The Ultimate Guide to Writing with Google Docs

Writing with Google Docs

Google’s suite of Office software has been growing and improving vastly over the last few years. We’re at a point now where Google Docs, their browser based word processor, is one of if not the best ways to write your content. Full stop. For all of your text editor needs, Google Docs is positioned to be superior to even the old standard, Microsoft Word.

Google Docs is clean, easy to use, powerful, and versatile.

All joking aside, Google Docs really is a tremendous boon for writers.

Let’s be completely clear here–Google Docs is a writing, drafting, and editing tool only. It is not designed for laying out your book. Use InDesign or something similar. Anything that can output a PDF ready for printing.

But that’s not what we’re about today. Rather, we’re going to talk about writing. And why, if you haven’t already, you should consider Google Docs as your writing solution.

A Feature Rich, Easy to Use Tool

I’ll touch on a few of these below, but rather than attempt to reinvent the wheel, I suggest reading this excellent post from HubSpot highlighting a few lesser known Google Doc features.

For authors and book creators, Google Docs offers a few terrific opportunities.

First, its free. Literally. Using Google Docs only requires a Google Account, a web browser, and an Internet connection to work. Even then, Chrome offers a plugin that allows you to work offline with an existing Doc.

But that’s almost always going to be irrelevant. Most writers do their writing in locations that have wifi. Consider this (somewhat dated) piece that surveys where authors write. The common thread? All of these locations will most likely have Internet Access.

Additionally, Google Docs saves constantly and offers a rich history of changes. Alongside that, Google Docs is one of the easiest writing tools to collaborate with. You can share access to others by email or with a link. And you can gate that access so they can only view, view & comment, or have full access to edit.

Not only can Google Docs serve as a well-rounded writing tool, but it can work right through the editing and revision process. While there isn’t a track changes function like MS Word offers, users can still add Comments and create chains of comments that can be marked ‘resolved’ as you revise.

Features You Want

Okay, let’s start with the most basic needs you have. Writing. Google Docs has the features you’d expect, as well as a deep font library that allows you to add needed fonts. You have the Heading and Style control you’d expect from MS Word, though not quite as much fine-tuning layout control.

The toolbar should remind you of the MS Word Home ribbon because they’re almost identical. Control page size, margins, and paragraph styling are all there.

There is one key option that Google Docs doesn’t offer: Gutter Margins. Keep this in mind while writing. You’ll need to adjust the margins to allow for your gutter while laying out your file, which might add a page or two to the overall book size.

But the lack of some formatting options shouldn’t deter you. This is a tool for writing, not designing your book.

Along with the constant saving, being web-based means you can work from anywhere with Internet access. That includes from a mobile device too. I’m not opposed to just jotting down notes with pen and paper, but sometimes I think of just the right way to phrase a thought or I realize I need to remember to expand on a point–then I just open the Docs App on my phone and make a note or add that sentence.

Once you’ve got that draft ready, Google Docs gets even better. I’m well versed in Word’s track changes and comment features, and I’ve worked with a number of writers on editing projects that involved passing a file back and forth with tracked changes that needed to be reviewed and accepted. Google Docs offers simple sharing options:

Once shared, anyone with the link can hop into the Doc and view, comment, or edit based on the access you provide. While the lack of track changes can make inline editing a little less awesome, you can create edits in comments easily enough and with the revision history you’ll never actually lose any content that is edited. The slightly weaker editing tools are balanced by the easy of sharing and real time editing.

Google Docs has a great distraction free writing mode too (called ‘Full Screen’) that minimizes the toolbar and allows you to just focus on the writing. Which, as I’ve mentioned, is the point here.

In terms of the first steps–word processing, copy editing, and beginning the content editing process–Google Docs is unparalleled.

But Wait, There’s More!

Sort of more anyway.

I don’t want to stray to far from my main point (that Google Docs is the best way to write and edit your initial content). But Google Docs has another layer of usefulness.

The Add-ons Library

If any of you are familiar with WordPress, you likely understand the how awesome Add-Ons can be. You start with a base design–your web site or blog–and add to it the functions you need. WordPress hosts a rich library of Add-ons for any feature you can imagine.

