Last Christmas I placed my current novel 'Trees' with Raider International Publishing. In fact, I had long hoped and expected this work to have been finished and the final draft submitted to Raider in New York by now. However, I have really struggled with the ending; its become a deeply personal journey and I am intent on making it as good as I can get it. Over the past week, I think I've cracked it and I'm happy I have at the very least the creative flow and gist of the ending. With the creative juices drying up a little, and the whole Amazon business, my attentions turned to a novel I actually wrote over twelve years ago! It's actually been more of a distraction, but a great deal of fun re-reading it, re-editing it, and preparing it for publication. That gave me the idea to decide to put it out before 'Trees' came out later this year. I could of course submit it to Adam Salviani at Raider, but instead, as I'm writing for a blogsite about POD publishing, I wanted to keep the two books as seperate published entities. There is a considerable differences in time and style with the novels, and if I'm honest as well, I'm a considerably better author than I was back in 1996.
I looked at all the other POD's available. It made me think about the reasons I wanted 'Academy', the name of the book, published. As you will know, I self published five books many, many years ago (you old bastard - you're only forty!), long before 'print-on-demand' digital technology. I used an old word processor and did the whole layout, the final raw, proof-print sheets, designed the colour covers, got the whole lot printed, and I even learned how to bookbind a hardcover book. I formed my own publishing imprint - 'Aquarius Communications', a company I had actually used for Music Manangement and Promotions with a business partner of mine during the 1990's. Although I still have the proofs from all five books, they are out of print and no longer available to buy. I do intend at some stage putting them out as a collection of work over the next year or so, but that's another project! With my previous experience of self publishing, I decided to look much closer at what I shall describe as the 'Printer POD Publishers'. The companies who don't make grand claims and promises about the publishing world to authors, or try to be something they are not.
One alternative to the list above was of course going directly to Lightning Source and print with them using my publishing imprint 'Aquarius Communications'. I've long put the imprint out to pasture, and it wouldn't really serve a purpose in relation to blogging about POD Publishers, though, it does remind me that I still have 5 unassigned ISBN numbers lying around the house somewhere from the olden days!
And so, park LSI, they are a printers. Back to the list. From my research last year, there were plenty more I excluded, I simply don't grade them highly, from my own personal needs for this particular project. That is not to say the ones I excluded are not excellent POD Publishers in their own right, or would not suit another author's needs. Here was my criteria, not in priority:
Recognised Company Name
Facility to do Hardback edition
Speed of publication
Quality of Product
Ease of process
The areas that most concerned me were the Quality, hardback edition, cost and speed. If I'm honest, they all pass the Recognised company name test, otherwise they wouldn't even be still on my POD research list! I'm a tradition kind of person when I look at a book as a manufactored product. I like the look, the feel, the smell, the size, the weight of a hardback book. Reading that sentence back makes it sound like I've some form of fetish for the damn things! Wanting a hardback edition for 'Academy' was a deal breaker for me, and I was more than aware of the knock-on it would have on costing, not just to produce the book, but also on the retail selling price. With my novel 'Trees' placed with Raider, I will have softback and hardback editions available, with this project I wanted just the hardback. It became pretty clear that there was really only ever going to be one contender, and that was Lulu. The rest simply didn't offer hardback at the bottom end of the costing scale. In fact, with Lulu's costs at €89 (euro) for a full distribution package, there really was no comparison. On crunching the figures, Booklocker were a distant but fair second, though Booklocker would probably top my list of POD Publisher's reputations. You simply can't compare €89 with €410 with Booklocker. I actually still have the option of a softback for another €89 with Lulu, considering all the hardwork of file preparation for layout is already done. So, why Lulu and what did it entail?
I remember Lulu and IUniverse were the first two POD's that I looked at last year when I was considering a home for 'Trees'. At that time, Lulu simply didn't work for 'Trees', too nuts and bolts, and as I described on other posts, more printer than publisher. What most of the POD Publishers have in common on the above list, is that while they all 'indulge' in the dream of the author to be published and successful, they offer a firm sense of community and several offer very established and respected forums for writers, both published by their companies, and also writers in general. Some of the others are still at the 'infancy' stage of this type of publishing business model. While Lulu is more printer, IUniverse leans the other way, with more bells and whistles and a considerably large parent company backing them up in AuthorSolutions, who also own AuthorHouse, but that's a very different story. Lulu very much try to appeal to the writers who are entirely unpublished and have little or no experience of the publishing world. In other words, Aunt Daisy's retirement memoirs, sold to the twenty members of her extended family, or the writer who just wants to get that book out of them, once and once only, and they may never write another book again. But that does a great disservice to Lulu.
I'm sure many of Lulu's service users are new to the publishing experience and the eventual books published by them are of varying quality, from truely awful, to exceptionally good. Some of the books on Lulu would have easily found homes with traditional publishers had the authors pursued that path. What Lulu offers, in reality, is an exceptional piece of online publishing machinery for authors. The software widgets and tools are in my experience, not for the faint hearted or uninitiated. If the load-up file you use for the interior book is of good quality, PDF or Word file, then while you will have plenty of glitches and frustrations along the way, with a bit of time, effort and patience, you may stand a good chance of a finished book you can be proud of. But that is it, in a nutshell. Lulu is simply a powerful online publishing tool, and a terrific medium and voice for authors. The real key is perfecting your work from conception to the actual file you load to Lulu's server for conversion to an eventual published book. No printer or publisher, no matter how good they are, can make what is poor, come good.
In my next article, 'Adventures with Lulu', I will discuss the actual nuts and bolts of what I discovered when I published with Lulu.