In 2010 I wrote an article about Lulu, and in the title for the article, I suggested that It May Be The Time For Lulu To Drop The Self From Self-Publishing. At the end of that article I wrote the following as an explanation as to what I meant. On reflection, and in light of the following Lulu Forum posting by author Julie Ann Dawson, which was cross-posted by Emily Veinglory on POD People, I would like to expand on that original article I posted here in January 2010. Having re-read the post again, I think there is a danger in believing I was being somehow entirely supportive of the direction Lulu where taking their marketplace and business as a whole. If anything, I have subsequently being calling for Lulu to get back to the core values of what they are; a DIY self-publishing services company – at least that is how I still see them – but their attempt last year at diving into the Canadian stock market in an effort to raise investment finance may suggest something quite different.
“They [Lulu] already recognise from a standpoint of five years, when you could use the slogan self-publishing, and that in itself was enough to set them apart as a strong flagship in the world of DIY publishing services. A lot has changed in the last year. Yes, the competitors of Lulu like CreateSpace have really caught up, and others like Blurb will also make significant gains this year if my research and understanding is correct. But more significantly, the flagpole itself of self-publishing is steadily moving closer to the monolith that has always been the publishing industry. The adventurous offspring is soon to return home under the protection of the family umbrella we all know to be called publishing.”
“So now Lulu is not only selling ebooks by traditionally published authors, but it is also selling print books by traditionally published authors. Now I don’t particularly care about Lulu printing these books themselves. How the books get printed is of no concern to me. But what IS of concern to me is the preferential treatment these books are getting as opposed to OUR BOOKS.
Referencing The Last Song for points:
Preferential pricing: This is a 413 page book, selling for $10.94. Do you know what my cost to print a 413 page book is? $12.76! It costs me almost $2 more to print than this book sells for! And if I went through retail with the book, with NO ROYALTY the book would sell for $19.52. WTF!!!???
Preferential tools: Notice that this book has a “retail” price and a sale price? Well, I have been asking for this FOR YEARS for US, and Lulu has systematically refused, claiming that they couldn’t let us sell the books on Lulu for less than what the book retails for due to contractual agreements with Amazon and other vendors. I think this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt Lulu was LYING.”
“…but fellow Lulu authors (myself included) who might be quick to trump the line ‘Hell, yeh, I’m published by the same publisher as John Edgar Wideman’ might pause for a little reflection before they go dancing on the streets. This is the first release for Lulu by an author using their VIP service, specifically set up to attract established authors like Wideman. As the Animal Farm Literary Adage might go:
All authors are equal, just some are more equal than others!
If you think Lulu see all their authors in the same light; think again. This is akin to DellArte Press authors (Harlequin’s self-publishing service) thinking they are operating in the same field of publishing dreams as all of Harlequin’s traditionally contracted authors. The Lulu VIP program offers everything to try and lure an established author to the lulu brand, every turn of the drive shaft and spark from the Lulu engine—pre-production and post-publication—is being directed towards the sale of the author’s book. It is notable that the press release to go with the book was not released by Wideman, but Lulu themselves. While Lulu right now needs Wideman more than he needs them, there is no doubt in my mind; the experimental nature of Wideman’s Briefs made it a difficult sell to Houghton Mifflin, and as the author freely points out, he is no writer of literary blockbusters.”
No publisher or agent, in their heart of hearts, believes all their authors are equal. They may humanly treat them as equals, but as business people they will not act equally and accordingly.
It is time we all took the self from self-publishing.
How many are really up for that journey?
[This article is a reposting and originally appeared in April 2010]
- Lulu at the New York Library (lulu.com)
- Guest Author Blog: “In My Eyes, Lulu is the Best” (lulu.com)
- Lulu API voted a favorite at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin (lulu.com)
- Lulu publisher offering 20% off all my work on their birthday 21st Feb (davidjrodger.wordpress.com)
- Helping a New Generation of Authors (lulu.com)
- Author Story: “How I Went About Self-Publishing” (lulu.com)