Author Success Story- From POD to Tradtional

The story of Lisa Genova's book has been floating around the web for a few days, but I hadn't seen this version of the story until now. I like it and chose to share it because it's a clear example of:

1. How fiction authors can publish outside of the traditional channels to get things moving (in fact she even used a fee-based publisher instead of going independent)

2. How to tie in a non-fiction theme in your fiction book to get recognition, publicity and support

3. How not to give up

Now, I know there will be a few who read this story who'll say, "but she's one in a million". Maybe. But does that mean what she did can't be accomplished by anyone else? That she took the only such slot that will ever be available? Or does it rule out the possibility that someone else can't follow her example adding their own spin and also be successful? I don't think so and I hope you don't either. One thing I can guarantee though, as the saying goes- You definitely won't hit the target if you never take a shot.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Author Puts Twist on Booksigning

You may have heard that book signings can be a really tough gig. Sometimes even big names don't get people to turn out in droves for a live appearance. Some do go well of course, but I suspect the ones that do have some creative effort behind them.

Here is one such example I found today: Author Randy Elrod called his event a "Book Tasting" vs. a plain-vanilla book signing. It makes perfect sense to me because though the goal is to get people to buy, such events normally include a "taste" of the book and getting to know the author. Read about it here. I touched base with Randy (via Twitter where I met him) and he said the turn-out was wonderful.

What kind of events do you have planned for the year? How can you put your unique twist on them?

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


How to Steer Clear of Less than Helpful Agents

The subject of finding an agent is a big one for obvious reasons. Though some smaller publishers prefer to work with unagented authors, most medium to large size stopped taking those kinds of submissions a long time ago. This means authors have to find someone they can trust to help them get in front of editors and to reach their publishing goals. In most cases, the author knows little or nothing about the industry and some less than helpful agents find several sneaky ways to use the situation to their advantage.

Chip MacGregor is not one of those agents. He is well respected and will tell it like it is, even when the bad news involves others in his own profession. This post has excellent tips to avoid common agent pitfalls.

Lastly, just so you are aware Chip was in a serious car accident recently. Though he's okay, he has some healing to do. If you decide to contact him for any reason, please be patient.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Time to Celebrate Again

Just over a week ago, I was very happy to announce the launch of my new book, Publishing Possibilities: 8 Steps to Understanding Your Options & Choosing the Best Path for Your Book.

Today, I hope you'll join me in celebrating the 1 Year Anniversary of the Publishing Answers Blog! On my side, I can say that I've found I really enjoy blogging and that I'm looking forward to keeping at it for another year and beyond.

I also decided I wanted to do something to celebrate and in appreciation of my readers so here's what I put together:

1) Schedule an hour (or more) coaching session with me and you will get Publishing Possibilities for FREE. Once we've had the session, I'll send you either the print edition or the e-book so you can use it to expand on our discussion. I'll even be happy to autograph the print version for you :-)


2) Since today is the 26th, I will give you 26% off a one hour coaching session.

If you've been thinking about getting started on the path to published, or you've been stuck in one spot not sure what to do next, now is a great time to get things going. If it's not quite your time, do you have a writer in your life who could benefit? I'd love to meet them! Please feel free to share the link.

Now for the fine print: This offer is only going to be available for a couple of weeks and you'll need to schedule your coaching session for sometime in February in order to take advantage of these specials.

Want more details? Ready to get started? Visit www.publishinganswers.com/services.php

One final thing- last year when I got started I surveyed my visitors to find out what kind of info would help most so I figure it's time to do that again.

Please make a quick comment (you can be anonymous if you prefer) and let me know if you feel you need more help with: Writing Your Book, Understanding Your Publishing Options (or one in particular), Marketing Your Existing Book or something not on this list?

Again, thank you very much to all of you who've been following this blog. Let's make 2009 a great year together!

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Think Local First When It Comes to Book Promotion

Getting a book reviewed is not easy. The big, "important" reviewers are either doing less, have way to many to consider, and usually are very picky about what kind of book they'll accept. So what to do?

I saw one good answer in the Detroit Free Press last week-start locally. The Freep Sunday edition still features a handful of reviews. In this issue, one review was about a book by a writer from the tiny town of Onaway, Michigan. The key point is that the Freep reporter did not interview that author, a reporter from the Cheboygan Daily Tribune did. The Free Press picked up the article after the fact and likely re-ran it because the book's topic (the economic crisis in small towns) is very timely. I imagine it was also because it was written about MI (which has one of the worst economies right now) by someone in MI.

