What is Blurb? It’s a wonderful discovery for an aspiring author or someone who just wants a few books for a special occasion or to share with their family. When a writer chooses to self-publish their content, there are a number of Print-On-Demand sites like Lulu.com or Create Space, but let’s focus on Blurb.com here. I’ve used it a number of times with varied books and found it quite versatile.
The wonderful thing about Print-On-Demand (also called POD) is the author doesn’t have to buy hundreds of dollars worth of books to get the book published by a traditional printer or face rejection over and over from a traditional publisher. The way that POD works at Blurb is the author uploads the book content to the Blurb website. At that point, the only obligation is to buy one copy of the book. Anyone else wanting the book can order it directly from Blurb’s online bookstore. The author sets the price and keeps any income above the printing cost set by Blurb.
How To Do It
Sign up with Blurb. It’s free and you put the usual information (username and password).
Click on DOWNLOAD THE BOOKWRIGHT SOFTWARE at the Blurb site. This downloads Blurb’s software to your own computer. You work offline at your own pace. Use the Blurb BookWright Guide to learn more about it.
Start a new book using the software. Choose a title, paste in the text and get the pictures from your own computer files.
Rearrange the text and photos until you are satisfied with the book.
Edit, edit, edit… run the spell check and review the text and photos one more time. It’s best to actually print out the pages and review it that way. Somehow one sees the errors more clearly in a printed copy.
Once you have it perfect, upload the book to Blurb.
Now you have 15 days to order the book or they will remove it from their site. Don’t worry, it’s still saved on your own computer.
Start promoting the book. Potential buyers go to Blurb’s online bookstore to preview a part of the book and to order copies.
You can preview the various books I’ve published using Blurb. My sample books are featured in my online bookstore. Click on a book cover to read more about it and to PREVIEW a portion of the book.
If You Love Reading, Consider Writing Reviews for Amazon
I’ve been an Amazon reviewer for over 10 years now and managed to work my way up to Top 100 Reviewer ranking. As a retired librarian, I have more time to read now and posting reviews on Amazon helps me keep track of what I’ve read and how I felt about it. Even as a child, I kept lists of what I read. I get nostalgic looking back through my notebook to see the titles scrawled in my childish handwriting and remember what I was reading in those days.Yes, I was a bookworm.
Now with my reading list online, I have more than just my memory to tell me if I liked a book and what it was about. My feelings and opinion of the book is posted on Amazon for my future reference and for all the world to read.
Writing Book Reviews Helps Libraries and Librarians and Authors
Upon retiring, I wanted to volunteer in a library or school or adult literacy center. Unfortunately, our frequent trips and erratic schedule didn’t match with those volunteer opportunities.
Luckily I stumbled upon another way I could share my experience from 30 years as a librarian. It made use of my love of books, but could be fitted in with our coming and going. I volunteer as a book reviewer for Amazon. The reviews on that online book site benefit librarians selecting books for their collections and help any reader trying to find the right book for their enjoyment or informational needs.
Now I read anything that appeals to me, then share a description and opinion online. It’s particularly satisfying if mine is the first review for that item. Readers rate the reviews as helpful or not and that determines the ranking of the reviewer. When I reached the TOP 500 REVIEWER ranking, I knew my reviews were helping other readers and librarians.
At that point, authors started sending books to me to read and review. It was gratifying to add “authors” to those who benefit from my reviewing efforts. I hadn’t thought about that aspect, but I’m helping get the word out about good books and identifying the appropriate audience.
I’ve expanded my efforts on the website by compiling book lists on varied topics. I have 88 of these lists so far.
Any reader can contribute reviews to Amazon and you can fit it around your own schedule and without even leaving your house.
There’s no pay, but it can be addictive to rise through the ranks as a reviewer. Here are ways to achieve Top Reviewer ranking. It took two years for me to reach the TOP 500 Reviewer ranking.
The third year, I was ecstatic to reach TOP 100 Reviewer ranking. Since then, I’ve slipped a little and fell to below 1000. It requires a lot of reading and posting of reviews to stay at the top. Update: After shifting most of my energy to Squidoo and other online writing, my reviewer ranking dropped quite a bit. The last time I checked, it was around 1,200.
Diligently post reviews on every book you read whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. Others need to know about that book. It helps if you’re already an avid reader. If you only read 2 or 3 books a month, then it will take much longer to reach the top reviewer ranks.
Writing a Critical Book Review
If reviewing a best seller, it helps to get the review posted quickly after the book’s release date. More readers see the early reviews and vote on its helpfulness. The reviews with the highest number of helpful votes get posted near the top and get more viewings as time goes by. If there are already several hundred reviews posted for a book, yours gets pushed to the bottom and gets little attention and few “likes.”
It’s important to post a quality review. Don’t just put a sentence or two. Say why you did or didn’t like the book. For fiction, give enough of the plot for readers to know if it’s their kind of book but don’t spoil the suspense by telling the ending.
A bonus of reaching Top 500 Reviewer ranking is authors start offering free books for you to review. These books are yours to keep after your read them and post a review. I didn’t receive hundreds of books, but a nice sampling of titles. One author sends me her Disney World guide every time she puts out a new edition.
You can encourage this by adding onto your Amazon profile that you welcome review books. Now, it is more common for authors to offer an ebook copy to a reviewer. Too bad, as it was nice receiving a copy in the mail. After reviewing it, you could give it away or sell it.
Reviewing Non-Book Items
Think about reviewing household items as well. What about your camera? How about the lamp on your desk? Do you like them? If not, why not? Other people need to know what features work well on a product and what are duds. Amazon carries an amazing range of products and reviews of those products. Electronics and software reviews get a lot of votes.