Google Docs is going down that same road, with a library of Add-ons that enhance your writing experience. As I work on this post (yes, I’m writing this in a Google Doc), I’ve got a SEMrush Add-on running to help me hit my SEO targets. And once I’m done, I’ll add this content to WordPress using an Add-on that automatically turns a Doc into a blog post.

The quantity and quality of Add-ons currently is mediocre. But more are being added almost daily. For example, Grammarly has a beta for their Doc add-on running currently. The kind of functionality you’ve come to expect from your writing tools is quickly coming to Google Docs in the form of customizable add-ons.

When the Writing is Done

You’ve finished the content. You’ve gone back and forth with your editor and you’ve gotten feedback. Now you’re ready to layout the book.

Stop using Google Docs at this point.

Download the file and use InDesign (or your preferred layout tool) to finalize the book file. Sure, Google Docs can do Headers, Footers, and Page Numbers. In fact, using the Insert command, it’s quite easy to do so. But that’s not what Google Docs excels at.

No, you should leave the formatting to software adept turning a text document into a lush, print ready file.

If you’re an author or you’re creating a book for a class or your business, or literally any other reason, I cannot say enough how valuable Google Docs can be. If you’re on a budget, you get the best parts of Microsoft Office (Word and Excel) completely free.

Google Docs is the free word processor for creating documents of all kinds. Yes, you may still need to crack open a different program to do the layout, but when it comes to just creating and editing your drafts, Google Docs is the answer.

Lulu’s Holiday Gift Guide: Graphic Novels

The holiday shopping intensifies!

Graphic Novels have long been an under-represented form of publishing and creativity. Partly due to niche markets and partly to the cost of creating high-quality, color books, Graphic Novel creators have long struggled to make their work readily available.

Self-publishing changes all that. We’re here today with a selection of some awesome graphic novels self-published and available on the Lulu bookstore.

And as an added bonus, we’ll feature a few of our favorite Zines as well: short, independently created and published magazines.

First, we have some of our favorite Graphic Novels:

Seen and Unseen

By Sarah Dahlinger

It’s a historical fiction set deep in the Panamanian rain forest. Follow Sam Hildebrand, an ichthyologist, during his harrowing adventure through mud and magic, as he tries to complete the 1911 Smithsonian Biological survey.

***
rated PG-13

-animals kill people
– indigenous nudity on female monkey-like forest creatures in one drawing
– there is nothing sexual in this book at all. It’s like Treasure Island.

MISFILE – Book 1

By Chris Hazelton

In one little corner of the universe, there’s nothing more irritating than a misfile…

The Do-Jahng #1

By Jon D. Sloan

“The Do-Jahng” is a comic about the trials and tribulations of Tae Kwon Do Master Jim Parker and his students as they live and work in the town of Dukesville. This series focuses on their lives both in and out of the do-jahng (training hall), dealing with every day life as well as ever-present threats from various ninja clans!

This first issue finds our friends pondering a new assignment that Master Parker has given them. They must work on a very introspective paper while dealing with a new arrival to Dukesville, AND their do-jahng!

Pep Squad

By Iran Johnson

The villainous ‘Evil Mind’ desires to conquer Chill Town (the coolest place on the planet) after being deemed “uncool” and “whack”. Exiled for his “ill” behavior, Evil Mind struggles to think of a plan to achieve his goal. However, a freakish accident has left him–incurably stupid. Eventually, he sends his ‘hooligans’ out to do his ‘dirty’ work–but there are four little heroes that are determined to protect their beloved city from Evil Mind’s whack-ness!

Beard for Dummies

By Janne Karlsson

Everything you´ll ever need to know about BEARD as seen through the bizarre eyes of Swedish artist/cartoonist Janne Karlsson.