Another interesting point to note is that this book was published by a POD/fee-based publisher (iUniverse) which is the least respected way to go about publishing basically. Yet it still got at least a little traction. The lesson is to know your audience as best you can ahead of time and know what factors matter when planning your promotions.

Finding appropriate tie-ins will almost always help you win media and readers. Just don't fall into the trap that it's get on Oprah or nothing. It's perfectly okay to start small and grow from there.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Is Lulu.com Right for Your Book? Update-Questions Addressed

Since my last Lulu post, I got in touch with Henry Hutton one of the founders of Lulu (though he is no longer on staff there) and he graciously took the time to answer the questions I had. Here is an update as promised.

First, I'd taken issue with the inability to contact a human and ask questions when someone doesn't have an account as they may just be in the research stage. On a related issue, I noted that there's no way to get samples of the two main paper types that are offered (Standard & Publisher Grade) to further aid in the decision process, without actually opening an account/printing something.

Basically the answer to both questions is this; Lulu's business model is not high-touch, high level customer service. That's part of the reason there's no set up fee; it's very much DIY oriented. Henry also agreed that a good analogy in comparing Lulu to some other fee-based/POD publishers is a bit like going out to eat. You can go fast food and pay a minimal amount but you also get minimal personal service. If you want more, you need to go to a different type of place and generally you'll pay more to be waited on.

With regard to the cost per book being on the high side, the most important concept is you need to know your goals and then figure out if Lulu can help you reach them. According to Henry, there are circumstances where Lulu will be a better fit than others. If retail sales (Amazon, B & N.com) is a big part of your business plan, using Lulu alone may not be the best choice. If you are going to sell back of the room or from your website (and utilize Lulu Marketplace), it may be more viable. You cannot avoid crunching the numbers if you want to make an educated decision.

As I've stated before, there's a lot more to understand about Lulu than just the fact that they have low/no set up costs. If you take your time to work through those details, either on your own or with help, I can guarantee you'll have a better experience all the way around.

If you do want help, feel free to contact me or Henry is also a publishing coach (with extra insight into Lulu). More info at his site: http://www.publishandsell.com.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Video Explains Publishing Process

Thanks to Richard Curtis over at E-reads for passing along this insightful knowledge
Enjoy :-)


Good Writing & God Bless,

Cheryl Pickett


Lulu.com Is It Right for Your Book? Part 4

Today we'll pick up where we left off and talk more about Costs & Book Production.
In part 3, I touched on the fact that there is a difference in price depending on the paper you choose; I want to emphasize how important it is that you look at all aspects within your business that are affected by this number. This is a must unless you are only planning to give your books to friends and family, then these numbers are obviously not as big a deal. For the rest of you who intend to make money with your book, let's go through some concrete examples of what I'm talking about.

Start Here
Let's say you have a 200 page, paperback book which is common in both fiction and non-fiction. Choose "6x9, black & white interior and perfect bound (which means glued edges not staples). Let's also figure your cover price is an average $16.00

Crunching the Numbers
If you use the default paper choice "standard" your cost for one book is $8.50, bump it to 10 copies and you save a buck per copy. If you want to fulfill your orders yourself here's how it might look. Sell on your website or in person for $16- $7.50 (production cost) - (credit card processing fees/shipping) = around $7.00 left over.

Now let's say you are going to have Lulu fulfill orders as they come in from Amazon, B & N.com or other retailers. Same $16.00 - $8.00 (typical wholesale discount of 50%) - $5.50 (slightly lowered production cost) -$1.00 Lulu's cut = about $1.50 left over.

Want to make more money? You'd have to set the retail price higher, and possibly price yourself out of the range your customer expects to pay. The other option is to choose "Publisher Grade" paper. This saves you $3.00 per book in the first calculation above. This also puts your per book price in the range of that of other print options. I'm not sure about savings in the retail example though because Lulu's current retail pricing examples only include standard paper from what I can find.

Why Is All of This Important?
Hopefully, you are now starting to see that whether to use Lulu or not is not as simple a decision as it might appear at the outset. I've touched on just a few of the aspects that can make a significant difference in many aspects of your business as an author. The key to making sure you make a solid choice is taking the time to understand how things work and then how those things apply to what you're trying to accomplish.

