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“We’ll continue to equip authors with what they need to publish successfully.”

Sarah Gilbert is a former teacher turned Publishing Professional. With years of experience helping writers accomplish their goals, her specialty is unearthing what exactly needs to be done so that they can successfully publish on their own.

Lulu is creating a new model in publishing — open publishing — that empowers more creators to sell more content to more readers more profitably than ever before. Through their open publishing platform, they are helping creators make works available in multiple formats and markets and improving discovery so buyers can more easily find the content they need. Since their founding in 2002, 1.1 million creators from more than 200 countries and territories have registered with Lulu.com. And each month, they add approximately 20,000 titles to our catalog.

MO: What does your typical day look like?

Sarah: One of the great things about working at Lulu is that no day is typical. There are several things I accomplish daily like checking in with Account Managers, pulling sales reports, and catching up on publishing industry news. But the great thing is that what I do next in my day will fall into one of 3 categories, What can we do better?, How can we make authors more successful? And of course the What can we do to rise to the challenge? Today, for instance, I am working on how our authors consume or Services pages and how to make them easier for authors to understand. I’m so lucky to have brilliant fellow Lulus here who are experts in User Experience and Web Design to help. Lulu is a collaborative environment, working as a team in crucial to our success. Tomorrow I’m sure will be entirely different, and I’m looking forward to it.

MO: How does open publishing work?

Sarah: Basically, anyone can publish. Lulu is a technology company who offers free self-publishing and print-on-demand services. We are not a traditional publisher, meaning that we don’t decide what’s “worthy” of being published. Therefore, we do not require a treatment, outline, or first chapter of your book. We do read some of the content published but certainly not everything. The uses for Lulu are endless. Some examples are textbooks, how-to manuals, children’s books, etc… Open Publishing allows authors to make their books for sale or to keep them private in their online account. When selling, the authors retain all rights to their books and earn 80% of the revenue created. But the fascinating thing to know about Lulu is that we have businesses, specifically publishers, who use Lulu as their publication management system. It’s a great tool for small to medium publishers to use to run their business.

MO: How are you different than the other self publishing sites out there like Blurb and Picaboo?

Sarah: Primary goals at Lulu that define everything we do. One is to help authors sell books, and the other is to be the one stop shop for publishing. The difference that Lulu offers is the experience of coming to one site for everything publishing. We provide print and eBooks, distribution to retail channels, fulfillment, optional professional services like editing and publicity and a marketplace where content creators can sell books. We’ll continue to equip authors with what they need to publish successfully.

MO: How has Lulu evolved since you first launched back in 2002?

Sarah: From what I hear, quite a bit! I’ve been with Lulu since 2009, and have seen the rise of eBooks firsthand. The Publishing industry is shifting with the idea that companies like Lulu can omit the need for an agent or traditional publisher. In recent months we’ve seen author phenoms publish books that go viral, making it to the top of the NYT Bestseller list without a traditional publisher. Knowing that it can be done is exactly why we believe more than ever that Open Publishing is a force. The difference between 2009 and now? Simply more books, better tools, and greater author success.

MO: Can you please share the story of how your services team helped finish for a terminally ill local professor? It’s always a inspiring to hear success stories that really illustrate really making a difference in the lives of others and go beyond just the bottom line.

Sarah: I still can’t believe the experience. A UNC-Chapel Hill professor contacted Lulu with the idea that within 6 weeks we need to have a compilation of essays fully formatted, cover designed, printed and published for his colleague, Warren Nord. Publishing his essays was his last dying wish. Warren, Director of the Program in the Humanities at UNC, was told he had not too much longer to live. Some of the essays were not in any digital format and therefore we quickly had them transcribed. Warren used our professional formatting and cover design services, while coordinating everything over email, sometimes from his house and other times from the hospital. We were able to publish and print his book, Ten Essays on Good and Evil, a few days before he passed. I hear that he even was able to sign copies and mail them to his closest colleagues. I believe what he gave the team here at Lulu was a gift and I feel so lucky to have been a part of it. The opportunity to help him was truly a privilege. Here’s an excerpt from the Preface: I had not intended to publish a collection of my essays until a few months ago; in fact, the thought had never crossed my mind. Being diagnosed with cancer, and anticipating the possibility that I might not have long to live, led me to thinking about many things differently. So the thought occurred to me that perhaps I should now, given my situation, collect a few of my published essays together with a few more new ones into a collection… I keep a copy of his book on my desk to remind me about the importance of this job.

MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for Lulu in 2012?

Sarah: Better tools and more author success stories. Presently we are working on a shiny new ecommerce system that will make shopping and checking out on Lulu.com an easy experience. In addition to this, we’ll also make lots of improvements to other aspects of the site in 2012. Recently we had a small publisher who uses Lulu take a book to #1 on the NYT bestseller list. This was so incredibly fun to experience. It’s a now a story to tell, that with the right tools, anyone can do it.

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