Vegan Sidekick Volume 4

By Richard Watts

Are your friends and family conflicted about whether they should stab animals in the neck constantly every day all the time constantly? Do they react to your non-violence as though you are some spilt hummus on the carpet and they don’t know what kind of stain you will leave? Have you had the same conversation 18 quintillion times this morning about how killing innocent victims is really a personal preference? Then maybe you could do with this book in your life. Alternatively, just go to one of Vegan Sidekick’s social media pages and read the comics for free lol no need to buy anything, what kind of advertising even is this?

Bagel Soup – Stirring the Pot

By David Koesters

Bagel Soup comics (originally published at bagelsoup.com) are an eclectic mix of social commentary, sight gags, horrible puns, and the occasional peek at genuine cleverness. With chapters ranging from Depressants, Religion, Relationshipping, Sex, and, aptly, Animals, Food, Fists, Balls, and Butts, this collection has something for everyone to laugh and be mildly offended over. It’s cute, cutting, groaning, clever, and consistently inconsistently. Author David Koesters is a resident of Lincoln, Nebraska where he lives in a decrepit house, is an officer of the United States Army, has a law degree for some reason, and bleeds ketchup. After surviving a long battle with sense of humor cancer, Koesters’ Bagel Soup sprung out of the ashes of bad cooking to become something whereby he figured he could do the least damage to society. (I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a laughing?) Though he’ll be the first to say he can’t draw, you may agree, Bagel Soup is good for wasting your time and provides healthy eye laughter. Enjoy.


If you’re more of a Magazine person, check these Zines. They’re all loaded with great content sure to please anyone on your holiday shopping list:


 

Self Care Zine: Food

By Rachelle Abellar

This issue of the Self Care Zine is 56 pages of comics, illustrations, recipes, personal stories, tips, and resources all related to how we use food as self care.

The Sublime Zine issue three

By The Sublime Zine

Sublime aesthetic magazine has one simple purpose, to inform freely and honestly the world of the wondrous culture and art born every minute.

 

Unusual Bath zine

By Stefan Alexander

Unusual Bath is a self-published comic zine.

The story based on a bather enjoying his relaxing bath until he experiences a unusual adventure while in his bathtub which takes him to different fantasy worlds.

 

 

And of course you can find plenty of other Graphic Novels and Zines on our bookstore:

Graphic Novels & Zines on the Lulu Bookstore

Lulu’s Holiday Gift Guide: Health & Wellness

The holidays are time to indulge in delicious food, to kick back and enjoy friends and family. A time to give and receive joy.

And in everyone’s family or friend circle, there’s always someone who reminds you not to have that extra cookie or slice of pie or serving of turkey. Right? There’s always one health-conscious person trying to keep you on track.

Well this year you can get them the perfect gift with a custom made guide to healthier living or a mental and spiritual wellness book.

First up we have our favorite books for the gym-go, yoga-bending, health nut on your shopping list:

Michael Kory’s Ultimate Fitness Cookbook

By Michael Kory

Recipes range from chocolate banana pancakes to honey mustard pretzel chicken to chocolate protein peanut butter cheesecake to crispy avocado slices. Included with each recipe is nutritional information valuable to anyone wishing to gain muscle and lose fat while pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Recipes have both imperial and metric systems so anyone can utilize them.

Michael Kory’s Ultimate Fitness Cookbook makes a great gift for anyone new to macros and healthy eating or those who have been doing it for years.

Peace, Love, and Low Carb

By Kyndra Holley

Peace, Love, and Low Carb – The Cookbook – 3 Ingredients to a healthier you!

This cookbook is is a mixture of low-carb, high fat, paleo, primal, dairy-free, sugar-free, and even vegetarian recipes. This cookbook is filled with mouth watering dishes, restaurant quality dishes that will help keep you on track without feeling deprived.

I took all the heavy, carb-laden comfort foods and re-created them into low carb versions. Enjoy!

FOOD YOGA – Nourishing Body, Mind & Soul

By Paul Turner

Food yoga springs from the belief that the kind of food we eat affects our consciousness and subsequent behaviours.

