Desktop: The stories of their lives

Everyone loves a good story - it's what keeps the bookstores in business, after all. And here in Israel, you don't have to go too far to hear a good story.

old books 88 (photo credit: )
old books 88
(photo credit: )
Everyone loves a good story - it's what keeps the bookstores in business, after all. And here in Israel, you don't have to go too far to hear a good story. In fact, some of the most inspiring stories that you will ever hear may be told by the old lady on the second floor of your building, who spent the war in three concentration camps and lived to tell about it, or the elderly gentleman you see feeding the birds on your way to work every morning, who was instrumental in smuggling guns into the country during the War of Independence. And there are plenty of younger people whose stories are just as awe-inspiring. Whether it's that woman behind the counter at the mall who was imprisoned in the Soviet Gulag for three years because she dared to go to an "unauthorized" Simhat Torah celebration, or that young Ethiopian immigrant working security at the bank who trekked across the Sahara to get a boat leaving for Israel, or even the American guy who moved into the neighborhood last year and gave up a six-figure income in order to give his kids a more Jewish lifestyle, there's laughs, tears, drama and inspiration to rival any bestseller in so many of Israelis' real life stories. Unfortunately, though, it's likely that many of the stories that deserve to be told will die with the teller, never getting the exposure and audience they deserve. Some of these stories will be handed down to the next generation, but many won't. And it's a real shame - because among these stories are some that just jump out and say "Listen, listen to me - I've got something really cool and important to tell you! The world needs to hear this!" But chances are the world won't hear it - because getting a traditional publisher to look at, much less print your story, is so difficult. You could put a family Web site together and tell the story there, of course, but it's just not the same as a book that goes on a bookshelf, that can be read and cherished without the distraction of pop-up ads for smiley face program downloads. Outside of being contracted to a traditional publisher who will edit, distribute and (maybe) market your book, there are several ways for would-be authors to get their story out in front of the public, possibly into bookstores. One is by paying a "subsidy press" to publish your book (, for example). These publishers have their place, but paying thousands of dollars up front to print their story is beyond most people's budgets. In addition, if you want the public to buy your book, you absolutely have to actively promote your own work - and that in itself is going to cost you money, too. Even established authors who have several published books under their belts but aren't household names spend a lot of time and effort - and money - setting up Web sites, financing book tours, and giving lectures and talks, all of which are aimed at selling books. Publishers, whether traditional or subsidy, have lots of books to sell, and if you want your story marketed right, you've got to get involved in the process. Thanks to the Internet, though, self-promotion for authors has never been easier; with e-mail, newsgroups, newsletters and reciprocal links, there are lots of ways to drive traffic to the site where customers can buy your books. (check out for useful advice on promoting self-published books). And thanks to modern technology, there is now a way to easily publish a book on your own without having to lay out the big bucks. One way around printing hundreds of copies of books that may or may not sell and have to be stored and shipped as well is to use a print-on-demand (POD) publisher. When the orders come in, you'll want an inventory - but until you know you've got a salable property, you can just order "pieces" each time an order comes in. And thanks to Lulu (, anyone anywhere in the world has access to a print-on-demand publisher that will not only help you get your book in print, but will also help you with a number of other essential services. Following the Lulu guidelines, you can prepare your manuscript on your home computer and use your word processor to make it print-ready - and then select one of a dozen or so printing options geared to different types of books, such as paperbacks or 7-inch squares (ideal for cookbooks!). Lulu will set you up with your own Web site and on-line store for free, which you can then use to promote the book. The only thing you pay for is the actual printing of your book, which Lulu will either ship directly to the customer or to you, as well as a commission, which is 20% of the price of the book above the publishing cost. You only pay if you sell, and you can order as many or as few of your book as necessary. Is Lulu the cheapest way to publish? Probably not, because, as usual, the more you buy of any item, the less it costs - and that goes for books, too. But with Lulu, you have a chance to tell your story and give it the dignity it deserves without breaking the bank; in the form of a proper book, even if only one copy - yours - ever gets printed. And who knows - you might actually have a bestseller on your hands!