Reviewing Music, Movies, and Software
Don’t limit yourself. Put reviews online for the music CDs you listen to on the way to work. Put a review on for the movie you watched on TV last night. Review the software that you use on your computer.
If you post a negative review on a popular movie, it will get lots of votes that it was unhelpful. Unfortunately, that brings your ranking down. Sometimes I chicken out and just don’t post a review for a movie that I thought was dumb.
When someone moves, they often try to downsize and avoid carrying excess STUFF to the new home. Good idea. One thing that’s hard to let go of is books. Many of us get emotionally attached to our books.
Reading a book is such a personal experience. Each reader brings their own frame of reference to the book. Who you are, your values, your past experiences, your current emotional state, all come into play as you read the words the author put on the page.
Even books we haven’t read are hard to dump. That books holds the promise of new characters or information to discover. How can we release it unread? Rationally you can know that you aren’t ever going to read that book, but it still occupies your shelf.
It’s easier to give up a book if you think of it as a gift. Any book donated to a library or given to another reader has another chance to be read again. Even books given to charity thrift shops are a boon to someone. A future reader finds the book on the bargain shelf and cradles it in their arm as they head home to read it.
By releasing your books, you are putting them back into circulation for future readers. Keep that in mind and it becomes easier to downsize your book collection.
I worked hard on the editing and arrangement of my mother’s memory pieces into a book called My Flint Hills Childhood: Growing up in 1930s Kansas. It’s available in paperback at blurb.com. She was thrilled to have her writing turned into a book for family and friends to get copies.
It turned out that the book had a wider audience and the local historical museum carries it in their bookstore/giftshop. Even more satisfying, is the book was selected as the 2010 winner of the Ferguson Kansas History Book Award. The award was announced at the Kansas Authors Club convention last week.
I hope that will lead to more libraries ordering the book for their collection and also more reviewers commenting on the book in various magazines. The author (my mom) has a fan page on Facebook. There’s even a book club guide for the book.
I’ve created some webpages to feature background information about the book. Take a look at those for information about feedsack dresses, raising a baby badger and other topics related to the book.
I signed up last year as an Amazon Affiliate. That means when I mention a book, I can link to Amazon. It’s convenient for people reading my blog or an eHow article or Squidoo lens, as they can click on the link if they want to order the book. The nice part for me is Amazon gives me a commission when anyone buys the book’s that I recommend. Being a retired librarian, I’m going to recommend books whether they pay me or not. Might as well get paid, even if it is only 60 or 80 cents. Eventually it might add up to something.
Here’s an example below. In the last four days, people ordered these books from Amazon after reading about them in my articles. As you can see, it’s a pretty good deal for Amazon. They sell a book for $19.95, and only have to pay me 80 cents for finding a book buyer for them.
So if you’re thinking of buying anything from Amazon.com, I’d love it if you clicked on this link to Amazon to place your order. It doesn’t matter what you order, so go ahead and buy a laptop or ink for your printer or anything. I’d love to have a commission from it.
Back in October, I wanted to create a teacher’s guide and also a book club guide for my mother’s book, My Flint Hill’s Childhood: Growing Up in 1930s Kansas. Here was the plan:
The guides will be available as Squidoo lenses and hopefully will prove useful to book clubs or teachers that might want to use the book.
I don’t have much of clue on what teachers might find useful and what normally goes into a teacher’s guide for a book.
I’ll have to search around on the internet for examples of these and also for book club guides.
If anyone runs across examples of these or has suggestions for content for the guides, please let me know. Send links or post a comment on this posting so I can follow up on it.
I finally gave up on the idea that someone would send me great tips on how to put one of these together. Plunging in and putting something together by guess or by gosh, and now it’s done. I’ve posted it online and you can see the Book Club Guide for My Flint Hills Childhood on Squidoo. I haven’t finished the teacher’s guide yet. If you belong to a bookclub, suggest the book for one of their discussions.
I’ve been reading back through my blog and felt good about my progress in a variety of activities and projects over 2009. Of course, there’s so much more I want to accomplish. I guess this is what life is all about, having goals and dreams and working towards those. Without these, life would be pretty dull.
I didn’t write down any specific New Year’s resolutions this year. It would have been the usual eat less, exercise more, etc. Now that we’re a few days into 2010, I think I’ll take “writing more” as my motto for the year. To be specific, I want to:
write enough eHow articles to earn $400 a month on that site
create/write enough Squidoo lenses to earn $100 a month on that site
write enough essays on Helium to achieve a four star rating there (requires a minimum of 100 articles, which rank on average in the top quarter)
write some Helium marketplace essays where I can earn more money there
write weekly writing triggers to post on my blog for my writing group
finish editing the paperback edition of my dad’s book and get it published on Blurb
encourage my mom in writing her memories of her adult life for a third book (tentative title: Gail, All Grown Up)
resume the weekly family memory writing group this summer
teach a class in Creating a Family Biography Book (scheduled for June in Kittery, Maine). Here’s the class description “Virginia Allain, a retired librarian, self-published her mother’s memories of growing up in the 1930s (My Flint Hills Childhood) and a collection of family memories about her father (Clyde Owen Martin). This freelance writer and avid photographer can show you how to gather, organize, write and self-publish your own family stories using the latest print-on-demand method. The session includes how to trigger your memories and those of family members and to capture them on paper. She will demonstrate use of Blurb.com’s BookSmart software to create a family biography and make it available in paperback and/or hardback. To get an idea of the finished product, you can preview her books at www.blurb.com/user/vallain1.”
I guess that’s enough to keep me busy in 2010. Wish me luck in carrying all this through.
Oops, I almost forgot. I also want to write in my journal every day.