All the world’s great spiritual traditions have elaborate food offering rituals carefully designed to expand consciousness and all use food as a means to represent or please the Divine and to expand the consciousness of their followers.

cooking with ramona: dog-friendly dining

By Ginamarie Lobianco

Come along with chef ramona, a spunky shih-tzu/terror-mix as she navigates her way around the kitchen using her nose (since she wears her hair over her eyes and can’t see), and dine at chez henri (her annoying furry brother/ restaurateur). fun-loving and plant-based recipes that the whole family will enjoy!

FROM A GREAT ESCAPE TO A NEW AWAKENING

By Eddy Li

This is an autobiography of a cancer survivor, a veteran network news journalist. For 38 years since 1971, the author, as Asia video editor for ABC News, chased news stories round the clock, often without sleep. With early retirement in sight, the sudden diagnosis of cancer one day radically changed his lifestyle overnight.

Alkaline Vegan Mommy’s Nutritional Guide to Health and Healing

By Deondre Greene

Alkaline Vegan Mommy’s Nutritional Guide to Health and Healing is a cookbook designed for those who would like to transition into a healthy lifestyle.


Healthy living isn’t limited to just a healthy body. Get in a healthy state of mind with these Wellness books from our bookstore:


Many Moons 2018 Vol 2

By Sarah Gottesdiener

If you are a reader of this book, then you know the jist: tons of information, research on the major Moon phases of the second half of the year. (New, Waxing, Full, Waning, & Dark)

This book contains recipes, spell working suggestions and advice, manifestation musings, Tarot Talk, and self-help and development prompts to aid you in your evolution, healing, and to get your momentum and desires moving and flowing. In this workbook, information is given, questions are asked and exercises are suggested to help you with your own self-empowerment. These workbooks imagine a world where witches, women, femmes, and weirdos make their dreams come true, help others and the greater collective in service of their higher self and of spirit.

How I Look Journal

By Nan Dellheim & Molly Dellheim

Newly revised fifth edition adds new material that resonated in the classroom! This research-based journal provides age-appropriate information on topics relevant to healthy development and self-acceptance including identity, stress, growth and development, media awareness, healthy lifestyle, self-talk, role models and clothing tips to improve body acceptance. Interspersed with thought-provoking journal prompts, inspirational quotes, and journal entries from a caring mentor, this heartfelt but lighthearted journal will empower girls during the vulnerable adolescent years.

Can be used in the classroom with companion lessons or by individual girls. Girl tested; teacher, school counselor, and mom approved! “This is a valuable tool for girls of all ages that provides techniques to build lasting self-esteem. This journal encourages healthy creativity and self-reflection and is a great gift for aspiring writers and teens alike!” Jess Weiner, Author and Self-Esteem Expert.

The Secret Life of Speaking Up Prequel

By Angela Lussier

The Secret Life of Speaking Up Prequel: 30 Tiny Speaking Adventures — by Angela Lussier, award-winning speaker, five-time author, TEDx presenter, and Speaker Sisterhood founder — will help women see that they do have a voice, that their voice matters and using it is empowering.

In this tiny pocket book, you’ll learn how to build courage, gain confidence in yourself, and even look forward to speaking up through these 30 tiny speaking adventures. Practice the steps to express yourself with authenticity and discover how much power you really possess. Who knows, you might just surprise yourself.

If you like to have experiences that make you more aware, more confident, and more powerful, this book is for you. Learn how to speak up more often through 30 adventures specifically designed to help you build this skill set.
More information and sample adventures can be found at
https://speakersisterhood.com/tiny/.

365 Connecting Questions for Couples

By Casey & Meygan Caston

Marriage365 is a 501c3 non-profit reaching millions of couples each month around the world. Our mission is that one day, the world will be transformed through communities made healthy because connected married couples are the norm.

You can follow them on social media @marriage365 or visit them on the web at marriage365.org.


If this impressive list of Health & Wellness books doesn’t have the perfect book for your holiday recipients, fear not! We’ve got an entire bookstore full of options:

Lulu Diet & Health books

Lulu Wellness books


Check out our full Holiday Gift Guide for even more inspiration.

Lulu’s 4 Step Holiday Book Selling Guide

Lulu’s 4 Step Holiday Book Selling Guide

It’s October already. The holidays are literally right around the corner.

Are you ready?

If you are an indie author, now is the time to start ramping up your marketing efforts and making the extra push to get as many sales as you can this holiday season. Today, I’ve got some tips and advice to help you meet your marketing goals without absorbing all of your free time over the next couple of months.

Continue reading “Lulu’s 4 Step Holiday Book Selling Guide”

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!

Continue reading “Make books, make bank: Understanding how to self-publish and make money”

The 1000 True Fan Theory: Achieving Sustainable Income as a Writer

What’s your dream? When I was a teen I read Stephen King’s “The Gunslinger” and decided I wanted to be a novelist. I was already an avid reader but there came a moment as I finished “The Gunslinger” when I realized I didn’t just want to partake in stories, I wanted to tell them.

Back then, I imagined writing a story, handing the manuscript to…someone…and their mind being so blown away that they would heap piles of money on me. From there I would retire to my writing desk to pen my next masterpiece without a care in the world.

Reality check.

Stephen King and J.K. Rowling tier writers are very few and even further between.

But that does not mean you can’t earn a living as a writer!

Back in 2008, Kevin Kelly penned an article titled “1,000 True Fans.” In this piece, Kelly argues that the power of direct connection through the Internet allows creators to earn a living from their art if they have only 1,000 True Fans.

Let’s break down Kelly’s theory and see how it can apply to self-published authors.

First, we need to address the two criteria Kelly identifies as requisite for building a True Fanbase:

  1. You must generate enough content to earn $100 from each True Fan per year;
    and,
  2. You must create and foster a direct connection between you and your 1,000 True Fans.

Alright, before I lose anyone, I know that both of these criteria seem pretty tough. $100 a year from book sales is unrealistic. If you sell your book for around $15, you’ll be taking home around $8 a sale after printing costs. I’m guessing most authors aren’t putting out more than one book a year. $8 and $100 is a pretty big difference.

Doing the Math

As Kelly points out, his count of 1,000 True Fans is arbitrary. He’s just making a point, which is the core of what we’re talking about today—breaking down your expectations allows you to set real and achievable goals.

Here’s a better way for authors to think about the imperative to reach True Fans: determine how much you want to make on your writing each year. Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans formula results in $100,000 a year earning if all the criteria are met perfectly.

Honestly, though, $100,000 is ambitious. Let’s say you just want to get the ball rolling. You’ve written a book and you have a few people you know will buy it. You’re not quitting your day job and you are set up to earn $8 per sale. 1,000 fans will make you $8,000. That’s a reasonable sum to expect to earn from your first offering.

You’re most likely adding this to your income from your day job, so being an author is still a side gig at this stage.

The key element here is to apply the basics of Kelly’s formula when you design your book marketing plan. You don’t need to aim for selling to 1,000 people initially. But if you set a realistic goal and work toward it, you can earn good money—maybe even enough to quit that day job and write full time!

Hypotheticals Time

Let’s outline a few hypothetical examples to better break down and understand how to make money as an author.

You want to earn $10,000 a year selling books –

Earning per sale = $8.00

Individuals on your mailing list and following you on social platforms = 500 combine

If each follower buys a book, you’re at $4,000.

This means you need to aim for an additional 700 purchases in the year.

  • Around 58 sales a month
  • Or around 2 sales a day

Bottom Line – if you have a fair number of followers and some contacts on your email list, it is completely achievable to earn $10,000 in a year with 2 or 3 sales a day. Not necessarily easy, but doable.

You want to earn $5,000 a year selling books –

Earning per sale = $8.00

Individuals on your mailing list and following you on social platforms = 300

If each follower buys a book, you’re at $2,400.

This leaves you needing an addition 300+ purchases.

  • Around 25 sales a month,
  • Or less than 1 sale a day

Bottom Line – earning $5,000 in a year, with only a modest social following, demands selling less than a single book a day. That’s a very achievable goal!

Even better, if we keep our sights modest and aim for around $5,000 in book sales a year, we have our backlist to think about. That first year’s goal with 300 or so followers and selling 1 book a day is difficult but very doable. The following year when you release your second book?