Still have questions? Feel free to leave a comment or contact me for one-on-one help.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett

P.S. Still working on getting in touch with someone from Lulu. If I'm successful and get some clarifications, I will certainly share them with you.


It's Official!

I'm so happy to be able to announce (finally) that my new book, Publishing Possibilities: 8 Steps to Understanding Your Options & Choosing the Best Path for Your Book was launched yesterday!

It is available on my website right now http://www.publishinganswers.com/ in both print and ebook formats. In the near future, you'll also be able to go to your favorite online retailer or special order at most bookstores.

If you've made it a goal to get your book out in 2009, this guide is meant to help you make good decisions every step of the way. I know there's a lot to learn and navigating the publishing industry can be overwhelming at times because I've been there. That's why I wrote the book and why I'm excited to be able to share what I've learned and assist others, maybe you, on the path to published.

Questions, comments? I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Good Writing & God Bless,

Cheryl Pickett

A Little Good News About Fiction Books

With all the gloom and doom lately about publishing and how everything is going downhill, here's a wonderful breath of fresh air


We'll get back to the Lulu series shortly so stay tuned!

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Lulu.com Is it Right for Your Book? Part 3

So far in this series we've touched on Lulu's apparent user friendliness, as well as deciphering the publishing services they offer. Today, I'm going to cover a few key points with regard to Cost & Book Production.

One of the big selling points for Lulu people often mention is that it is free/no cost to use. This is true, they do not charge a set up fee to produce your book through them. It's basically like walking into Kinkos or Office Max. They don't charge you to set up your files in their system, they just charge you to print your copies.

However, the game changes here if you cannot create and upload your own files properly. In that case, you'll need some help. Your choices are to buy a package that includes cover design for example, or hire someone to do it for you from their list of vendors or on your own. My guess is that more people than not fall into the group needing help. If that's the case, the free aspect is no longer as relevant and I'd strongly recommend you compare costs with other fee-based publishers or other print options.

The other point where cost becomes a serious consideration is cost per book. In fact, this is a BIG consideration. One of the first things you should do if you are thinking about utilizing Lulu is go to the cost calculator. Now, there are a couple more things you need to know.

First, Lulu does not offer 5.5 x 8.5 size paperback books. I don't know why as this is a very common paperback size most printers offer. If that's what you want, your options are either go up to 6x9 or don't use Lulu.

Next, there are two choices for paper-standard and publisher grade (which is apparently a relatively recent choice). If you calculate your production costs both ways, you'll see the cost varies significantly.

Unfortunately, to figure out the physical difference it will make it not as easy. If you hunt around on the web site you can find details, but things still aren't as clear as they could be. In fact, some of the papers shown to be publisher grade for one size, are standard for another. I would definitely like clarification there. Also, if you wanted a sample of a book printed on one stock or the other, I didn't see an easy way to get one. This is another concern as knowing the physical properties of your book is not something to overlook. You also cannot assume the default choice will be up to your expectations.

As I mentioned in my first post, there does not seem to be a way to contact Lulu for help if you don't have an account. However, I think I've got a work-around so I will update you if I can get some of these questions answered.

There are also a couple more points to be aware of with regard to Cost and Book Production. I'll cover those next time.

Good Writing & God Bless,

Cheryl Pickett


Lulu.com Is It Right for Your Book? Part 2

Yesterday, in Part 1, I touched on the user-friendliness of Lulu for a new customer. I noted that there is a lot of information and that can be good, especially when it comes to actually uploading files/producing your book.

However, as I delved further today, one of the things I noticed is that if you are a first time author and you haven't done much research into how publishing works, you could easily get confused or miss important details.

In my opinion, the big picture info you should have to make a good choice is not presented well. Also, unless you know what many of the industry terms mean, you might not know/be able to figure out where to look for the answers you seek. Even with the background/understanding I have of the process from writing my current book, I really had to hunt for for many of the answers I was looking for.

Which brings us to our topic for today- the publishing services Lulu offers.

Before we dive into that though, I want to make sure everyone is clear as to the three main kinds of publishing: 1. Someone else handles all the business stuff for you 2. You pay someone else to do it for you 3. You handle it all through vendor/service providers. Normally, most of the companies that offer to help you publish fit into category 1 or 2.

First key point for today-Lulu's services fall into both the 2nd and 3rd category.

The next key point you need to be aware of is that they distinguish their services within the context of distribution, even though most of the time, publishing options are not defined this way. This is definitely one area where they cause a lot of unnecessary confusion in my opinion.

