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Personalized Books: Customization in Print

What’s better than a personalized book? I mean really, is there anything that is more touching and meaningful?

Okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit. But when it comes to giving something tangible, making it personalized really ups the emotional connection of that gift.

And what about buying something that’s been personalized by the creator? Like when you back a Kickstarter and your support perk is a signed copy or a personalized edition? That’s just awesome.

Your Book, Your Way

For many years, this was the Lulu tagline. We still use it sometimes too. The idea hasn’t changed. We offer a service that lets you make your book the way you want. The entire idea behind any self-publishing company is the ability to control how your book is made.

Since self-publishing grew into an accepted and popular means of book making, the options authors have to personalize have fallen by the wayside. Or, more accurately, authors who self-publish aren’t taking full advantage of the control this process affords them.

I’m not just talking about offering a range of formats for your book. There’s more you can do with printing and publishing services!

Personalization Offerings

Did you know people who buy things prefer personalized items? I’m not just saying that. Deloitte, a consumer review and consultancy, published a study in 2015 that, among other things, noted that 1 in 4 consumers would pay more for a personalized item. And in a variety of product categories, more than half of respondents were interested in personalizing experiences with their shopping.

Here’s what it means: people like the idea of buying and gifting products that are unique.

So, how does this impact you and how you sell your books?

When you use a traditional publisher, they get to make a lot of the decisions surrounding the look and design of your book. Not so with self-publishing. You already know that. But are you really taking advantage of what you’ve got in your hands?

Versatility is Your Friend

I’ve found myself saying this a lot lately. Mostly because Lulu has moved our services to an Open API, which means anyone with a website and coding knowledge can integrate our print-on-demand network directly into their site. Paired with that, we’ve built an App for Shopify using the same API that makes it so even non-coders (like myself) can build and run a bookstore with ease.

I’m not trying (too hard) to advertise our services. But I want to focus on our Shopify App as an example of how easy it is to make custom books. If you need an overview of our Shopify App, check out this post from last year.

What makes Shopify uniquely useful for customizing is their product/variant structure. The way Shopify works, they allow any vendor to create a product, than multiple variations of this product. For an author, this could mean listing a paperback, hardcover, and ebook variant of the same product (your book). For a new user, the structuring can be tedious to learn, but once you do learn it, using this ‘nested’ product creation is incredibly useful.

Shopify Dashboard

Here’s the main Shopify Dashboard. I make a new product and I’ll be able to set up the basic data for my book, like a title, author, and description. On this same product page I can add multiple Variants for the different versions of my book I’ll be selling.

Variants Menu

Notice how I set the size here to 6 x 9 and included all four of my variants. You can always choose a different method to define the Option Name (such as the title), I just used the size to keep this simple. Then we have the Option Value, which is the name of the various books you’ll be making. I made four types: paperback, hardcover, ebook, and a special edition.

Note that you can always come back and add a new variant later too. In the examples I’ll list below, you’d likely have an existing book version for sale, and would make a variant for the specific personalization. Or perhaps that special edition book is one for limited release and I’ll be removing it after a period of time. Same thing, just open the product and change it up.

With the product built, it’s time to head over to the Lulu xPress App from the sidebar and add the files for your book!

Creating a Book

I went to Lulu xPress (you might have multiple Apps on the App page) and clicked ‘Books’ to see my book list. Then I chose to configure a new Product since the book we’re making is brand new. And there I see the four variants I created.

From here I create my book just like you would on Lulu xPress: upload an interior and cover, review the book, and save. Then I do the same for each variant, adding the unique cover for paperback and hardcover, and the special edition interior and cover for that variant. With all the versions saved, the product is up on my Shopify store and a shopper can easily select the edition they want from a drop-down.

Unique Books = Book Sales

Personalization is a proven method to spur new sales and to create positive experiences for your buyers. In the above example, I used Shopify and the Lulu xPress App to make a special edition version of my book in a matter of a few clicks. But just making a unique version of the book isn’t enough to push new readers to buy or to reward long-time fans. Personalization and customization are tools to help your marketing plan. So, when you think about how you might personalize your book, think about it in terms of marketing campaigns.

Here’s a couple of ideas to start you thinking about outside the box ways to use personalization to market your book.

Presale Rewards

This one works best for authors with some established fans and followers. Let’s say you’ve got two books out there and you’ve done a fair bit of marketing, resulting in around 1,000 emails on your mailing list and a comparable number of social media/blog followers.

With your third book on the horizon, you could easily use Kickstarter or some similar platform to create a funding campaign for the new book. You would be advertising your upcoming work, generating buzz (and income) before the book releases. And thanks to customization, you can offer unique versions based on the funding level. Imagine this:

Your book normally priced at $12.99 paperback, $18.99 hardcover.

Funding levels:

  1. $50 – a hardcover copy with a unique cover, signed interior
  2. $30 – a paperback copy with a unique cover, signed interior
  3. $20 – a hardcover, signed interior
  4. $15 – a paperback, signed interior

There you have it. You can run a presale campaign and generate additional revenue with something as simple as an alternate art cover. Thanks to the ease of publishing, it’s a breeze to create an alternate edition of your book—in most instances you can use the same interior (just watch the ISBN) and upload the unique cover

Market Specific Books

Much like the opportunity to offer specialized textbooks or workbooks on a per order basis, the utility of print-on-demand and ecommerce provides an opportunity to customize content for specific markets. This is a very niche use, but if your print products are instructive or offer content that is applicable to a broad market, personalization can be another means to boost your product over other options.

Here’s an easy example.

Imagine you’re a small publisher and you’ve written a short book about how the publishing process works. The book covers some basics like self-editing, the publisher timeline, and post-publication.

Now imagine fine-tuning that book with genre specific details and a unique cover for each genre you publish? You can be sure the book will be more appealing with a title like “Publishing Company ABC’s Guide to Publishing Fantasy” and a cover that reminds the reader of a fantasy novel.

This is a little less personalization and a lot more toward customization, but that’s still one of the major benefits of print-on-demand.

Along that same line, you could take an existing book and customize it for an event. Going to Book Expo this year? Maybe you sell a special Book Expo edition of the book.

Those are just a couple of ideas. The skies really the limit here. It’s so easy now to make a unique edition of your work and to customize on the fly that building a marketing plan around some unique editions of your book is the new normal. Just browse the various crowd funding sites around the web and you’ll numerous authors and publishers funding their work with offers of unique and special editions of their work.

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