Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Publishing with Lulu: Ann Burnett and Loving Mother

Loving MotherPerhaps it's not surprising that many novelists are turning away from conventional publishers, given the depressing stories we hear about the whole business.

One alternative publishing route is Lulu.com, the online publisher of a great variety of books. With Lulu, the author retains complete control of all aspects of their publication, from cover to text and the book is sold on the site. Authors also have the option to buy an ISBN number and promote their books through online sites such as Amazon. They may also buy editing services.

One author who took the Lulu option is Ann Burnett, who published her first novel, Loving Mother, with Lulu during 2008. The title is cleverly ambiguous and suits the theme of the mother and daughter relationship, which is very well portrayed.

It is an uneasy relationship, when the formerly married daughter, Janis, returns to live with her difficult mother. The situation is made even more fraught when someone from the mother’s past turns up and causes irrevocable change to their lives. Most mothers and daughters will identify with some of the emotions and fears the women experience.
I asked Ann about her publishing experience with Lulu.com

What made you decide to publish your book through Lulu?

I had written a book as part of my M.Phil course in Creative Writing and I felt it was a shame to have it mouldering away in a drawer in the filing cabinet. I had sent it out to a few publishers but with no success. Then I read a couple of articles in The Author and UK Writer (magazines for members of the Society of Authors and the Writers' Guild) about writers who had used Lulu. One made it sound so easy I thought that surely I could do that. So I did - except it took me far longer than I anticipated and along the way I had to learn an awful lot about the business of publishing.

Are you happy with the result?

Yes, on the whole. It's nice to see all my work in the form of a book instead of a pile of paper. I had to design the covers myself and as I am in no way artistic, it wouldn't pass muster by professionals. But I feel the cover photo represents an important aspect of my book and as such, I'm pleased.

How easy did you find the marketing of the novel?

I didn't. I had no idea about how to go about marketing it. I had postcards made giving details of the book and sent them out to libraries and in all my Christmas cards and I achieved some sales that way. But really, I can't say I've tried very hard to get it sold. In a way, I didn't aim for that; I only really wanted to see what my manuscript would be like in book form.

Would you do it this way again?

Yes. And this time I'd make sure I knew more about marketing.

Any tips for writers on using Lulu?

Proof read, proof read and proof read. Get as many people as you can to read it over and spot any typos etc. You'll be amazed at the number that are found. I read my book out loud, I read it from the back to the front, I checked and checked and still I've missed a couple of things. And do all this before you even think of putting it up on Lulu. If you can convert your files to pdf (which is what Lulu does when you upload your ms) then you can check what the layout will be like before it goes on Lulu.

As Ann added:
"Lulu has lots of possibilities. You don't need to write a book to use it. You can make albums of special family events, make books of bedtime stories you make up for your kids, publish your poetry, recipes, whatever you like. And it's not expensive."

Thanks a lot for that great insight into publishing with Lulu, Ann. Good luck to all who give it a go.


Bill Kirton said...

It's crazy that no mainstream publisher took an option on Loving Mother because it's an excellent book (and the cover's great, Ann). Everything I've heard about Lulu seems positive but you're right about the need to be serious about marketing. It's what we all have to do much more nowadays - even though it takes time away from actual writing. It does seem that, what with ebooks and POD, we're in a transition phase at the moment (or maybe the transition's already happened).

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Absolutely agree with you about Ann's book, Bill. And things are definitely a-changing in the publishing world to some extent!