s take a closer look at the Lulu Print API and how this new service might work for you or somebody you know.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the technical aspects of APIs for software, you’ve almost certainly encountered them online without realizing. The acronym API stands for “Application Programming Interface.” Most basically, API is code that allows two unique pieces of software to talk to each other. This, in and of itself, is pretty simple. I say this as someone with only the most rudimentary understanding of coding.

Retailers, individuals, and institutions all make use of APIs to expand their capabilities and offer their users more options, better pricing, faster shipping and much more. Lulu’s Print API serves the same functionality. Once the API is integrated, users can create unique “buy now” options on their SHOP pages within their websites, and all orders placed are channeled into Lulu’s global printing network, to be fulfilled by the same process as any order on Lulu.

But before we dive into the technology aspects of this new tool, let’s take a moment to consider how this impacts the everyday author and the publishing community.

Breaking down Boundaries, Creating Partners

Lulu has always aspired to be a premiere destination for authors, as well as a powerful print and fulfillment partner for businesses, institutions, and publishers. We want to empower everyone to tell their stories and share their knowledge.

From a technical stand point, our Print API service may not seem like an exciting piece of news for the individual author (APIs run in the background and are never seen). API tools are usually meant for web developers, who implement the cross-platform code so the two discrete programs work in harmony. The average author might have little need for an API connection if they don’t want to deal with selling directly from their website.

That being said, publishers and businesses need APIs for many things. And here at Lulu, we understand that need, because we’ve lived in that world for the last fifteen years. We’ve witnessed, year after year, small and independent publishers who start up, bring on a handful of authors, publish a few books, and then eventually fold. Yes, of course, some small publishers succeed, and some even succeed beyond all expectations. We’re more concerned with the publishers who couldn’t keep up.

One of the biggest problems facing many small publishers is the cost associated with printing and fulfilling book orders. The price to print and ship can be prohibitive for small publishers, who likely are operating on a limited budget and need to make the most out of every dollar invested. Print API is an answer to the funding problems these small publishers face. Because the Lulu Print API can be implemented to allow for direct print on demand services at low prices, small publishers can remove the cost of printing and storing books from their budget.

Just like using Lulu’s self-publishing tools, the Print API features all the formats and sizes Lulu has to offer, at the same low prices, and with the same quality and global shipping you’ve come to expect from Lulu. The difference is that publishers the world over can plug into our network while maintaining their brand’s independence.

Harnessing the power of the Web

To further highlight how an API works, here’s an example of how a business might use the Lulu Print API:

Let’s say you’re an entrepreneur with a history in finance and banking for years. You’re taking that experience and offering independent financial advice. You can go out as an individual and meet people, making connections and building up a clientele. Now imagine you wrote your plan for financial success down. You’ve got a valuable document that offers your unique skills but comes at a much lower cost than individual financial planning. With Lulu Print API, you can publish your book, offer it for sale on your website, and print on demand to control costs. Your book becomes a crucial supplement to your income as well as a tool for sharing your expertise. And all of that comes without upfront cost to you, and all the sales are handled on your end, with Lulu only printing and shipping on your behalf.

The API process capitalizes on Internet connectivity to enable collaboration among a variety of companies and individuals, further opening the printing and publishing world to more readers, authors, and publishers.

Pricing is another important aspect to consider with an API connection. Rather than pricing your book on the Lulu site for your profit and our commission, you price it with 100% return of profits. The price you charge on your site is entirely up to you! With the API integrated, the order bills from Lulu to you for the printing and shipping, while the amount you charge a customer is entirely on your end. This expands on the already generous and easy to control profit model Lulu utilizes.

Integration is In

Using API integration is more than just the cool new thing happening across the web. Take a look at this article from TechCrunch last year, “The Rise of APIs”. While the title sounds very Terminator-esque, the point the author makes is clear: third-party APIs are the future, and they are here to shake up the way the Internet works. The opening paragraph of the article sums it up; ” there is a rising wave of software innovation in the area of APIs that provide critical connective tissue and increasingly important functionality.”

While a clean and easy-to-navigate interface is always going to be important, the ability to quickly implement a new program through API connections is what will keep web based retailers one step ahead. Adding new features, replacing out of date products, and generally being able to work with the range of other programs on the web is a key to staying relevant; using API connections solves all of these problems. All modern software providers are conscious of API connectivity, and the implications of creating software that does not allow for API integration. The way of the future is sharing, through both open and private API connections, and mutually finding success through shared programming.

Lulu embraces this mentality wholly. From the first day, we’ve been a company designed to help content creators better share their stories and knowledge. Enabling API connections with our print network is a logical and necessary step for us.

Looking to the Future

Lulu’s Print API is the first of many steps from Lulu you’ll see in the months and years to come. Our eyes have always been toward the future, toward finding better, cheaper, and more efficient ways to help you share your story.

Whether you’re an individual author with a website you’d like to sell your book directly from or a business with a high volume of printed material you need created and shipped directly to customers, Lulu’s Print API offers the services and versatility you need. Designed with developers in mind, Lulu’s Print API will be a crucial piece of Lulu’s ability to offer the best printing and self-publishing options to everyone, everywhere.

Look for more from Lulu in the future, as we continue to make innovations in the publishing community. For now, you can check out our API/Developer’s Portal site at develpers.lulu.com to learn more about Lulu’s Print API and see if the tool might be right for you.

Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – Beki Turner

Together We Can by Beki Turner

Beckiturner

I live in Brighton with my daughter Rosie and my dog Frankie, and I have been here since 1999, moving impulsively from London after ending up at a party in the basement of a record shop.

Brighton is a very special and magical place, and it felt right to base my story here. I wanted to highlight the subject of loneliness, and how people of all ages can be isolated and lonely for a number of reasons. I’ve worked extensively with homeless individuals and quite vulnerable adults over the years.

Everyone has a reason for ending up in Brighton, and sometimes people get lost along the way.  I wanted to show how kindness and coincidence can bring people together and change lives, and how people coming together can be really powerful.

Perhaps the characters in my story will be developed in the future because they all have a story to tell and have the potential to help each other.

I have always loved writing fiction as a hobby and promised myself that if I was one of the winners of the competition, I’d start taking it seriously…

Extract from Together We Can

Gav is drunk. You can see it in his ordinarily militant body; His usual brash march is more of a meaningful flounder as he meanders across the pebbles. Gav opts for an unnecessarily loud exit from the blaring serenity of Brighton beach, striding past the bank holiday families with their middle class picnics, and the hipsters with their disposable barbeques bought with their disposable incomes. They are all being circled and Gav ruffles the seagulls’ feathers as he strides noisily past them.

Tourists and locals huddle around tables, drinking premium beer from flimsy cups as the sun starts to set. Gav turns back to look at the glitter bomb ocean. The sky is as beautiful as a Bierstadt. Gav breathes in the wafts of charred meat, cigarette smoke, aftershave and salt. He listens to the voices shouting over the deafening base lines and the sirens overhead. He pulls his last can of lager out of his pocket. It’s still perfectly cold. He holds the can for a moment, feeling it penetrate his hands and enjoying the sensation. He cracks it open and takes a swig. The beer simmers in his mouth and the taste is wondrous. And at that exact moment, Gav knows it’s a good time to die.

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