Earlier this year, Lulu’s Public Relations department crafted a series of surveys for our users. As we work on developing new technology and tools for our authors (like our Print API) we want to ensure these changes take into mind the ways our authors use Lulu, and the needs our authors have.
Just providing a print on demand tool isn’t enough. We strive every day to make publishing more accessible for would-be authors, to make printing business materials more affordable for non-profits and entrepreneurs, and to enable anyone to share their story. Whatever form that story might take.
Today we’re going to look at the responses for our first round of surveys. These will include two surveys we sent, one to authors who published within the last 30 days for the first time, and the other authors who have been with Lulu for at least 1 month, but no more than 1 year. We’re surveying all kinds of authors, but we started with this group because it displays how new users think about publishing and print on demand.
Without further ado, let’s dive into a sampling of the results!
These responses shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Google searches and Social Media are two of the most common ways everyone finds information online, so seeing those as the most often used methods for finding information about publishing is to be expected. What is interesting about these results is the shift from new authors to authors who have been publishing for a while away from getting assistance from friends and gravitating toward our Lulu Community and Lulu Blog for assistance.
This is not entirely surprising, as a new author is more comfortable trusting their friend’s than a company they only just begun to use. Over time, our authors need more in-depth and specific advice, plus learn from navigating our site, that there are more options available to them. What we can learn from this is that our material could be better targeted to new authors and that we need to acknowledge that new authors are going to seek out advice from outside of Lulu.
Again, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that MS Word is still the most used writing tool. More than 70% of authors surveyed from both our newest author group and our one year or less group use Word to write and design their book. While Word can be a challenge for some, and a downright nightmare for others, it remains the most widely accessible and used writing tool. Even though the software can be obtuse, the controls Word provides for layout and design are unparalleled. Aside from mastering InDesign, there isn’t another option that will allow an author to build their own book with as much control and as many options.
What this teaches us is that, despite the feelings many have about Word, it is still widely used and most continued to be supported as the primary tool for writing and design. Not a surprising finding, but important none-the-less.
One thing that stands out as interesting, and something we’ll be able to understand better after more surveys, is the types of books our authors use the other software for. InDesign, Photoshop, and Acrobat all have the necessary functionality to design books but are best for specific kinds of books. Digging deeper into this data, we can learn what kinds of authors use Word alternatives and what kinds of books they create.
What does it all mean?
The data we’ve gathered so far is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re thankful to all the authors who have responded and hope many more are willing to respond to our future surveys. This is how we hear your voice, learn what matters to you, what you do to create your books, and how we can best help you in that process.
What this preliminary data tells us is that the common assumptions are correct – most use MS Word to write, learn about self-publishing from friends and family, and primarily publish for their own reasons and not to become a rich and famous author. All data is valuable, and knowing that our authors publish and work in the ways we thought they did reinforces many of our efforts and helps direct future efforts.
A great example of this is our Print API. It specifically aims to help our business customers because our tools in their current form were not able to properly and fully meet their needs. Equipped with the data from these surveys and more to come, we’ll be ready to continue to provide the tools and platform our authors need to self-publish.
I’d like to close today with another thank you to our authors for participating in these surveys. Please, everyone who finds a survey in your inbox, take a few minutes to respond and let us know what works for you, what doesn’t, and what you’d like to see in the future.
Paul is the Technical Writer at Lulu, responsible for all the words you see on our site (misspellings included). He also manages the community site – http://connect.lulu.com/en/ – and in his free time, he’s an avid reader and short story writer.