To summarize their publishing options briefly:

1. Published by Lulu
This is mostly category #2 above (even though it sorta sounds like #1). You have the option to let Lulu assign an ISBN from their group of numbers which then makes them "publisher of record". They also list your book appropriately for some distribution through some online channels.

Currently, this service is free, which is one of the factors that attracts many authors to them because most of the other companies in category 2 charge for this within their packages that also include set-up, design etc.

2. Published by You
As I mentioned above, category #3 means you also become a publisher. You set up your own biz and find vendors to help you do all the tasks that need to be done to produce a book. The Published by You option helps you with some of this.

In this case, they help you get an ISBN but you own it and are listed as publisher. Beyond that, they also help you with your barcode and list you with one of the major wholesalers which allows you to have some distribution with online retailers. Note: This is for the U.S. I did not research other how it works for other countries though the info appears to be available.

As you might be starting to notice, there's a lot more to understanding Lulu than the four or five steps they show on the main page. I'm going to continue to break it down for you, but if you'd like info faster, or more personalized help, you might want to consider a one on one coaching session. You can check out my services page at www.publishinganswers.com for more details.

Good Writing & God Bless,

Cheryl Pickett


Lulu.com Is it Right for Your Book? Part 1

As I visit some of the writer forums, I frequently see comments, questions, and sometimes concerns about Lulu. com. Also, according to a recent article about the fee-based/POD publishing industry, it was noted that Lulu is one of the biggest/most popular right now.

This being the case, I thought I'd do a little analysis/pros & cons list here on the blog for those of you who might be considering it. I'll also break it down into a few parts because there's a lot of info to cover.

Note: I have not published this way myself. I am approaching this as someone who is researching whether to use it. I will utilize the info provided on the site and draw on statements and opinions of others for guidance like any prospective customer should do.

Let's start with Ease of Use
Lulu seems to have a decent reputation in this respect. On the list of "pro" is that there is a lot of information. It's pretty easy to figure out what they offer (which may spark new ideas for your project). The site also appears to provide lots of instructions for actually producing your book.

However, a couple of items I consider "cons" are that you do need to be at least a little bit "techie" to get your files set up right because it isn't just a click or two and you're done. Some people don't want to do any of that. The alternative of course, is to hire someone who is familiar with the process.

Additionally, I don't care for the fact that in order to make contact for additional help (if your question is not answered in the FAQ etc), you must set up an account. Though there is extensive info, I do have a question that I cannot find an answer for. However, I don't want an account. I want information so I can decide if I want an account or not.

Though Lulu does seem to try to be as thorough as possible, no one can possibly predict every question. I think being able to get answers you need to make the initial decision as to whether or not to go with them in the first place, should be much easier. I also realize the number of inquiries they might get could be staggering, but I still think there is a better way.

Please feel free to share your experiences on this topic so that everyone can benefit.

Until next time,

Good Writing & God Bless,

Cheryl Pickett


Is It Good to Get Your Book into a Bookstore? Yes, No, Maybe So

There's a fair amount of talk right now about the state of bookstores. Basically, as a species, they're in trouble. Many independents are struggling and a few that have been around for decades and decades can't even make it. Even the big chains are not immune. It is also no secret that Borders is going to close some locations in it's fight to stay afloat. It's not pretty and things will likely continue to change for quite a while before the dust settles.

So what does this mean for authors, especially those new or soon to be? First and foremost, it means needing more education than ever going into the publishing process. To help you with that, here are a few points you need to consider as you decide whether or not to pursue placement in bookstores.

1. If you publish with a fee-based/POD publisher, it is difficult, if not impossible to get into bookstores for several reasons. If getting there is a big goal, you probably won't want to use that method.

2. If you independently publish but are unable to work with a major distributor, it can also be difficult to get in. If you are with a wholesaler (Ingram or Baker & Taylor), you can get in sometimes by making individual calls to stores to introduce your book. Obviously, this takes a lot of time, but it does work to an extent.

3. If a distributor gets your book into bookstores or even big chain stores like Target, that's only about 1/4 of the battle. Your book will only occupy space as long as it sells and sells well. You have about 4months to get those books to move. If they don't, the store won't order more and the next title gets a shot.

As you can see, there's a lot to getting into and then making bookstore placement successful. Stay tuned, or if you could use some help right away, contact me over on the website, on Facebook or Twitter.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett