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Posts Tagged ‘Lulu.com’

Ahhhh. The sweet smell of success… or almost success.

As some of you may remember, I’ve been diligently working on creating an audio book version of Simply Prayer. I’m happy to say that I’ve finished the recording and editing of it.

Now comes the really hard part: deciding how to get it to the public.

I’ve come across several possibilities, but they each have limitations and restrictions. Here is what I’ve discovered thus far:

CreateSpace

CreateSpace offers the opportunity to sell music, and in a round about way audio books, as both CD’s and mp3’s.

Unfortunately, if you plan to upload your tracks then you need to be able to put them into a .zip file. The only other way is to send them a master CD. Ummm… I thought that’s what I was asking them to do — create a CD.

Also the entire “album” can’t be over 78 minutes long. Most audio books are much longer, so I’m not sure how that would work unless I break it into more than one “album.”

Then there’s the problem of file type. CreateSpace will only accept .aiff or mp3. I can create mp3 files, but according to the FAQ it’s not recommended because you lose quality.

Lulu

Lulu offers the opportunity to sell your music, and as such your audio book, as a CD. The bad  thing is that, unless you already have an account with Lulu, it’s difficult to find any information on exactly what to do to get a CD made.

They accept .wav, .mp3 and .aif files that you upload to their site.

Apparently, there have been some problems with running out of space on audio CD’s, given that they have a forum topic on just that. They suggest the following to keep that from happening:

For MP3

  • Biterate: 192kps
  • 2 channel stereo
  • Sample rate: 44khz.

For WAV

  • 16 bit
  • 2 channel stereo
  • Sample rate: 44khz
  • Audio Format: PCM

Of course, their CD’s only have 70 minutes of play time. Again, gotta figure out what to do with an audio book, which is much longer than the average audio CD play time.

CDBaby

With CDBaby you get mp3’s and they’ll sell copies of your physical CD. Of course, that means if you’re going to sell physical CD’s you’ll have to find someone to create at least one. CDBaby can duplicate and replicate, but apparently can’t create.

The best thing CDBaby offers is digital distribution channels like iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic and many more.

If you sell physical CD’s through CDBaby, you can drop ship the CD’s to them, but only the number they request. They won’t warehouse extras.

One last drawback is the $39 fee. It is a one time fee and comes with a lot of extras. Unfortunately, those extras are great for indie musicians (their target market), but not so much for indie authors.

On a side note, CDBaby has a companion site called BookBaby where you can sell your eBooks. I’ll be checking into that one soon.

Kunaki

Perhaps the best option, Kunaki offers 5 disc or fewer manufacturing/assembly with jewel case for about $1. There’s no set-up fee and the UPC bar code is free.

You can use Kunaki to drop ship to other retailers, such as CDBaby or Amazon, or you can sell directly through them. You can also drop ship to individual customers.

One drawback is that you must sell at least one CD every 180 days or your item will be deleted. Another is you have to use a PC in order to use their software.

As for the amount of space available per CD, that’s unknown. I would assume it’s similar to Lulu and CreateSpace with between 70 to 78 minutes.

If you’re looking for something akin to a POD for an audio CD, Kunaki is probably the best bet.

So where do I go from here?

At this point, I’m probably going to use more than one company. I like Kunaki’s deal for CD’s and CDBaby for digital distribution. I may change my mind later, as I have with the Lulu vs. CreateSpace debate (I’m still not entirely happy with either), but for the moment this is what I’ll be trying for my first audio book.

I would love to hear from others out there who have made and sold audio books. Have you used any of these companies? If so, what did you think of them? If not, what/who did you use?

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In 2010 I used Lulu to publish my first book, Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives. Then, this year (2011), I decided to give CreateSpace a try when I published Simply Prayer. Although the two POD’s are similar, there are some differences I thought others might like to know about before choosing one or the other. Here’s the breakdown of the two.

Lulu

Cons:

  • Not very user-friendly. It took a lot of time to search through the FAQs and community answers to find out how to put Lulu’s free ISBN on my copyright page. By the time I was finished I had a major headache.
  • Difficult to add Lulu’s free ISBN to the copyright page. I first had to upload my .pdf to Lulu, then have them issue the ISBN (took only a minute or two), then add that to my copyright page and then re-upload the new .pdf.
  • Look Inside! not even an option. Let’s face it, even if you’re buying a book online you want to be able to see between the pages to get an idea if this book is right for you. I did find a work-around, but it’s not the same as having an Amazon Look Inside! right there with the buy button.



Pros:

  • It’s free. This was super important since I’m just starting out and have a very small budget.
  • You’re book will be listed on Amazon. It can take a couple weeks, but it does show up pretty quick. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered those supposed listings with other booksellers often show the book as “out of stock.” Not exactly helpful for distribution.
  • Great cover designer. I was able to design the front and back, then import them as .jpgs into a basic template. Lulu even added spine text, though they did warn me about the possibility of the text wrapping to one side or the other based on the small page count. This was very important to me as I’ve donated my books to church libraries that will be including them on bookshelves.



CreateSpace

Cons:

  • Cover designer difficult to use. I like designing my own covers (though I hope someday to employ someone much better), but I found designing a full cover (front, back and spine) very difficult. The CreateSpace instructions for creating a full cover were a little hard to figure out. Also, CreateSpace refused to add spine text, even though the page count for Simply Prayer was a little larger than my first book.
  • Questioned about picture quality. What I was asked to do was change every picture to “300 dpi” or risk poor print quality. While that might not seem like a big thing, for someone who understands the nature of printing houses it was an irritation because it’s not the dpi that matters. What’s important is the ppi (pixels per inch), which I knew were perfectly fine.
  • Look Inside! feature can take up to 8 weeks. Sure, waiting 8 weeks is better than not having the feature at all, but it does wear on one’s patience.



Pros:

  • It’s free.
  • Very user-friendly. With step-by-step instructions and simple buttons, I didn’t need to read any FAQs or search the community pages to figure out how to upload my book.
  • Easy to add CreateSpace’s free ISBN to copyright page. I was able to get the ISBN before uploading a .pdf, so adding it to my copyright page meant only creating one .pdf for the entire process.
  • Listing on Amazon. Of course, that’s where free distribution ends. If you have the budget, then getting the larger distribution package might be the way to go.



Those are the biggest pros and cons I found between Lulu and CreateSpace. Everything else was similar, as far as I could tell. For those of you who have used either or both, or even someone else, what are your experiences?

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I sometimes wonder how other writers develop their books. Do they plan it all out from the beginning so nothing’s a surprise? Do they “fly by the seat of their pants” and just begin writing? Do they write in bits and pieces, then somehow put it all together like a puzzle? There could be as many ways to write a book as there are people who write them. I, myself, have at least two ways I develop my books: the fiction way and the nonfiction way.

Because my nonfiction writing is a whole lot more organic (something between piecing a puzzle together and just sitting down to write from the beginning), I’m going to focus on the seven steps I use to put together a fiction book from the first glimmering of an idea to sending the guts off to the POD (print-on-demand).

  1. Come up with a general idea — I know this seems rather obvious, but it’s really the first place you have to start with any writing project. Sometimes I find that I have to narrow, or even expand upon, the original idea as the process goes along, but I still have to start somewhere. I often start out using free idea mapping software like mind42.
  2. Map the plot line — You can use the same plotting method for short stories and novels, though you do need to remember that the rising action in a novel will be much longer. I like to use a plot line to get me started. By the time I’ve filled out the entire plot line, I’ve pretty much envisioned the entire story in my mind. For me, the process is like watching a favorite movie that I have complete creative control over. I’ve used James Scott Bell’s book Plot & Structure extensively for planning.
  3. Get started — At this point I feel comfortable enough to actually begin writing. I have an idea where the story is going, but the characters still sometimes do surprising things I hadn’t planned. It’s also the longest and, sometimes, most frustrating part of the process. As I write each scene I do my best to describe it entirely, putting in a lot more detail than it warrants. My reasoning is that it’s a lot easier for me to cut than to add. Along with writing the story, I also format its appearance. It’s easier to catch widows and orphans and know what the ending page count will be if you set up the formatting at the beginning.
  4. The 4 R’s — You’ve heard of the 3 R’s: Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. Let me introduce you to Reading, Re-working, Re-reading and Re-writing. If writing the first draft seems difficult, the editing process can feel impossible. I have a simple solution. I read through the first draft making only minor editorial marks for spelling, typos, punctuation and quick notes about parts that feel awkward. I don’t do a lot of editing the during the first read because I want to make sure the overall story flows. I then go back chapter by chapter and re-work anything that was awkward. Finally I give it a second, more thorough read, making longer notations about changes and additions that need to be made to give the story more depth. After I complete the needed changes I move on.
  5. Fresh eyes — This is a term I picked up working at NWMSU’s weekly newspaper, but it’s just as important in self-publishing. When you’ve finished the 4 R’s it’s time to let someone else read your work. The more eyes that read it, the more mistakes will be caught before you send it to the printer. I can’t stress this enough. Let an editor, your family, your friends, even the family dog read it. Okay, maybe not the dog, but you get my point.
  6. The 4 R’s — That’s right. Once you’re buddies have read it, it’s back to the computer to fix what they’ve found. But don’t despair. You’re almost finished.
  7. And print — Finally! All you need to do now is send it to the printer. I use Lulu.com, though I’ve heard a lot of good things about CreateSpace. Once your book is ready to upload to the POD of your choice, it’s just a matter of following their instructions.

Self-publishing can seem overwhelming at first, but if you follow these steps I think you’ll find your path just a little smoother on The Road to Writing.

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A few weeks ago I signed up for Google Book Search as a way to help market Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises for Our Lives. According to Ray Robinson of Dog Ear Publishing, “Authors involved in Google Book Search – all authors have this option – had sales far above the authors who chose NOT to have their books included.” From what Ray said on the Dog Ear Publishing site about Google Book Search it would:

  • create new ways for potential readers to find your book
  • give readers the opportunity to browse a small portion of your book
  • show readers where to buy your book
  • let you find new ways to sell books and earn income from your book

So why wouldn’t you want to be a part of something that would boost your sales? Here’s my take on it so far:

  • It has given a new way for potential readers to find my book. In fact I’m #2 if you type in the entire title. However, if you don’t know the entire title, best do an advanced search for the book or you won’t find it.
  • For some reason I have yet to figure out, my book doesn’t have the browse feature. It doesn’t even have a preview of the cover! If cover design is one of the most important aspects of selling a book, then tell me, what chance does a book with no cover preview have? This is something I’ve got to see if I can work out.
  • Indeed it does show you where to buy the book. I was psyched to see that Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises for Our Lives is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (though, again, no cover image on B&N and apparently it’s “out of stock”).
  • As for “new ways to sell books and earn income” I’ve yet to discover any.

I can’t say that I really expected a huge jump in sales, but I was very disappointed in the total lack of results. After taking a look at the entry in Google Book Search for Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises for Our Lives, though, I’m not at all surprised. I’m certainly going to look into improving what I can, but I have to wonder how much Lulu has to do with the dismal appearance. Then again, it could be a simple thing to overcome just like my store link was.

As always, this Independent Author is continuing to reach out to potential readers in anyway she can on The Road to Writing.

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Okay, so I maybe putting the cart before the horse, but I believe in getting a head start when I can. I’m only about half finished with my second book (first draft!) and I’ve been considering cover art. Why? Because you only get about 8 seconds to entice a prospective reader to take the time to read the blurb about what’s inside the cover.

Well, as this post’s title indicates, I’m not an artist. (I can draw a mean stick figure, but that’s about as far as it gets. :D) I did design the cover for my first book using a photo from the drive-thru window of the Northwest Missouri Regional Credit Union where I work and Photoshop to create a rainbow. I also designed the text for the cover. However, being as it was a Bible study I felt the artwork was appropriate in its simplicity. With this second book being a fantasy, though, I thought maybe I should see if I could hire a real artist to design the cover.

I went to Lulu.com first because they “supposedly” have professionals who do cover designs. Here’s my problem: each Lulu sponsored designer stated that they would design my cover for a fee, but I would have to submit all the images I wanted to be incorporated in the cover. Huh? I have to give you the images? Isn’t that your job? That’s the whole reason I’m looking for a designer. I can’t draw to save my life (and forget asking my artist brother because cover art “ain’t his thing” :P) and I want a really great professional cover.

I’m still looking for a good artist with reasonable fees, but in the meantime I’m trying to find ways to use my Photoshop and the skills I learned at Rush Printing as a desktop publisher to create a cover I can be proud of. I guess you could say I’m looking for the shallows in want of a bridge on The Road to Writing.

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