What is Lulu.com?

If you are considering any kind of publishing project – print or electronic, family history or photo book – you need to know about Lulu. Lulu offers a comprehensive collection of services at a cost anyone can afford.

Lulu provides a platform to help you create your own publication – a family history, local history, wedding or reunion photo book, family cookbook, society journal, magazine, e-book and more – with no up-front costs and no minimum purchases. You have a large selection of book sizes and bindings and many projects include an online production area that walks you through the production process.

If you need help, Lulu is there for you. Online support includes a huge help area with documentation as well as video tutorials. You can download word processing templates for each available book size. This gives you the correct page sizes and margins to format your manuscript. There’s also a marketplace of fee-based services available for proofreading, editing, cover design, marketing and much more.

My Lulu project page

Once your project is published, Lulu offers a storefront where you determine the selling price and Lulu manages the sale, collects the money, prints and ships the book, provides customer support and then sends you the profits. Even if you’re publishing a family history for only four or five people, you aren’t stuck with a large number of copies just to meet a minimum order. If you only want one, you only order one.

There’s more to Lulu than just books. They have a great calendar creation app that will pull your photos in from Flickr, Smugmug and Photobucket and even allow you to include your own special dates like birthdays and anniversaries.

Cookbook listing at Lulu.com

A book published on Lulu has reach far beyond the Lulu storefront. Sometime back, Lulu and Amazon penned an agreement to make Lulu books available on Amazon. My family cookbook from 2006 can now be purchased at both Lulu and Amazon. The only thing I had to do to make it happen was say yes when Lulu asked if I would be interested. Lulu also has agreements with Apple to convert your book to ePUB format and list it in Apple’s iBookstore for you. Lulu does the conversion, provides the ISBN, lists your book, provides sales reports and sends you your check.

Lulu offers good quality products and the support and services to help create them. For the family historian and local genealogical and historical societies, it’s a publishing service too good to ignore.


Miss Kate’s Autograph Book


Miss Kates Autograph Book.png

I created this little book to preserve and share Mary Katherine Link’s autograph book which I inherited from my grandmother. Miss Kate was her aunt – her father’s sister. My grandmother was only 5 years old when her mother died and Miss Kate stepped in to take on the task of surrogate mother to four young children. She did this while continuing to teach school. She was quite an amazing lady.

Miss Kate’s autographs date from the late 19th century, showing the affection and respect she she enjoyed in her community. The book’s binding is disintegrating and many of the pages are now loose. Before packing it away in an archival box to protect it from further deterioration, I scanned the book with plans to create a booklet from the images so any interested family members could have a copy of their own.

The book was created using OpenOffice.org’s Writer app and Photoshop Elements. My images were cropped and re-sized, then inserted into the booklet document. I added a short biography written by my cousin, Nancy Murphy, and the only photo I have of Miss Kate. After adding a cover and exporting everything to PDF, I uploaded the result to Lulu. Not only does Lulu offer both print and download options, they provide the storefront allowing family and friends to order/download their copies without having to go through me first. By offering the print version at cost, I could provide the download version for free.

We all have family ephemera in our collections. Consider using them to build e-pubs to share with family members and to publish on your blog which could help attract research cousins. Miss Kate’s autograph book won’t change the world, but to descendants of the Link family and the Tennessee community where they lived it helps bring their ancestors to life.

Here’s a look at Miss Kate’s Autograph Book via Scribd.


Smashwords Update

Smashwords continues to expand its reach for ebook distribution. Ebooks published via Smashwords are now becoming available in public libraries thanks to an agreement with OverDrive.  They have also signed agreements with both the Scribd and Oyster subscription services. Not only do these services provide the reader with affordable access to a growing catalog of books, they also add to the author/publisher’s revenue stream.

OverDrive is the service used by a number of public libraries to make ebooks available to their readers. OverDrive provides the platform that manages the discovery and lending functions while the library chooses which books it wants to purchase for lending.

Both Scribd and Oyster are direct-to-consumer services. For a monthly fee, members can read any of the ebooks in their collections. There’s no checkout or return – you just find a book and start reading. And you can read as many as you wish at the same time.

None of these platforms currently allow self-published authors to submit their own books so the Smashwords agreement is our only access. And, while Smashwords will get its share of revenue from your books in addition to the commission each book store takes, it saves you time and effort by providing one dashboard to manage all your publishing and sales.

NOTE: Smashwords does not support print publishing nor is Amazon distribution included in Smashwords’ services.

Mark Coker, Smashwords’ founder, is also promoting the idea that libraries are in a unique position to encourage and support self-published authors. I would carry this idea a step further and include local historical and genealogical societies.


E-Book Signing

One of the most popular forms of traditional book marketing has been book-signing parties. That’s very nice when you have a physical book to sign and a marketing budget to pay for the traveling, but what about the self-publisher who’s publishing digitally on a shoestring budget? All it takes is a bit of imagination, a little time and effort, and an online hangout like the virtual cafe at Moultrie Creek Books. Let’s look at your options . . .

If you have a PDF edition of your book for sale on your site or via platforms such as Scribd or Lulu, your readers who have a PDF copy of your book can email it to you and you can use a PDF app with annotation capabilities like Evernote’s Skitch to write a note and sign the book. This is much easier to do on a tablet than a desktop, but will work on a desktop/laptop with a digitizer tablet or a touchpad. Both the PDFExpert [iPad – $9.99] and Good Reader [iPad – $4.99] apps support annotations, making it easy to write on a PDF document.

NOTE: An iPad stylus makes writing much easier than with your finger. It also works quite well on a Mac touchpad. You might try one on your laptop’s touchpad to see if it works there too.

Whether or not you are publishing a PDF edition of your book, you may want to consider creating a book card. A book card is a postcard-size “business” card for your book. In the example shown here, I have the book cover on one side of the card and a short description with bookstore link on the back – leaving room to sign the card. In this example, I saved the card layout as a PDF file and signed the card on my iPad using the free Documents by Readdle app on my iPad. You could also have physical cards printed for face-to-face marketing opportunities at conferences or society meetings.

I chose the postcard size for a number of reasons. First, the size gives lots of design room for cover graphics, book description and purchasing details and still leaving room for signing. Second, it’s easy to find 4×6″ postcard stock to print your own and it’s a standard size offered at print shops. And, since 4×6″ is also a common photo size, there are tons of albums available to keep them. Who knows . . . book cards could be the next new thing in collectibles!

So, if you’ve got a published book and would like to try a new angle on marketing, build your own book card, practice signing your name with your finger or a stylus, then contact me at The Bookstore Cafe to schedule a virtual book-signing party.