Write That Novel
I think that everyone, at some point in their lives, has wanted to write a best-selling novel. The internet puts that goal within your reach!
The biggest obstacle to getting your book published is finding a publisher to print it. For many years, the book industry has operated the same way. First, Joe Writer writes and submits a manuscript to a publisher who reviews Joe’s manuscript and either accepts or rejects the project. If they reject it, Joe Writer tries again with another publisher or gives up his dream of being on the New York Times Bestseller List. If the publisher sees promise in the manuscript, they will give Joe Writer an offer for the rights to publish the book. If Joe accepts the offer, he will be assigned to an editor and a publicist. The editor works closely with Joe to polish the manuscript into a final draft that will be printed for sale. Meanwhile, the publicist will start generating some buzz about the ‘next greatest writer of our time’ and his book debut. Joe Writer is now a published author. How successful he is depends on several factors – only one of which is Joe’s ability to write in the first place!
Alright, I admit that this is an over-simplified account of the process but it pretty much sums it up. The crux is that you spill your heart into a manuscript only to take a chance at rejection.
Things Have Changed
Now, thanks to the internet, the publishing process has a whole new look. Self-publishing – though not a concept new to the internet – has become a very viable option for the fledgling writer. There are now several sites that will allow you to self-publish your work. These sites range from those like Associated Content where you can publish articles, poetry, and short stories to those like Lulu.com where you can publish more comprehensive works like cookbooks, travel guides, and perhaps even that next New York Times bestseller.
All sites differ in how they operate, so it will certainly behoove you – the hopeful writer – to do some research to find out which site works best for you. For the purpose of this article, I am going to detail the experience that I have had with Lulu.com.
Self-Publishing With Lulu.com
On January 15, 2009, I became a published author. While it is true that I had previously published some articles on sites including Associated Content and Helium as well as having a running blog, it just isn’t the same as holding my first book in my hands.
Many years ago, I wrote a dramatization of a Bible study that I had done. I have always been fascinated by medieval arms and armor. The passage in Ephesians that details the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) always intrigued me, so I decided to study what it meant to truly “put on the full armor of God.” I learned so much that I wanted to share it with other people. With my background in theater, it only made sense to me to write and direct a play based on my study. Even then, I thought that it would make a great book but didn’t really want to pursue publishing it through ‘normal’ channels. As a result, I left the book simmering on the back burner. I started to turn up the heat on the idea when a friend introduced me to Lulu.com. Not only is Lulu.com free to join, it is entirely possible to go from idea to published work without spending a dime (though you will need to purchase at least one ‘proof’ copy of your finished product to review for errors prior to it being released to the distribution channel).
After I joined Lulu.com, I started poking around to see what I could do. I was amazed at the plethora of formats and styles available to me. I played around with the ‘cost calculator’ to see what effect the various choices would have on my finished product. Soon, I decided that a pocket paperback, perfect-bound, and black and white print with a full-color cover would best suit my project. Moments later, I got to work converting the text of my play into a book using MicroSoft Word as my word processing program. The only formatting that I did was to create a separate document for each chapter that I intended to have in the book.
Once I was fairly happy with my work, I decided that it was time to create a new project on Lulu.com. I selected my format, chose a working title, input my options for paper quality, trim-size, and binding, and proceeded to upload my files. After successfully uploading my files, I took the next step to create a print-ready PDF file. Actually, I simply clicked the button telling Lulu.com’s publishing wizard to create the file. This is where I ran into a snag – one of the few problems that I had with the publishing process. The wizard told me that there was a problem with the file, but it did not tell me what that problem was. I was left to discover the cause on my own. I did some more exploration of the website to see if I could discern where I went wrong. As it turned out, my formatting – or lack thereof – did not match the formatting required by my chosen layout. So obvious in retrospect. During my search for answers, I discovered the templates that Lulu.com provides for each style of publication. I downloaded the template for the pocket-sized paperback and proceeded to cut and paste each individual chapter document I had created into one master document. After spending a little more time formatting my new document, I uploaded it to the project manager. This time, I was able to convert the document (or, the wizard was able to) without a hitch!
My next step was to create a cover design for my book. Lulu.com provides a fairly comprehensive cover design wizard. They also offer a professional cover design service for an additional fee. Not wanting to pay for anything that I didn’t need, I set off to design my own cover. I selected my colors, uploaded a photo, typed in my text, and ended up with a rudimentary – but serviceable – cover. After a good night’s sleep, I felt that I could improve on the cover, so I spent some time with my photo editing program and my MS Paint program and did that very thing.
The next step was to decide how I wanted to distribute my book. Lulu.com offers a couple of choices – Published by You or Published by Lulu – each with its own pros and cons. Ultimately, I chose ‘Published by Lulu’ because it was the best choice for me. I weighed the options and just felt better with that choice. At this point, my ‘book’ was assigned an ISBN (internation standard book number). I needed to revise my document to include this information and upload the revision.
The last step, and the only one that required me to shell out some money, was to order a proof copy of my book. This is required so that you can look at a hard copy of the final text. If you are satisifed with your proof, you simply need to log in to Lulu.com and approve it for distribution. Should you find something that you would like to change, simply make the changes and upload the newly revised document. Any revisions will require an additional proof copy to be purchased, however – so it is best to take your time and get it right the first time.
Within 10 days of ordering my proof copy, I clicked the ‘Approve’ button and became a published author!
Selling Your Book
Once you have approved your work, you need to set your price. Lulu.com will calculate the cost of printing one copy of your book. They will also calculate the retail mark up – this is the amount that a retailer will earn when they sell a copy of your book. You have two choices. You can determine what the final price of your book will be or you can determine how much you would like to earn per copy sold. Depending on your ‘cut,’ Lulu will add their commission. They will earn 25% of the amount you earn, so if you decide that you want to earn $4.00 per copy they will earn $1.00 thus adding $5.00 to the total price of the book. As a result, it is recommended that you set the final price and let the wizard do the math.
Lulu.com provides you with your own storefront to market your work. You can see mine at http://www.lulu.com/thorgrym. The storefront has some customization options, but it is fairly basic in its presentation. By directing traffic to your storefront, you can sell your works directly. Due to the fact that there is no retail middleman involved, this option will generate the largest profit per sale for you. As the printing costs are static, by removing the retail mark up, both you and Lulu will make a larger profit. You are also able to offer your book in downloadable PDF format.
Lulu.com will also send your work into the distribution channel. This means that retailers like amazon.com, Border’s, and Barnes & Noble might very well pick up your title to sell. There is no guarantee that they will, however. Even though your per-copy profit is less when sold by a retailer, the quantity sold should more than make up for that! Retailers don’t buy single copies, they buy in bulk.
Go For It!
Take a look at Lulu.com and reivew the options they offer. Signing up is free and there is no requirement to pay for any service they offer if you can do it all on your own. The only cost you need ever see is the price of your proof copy of your book…but you are going to want a copy of your own book, aren’t you?
So, get to work on that novel/cookbook/travel guide/comic book (yes, even comic books!) that you have always wanted to write and I’ll see you on Lulu.com!