Well, that follower list will have grown. And you’ll have some residual sales from the first book still trickling in. It’s not unimaginable that you might get up closer to $7,000 that second year. And if you release a third book the year after?

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Investing in yourself

Don’t misunderstand me. Earning a living as a writer is not easy. It will (probably) never be easy.

What Kelly’s piece does is something all creators should do when they start to think about monetizing their work—break their creations down into commodities.

This doesn’t mean you devalue your work. You’ve created something unique and amazing. That’s important in and of itself.

What it does mean is that, when it comes to selling that amazing thing you’ve created, you have to think about it like any other consumer item. You have to look for cost-effective ways to get to your goal. And you have to ensure those goals are reasonable so that achieving them is possible.

Print-on-demand enables self-publishing, which allows authors to put the profit directly into their hands while retaining control over their work. A tremendous boon for authors everywhere. But with that added benefit comes additional work.

Now those very same authors have to learn the lessons larger publishing companies learned decades ago regarding marketing and distributing those books.

  • Set reasonable goals
  • Know your market or niche
  • Engage your audience regularly
  • Motivate your followers to buy.

All of those points lead to one concept – if you want to be profitable and successful as a self-published author, you have to identify and secure True Fans.

The True Fan theory in practice

True Fans, as I said earlier, are fans who will always buy your work. They are assured sales. Getting a core group of these True Fans is likely to be your biggest challenge as a self-published author. But also the most valuable.

So how do you do it?

  1. Start small – attend a local writing group. Or start one. Build a small group of fellow writers. These folks will help your writing grow and serve as a constant inspiration as you keep writing.
    Likewise, seek to build a relationship with the local bookstore. This can be crucial, as you’ll be asking them to host you for a signing and to feature a few copies of your book on the shelves at some point. Build that relationship early.
    And of course, connect with the local library. Volunteer. Get to know the regular readers. And be transparent. Make sure the staff knows you are an author working on publishing. There is a very good chance they feature local authors and you might be able to get a copy on their shelves.
  2. Expand with the Web – Once you’ve begun building a strong core of local, in-person connections, look to expand that online. This can be in the form of blogging, frequenting online writing or reading groups, or even through social media.
    Early on, the best path is probably looking at online forums and engaging directly. Try to find groups focused on your genre, as these will be your most likely readers. Then talk to them about books. Maybe even join a reading group and engage in regular discussions about content from that angle.
    Blogging is a tough one because it is slow and demanding. Still, I advocate for starting and maintaining a blog. You’ll want a website to direct new and old readers (and fans) to, so all you end up needing to do is host a blog on the site. This provides fresh content to encourage return visitors and gives you a medium to publish teasers or excerpts.
  3. Attend and host events – You’ll need to build off of #1 and #2 to be successful with events. Once you’ve got a core group of True Fans, expand that with an author signing or book sale at the local bookstore.
    Or attend a writing or book convention and meet an even wider range of authors, book publishers, and book designers. This is fairly intensive, as it’s going to mean investing in the tickets and trip, but it can pay off in a lot of ways too. For our True Fan search, the biggest benefit may be the opportunity to connect with other authors and attract some of their fans.
    Don’t think of other authors as competition. That’s assuredly not the case. You need to view every single other author you can connect with as a possible extension of your reader network, and a means to acquire more True Fans. Because another author’s True Fans, on that author’s recommendation, can easily become one of your True Fans too.

These are just a few ideas. Be creative in thinking about ways to attract True Fans. Maybe a Youtube series. Or maybe other hobbies like fantasy football or yoga could lead to a group of people you can transition into True Fans.

These True Fans will not be your only source of income either. If you’ve got a relatively large network of online followers, many of them will simply be a follower; someone who might buy a book, might not. They might read your blog or like your Facebook posts, but not rush to buy your newest book. These fans will help support you from time to time, but the True Fans are the ones contributing with a purchase for every product your produce.

That’s why the True Fans are so critical and why generating a strong base group of them is so important to earning sustainable income as a writer.

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.

Continue reading “Standing out from the Crowd: Discoverability”

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