April 03, 2012

End of the Line for Lulu

EndOfLineFor several years I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of Lulu.com for those wishing to self-publish a small number of volumes of their lifestory or memoir. I’ve posted several times about my experience publishing my preschool memoir, The Albuquerque Years on Lulu. 

Over the past five years, many friends and students have followed my advice and lead, using Lulu to publish their projects. I’m now recommending Amazon-owned CreateSpace, the no-fee Print-On-Demand provider of choice. Let me explain why I’ve removed The Albuquerque Years from Lulu’s website.

Without asking for my permission or notifying me, Lulu converted my document to ePub format and uploaded it to the Apple iStore and the Barnes & Noble digital catalog, setting the price at $2.99.

That was not okay with me! If that isn’t illegal, it’s certainly unethical. I immediately removed it from those catalogs.

I was never given the opportunity to review the conversion for formatting errors. The Albuquerque Years includes over two dozen embedded photos, which are notoriously difficult to position in ePubs. When I finally discovered how to download the ePub file, I noticed that the pictures do display between paragraphs, but not always between the ones they are relevant to. It needs some work before I re-release it, probably via Smashwords.com, as a free download.

I never added a “royalty” markup to the book, intending for any interested readers to purchase it at my wholesale cost, which has risen from about $2.79 five years ago to $3.99 today.

To my surprise, tens of unrelated people opted to purchase a paper copy. Today, if the book were still listed on Lulu, the “retail” price would be $7.99. I’m relieved that nobody (including me!) has ordered a copy since this outrageous inflation began. I certainly don’t want anyone thinking I caught the greed bug.

A LiveChat customer service agent (Lulu does not offer the option of phoning them directly, toll-free or otherwise) fed me some corporate line about “the stated current manufacturing price”, but was unable to explain why my wholesale price was lower. I can’t blame him. He’s just doing his job. I refuse to support the executive attitudes behind his explanation.

The free eBook (pdf) dowload link disappeared.

I intended for the pdf version to be free, as it was for over four years. Just before I “retired” the project (I discovered you cannot delete published projects), I discovered that the link to download the free pdf ebook was missing. I have fixed that. The link to The Albuquerque Years in the right sidebar now connects with my personal server for free digital downloads. (Click here now to get your own copy if you don’t already have it.)

Lulu’s pricing has become unpredictable.

Over the past year or two they have begun sending out a steady stream of “special offers” like 10% off, free shipping, 20% off, third book free, etc. Although I’m a die-hard bargain shopper, when I’m ready to buy a book, I don’t want to feel like if I waited another week, the price would drop, and I especially resent having retail prices inflated to cover this system.

By contrast, CreateSpace offers consistent pricing far lower than Lulu’s, free phone support, and they scan your uploaded document for typos and punctuation/grammar errors. Wow! The volumes I’ve seen coming off their presses are first rate in quality. Forums are full of great recommendations. Jonna Ivin is delighted with her experience using them to publish Will Love For Crumbs (see her guest post on this topic). I plan to upload a project myself to give them a whirl in the near future.

Write now: if you haven’t already done so, visualize a completed volume of your life story. It may take the form of a collection of individual stories or a memoir integrating those stories into a unified account. You may be writing more about family history. Perhaps your book will include lots of photographs. Let your vision grow and pull you forward. Set up an account at CreateSpace to add magnetism to that goal. 

11 comments :

Sherrey said...

Sharon, thanks for the honest update on Lulu. I checked it out some time ago, but have not revisited since I'm not yet ready to publish. This, however, is good info to tuck away. Thanks for the link to The Albuquerque Years. I'm sure I'll enjoy reading it and probably will garner a few gems of wisdom from your writing.

Linda Hoye said...

I'm working with Createspace on my memoir and am pleased with them so far.

Samantha said...

Thanks, Sharon, for sharing this important information with us. I'm glad you found them out and reclaimed your property!
My publisher is Virtualbookworm.com, and I have been very satisfied with their cooperation, the quality of their work, and their very reasonable prices.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Sherry, for everyone's sake I hope Lulu finds this post and cleans up their act. But in the meantime people need to know.

Linda, thanks for the testimonial. I wish you every continued success with your memoir. I'm happy to hear that you are at this point with it.

Samantha, thank you for telling us about Virtualbookworm.com. They did a lovely job on your book.

GRACE PETERSON said...

Thank you for this information, Sharon. I haven't published my memoir yet and need all the information I can get. I'm sorry you had to endure this hassle with Lulu. Life is complicated enough without having to deal with stuff like this.

Stephanie West Allen said...

I received an e-mail a year ago (exactly) from Lulu allowing me to opt out of the conversion, and did not opt out.

I have no problem with sales. With most (if not all), they work like that--you wait some period of time, short or long, and the price may change.

I have found Lulu great to work with and will continue to use them.

Marilyn said...

I work with both Createspace and Lulu and like both. Createspace is actually cheaper for books, but Lulu has much more options. What I don't like about Lulu is they charge GST (it's an american company, so are they REALLY sending the GST back to Canada? I'm currently checking this out.) Now Createspace does not do ebooks (but you can hire them to do Kindle ebooks for $69 US). I do know that Lulu only does 3 fonts for ebooks (and they do warn you of the font changes). I haven't had any surprise price changes done to me, so I can't say anything there. I've only been with them for 6 months.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Stephanie,

I'm glad things worked smoothly for you. I do not have a problem with the price going up. I understand escalating costs of materials, etc. What I have a problem with is the new disparity between public retail and wholesale now. Why should the public pay more than I do if I'm not getting part of that? The difference is almost double.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Marilyn,

Thanks for the additional input. I didn't get into alternate sources of eBook conversion, but Smashwords.com is a free service for that purpose. They don't do Kindle, but if you download the Smashwords Style Guide, your manuscript will be ready for free Kindle conversion with Amazon's utility. You may want to pay someone around $50 to do the manscript prep for you, but if you do that, it will work for both conversion services.

Best wishes on unraveling the GST mystery. I wonder if Lulu will begin collecting state sales tax for sales in the USA?

Laura Ann Long said...

Helpful discussion! thanks, Sharon

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thanks Laura. The Facebook Indie Publishing group is full of rave reviews for CreateSpace.

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