Llumina Press is a small, Florida-based, assisted self-publishing service provided founded in 2000 by writer, editor and entrepreneur, Deborah Greenspan. The company was one of the early adopters of POD technology ahead of many established brands in this area.
“I became a publisher because I noted that existing POD publishers were not doing anything to help writers make sure their works were ready for print before they published them. Llumina is all about making sure a book is edited and polished before being released to print. I have many ideas and many plans to do a better job than is currently being done in this field and in others.”
Llumina Press has published 2000+ titles over the past thirteen years for many authors, prides itself on working with an author to polish and prepare a book with the intention of helping all authors reach a readership. An admirable approach, but I note that Llumina Press request submitting authors to accept the terms and conditions of its publication agreement; provide information about author and book, and ‘make a secure online payment with credit card.’ I’ll give some Kudos to Llumina for showing transparency and plenty of detail on its website, and the provider does insists that book accepted for publication must be edited.
“The big houses, of course, handle all aspects of book publishing. They edit, design, print, market, and promote books for their authors. But many publishers, especially those that are offering to print your work online, are just glorified printers. They profit by packaging your work into a book, not by selling that book once it’s finished. That’s why they have no standards and will print anything that comes their way. (Find out about our publisher.)
“We don’t accept every book that comes in “over the transom,” and there’s a good reason for this policy. There are companies that will publish anything, but that’s because they make their money through the initial setup fees, and it doesn’t matter (to them) whether or not the book ever sells a single copy. Booksellers and libraries are well aware of who these publishers are, and they know not to buy from them. Llumina, on the other hand, cares about its reputation and won’t put anything under their imprint that will detract from it. That’s one reason why we insist that all our books be professionally edited. The other is that we wouldn’t feel comfortable selling a book we knew to be poorly written. For more questions and answers on editing click here.”
The Llumina Press website is far from being the most sophisticated design I’ve ever seen from a publishing service provider but it does contain most of the information required by an author to make a choice. Llumina Press provide four different publishing packages (ranging from $499-$2999) and I like the fact that it also lists all services individually from an A la Carte menu allowing authors to pick add-on services to their chosen package. The packages are not the big five-star publishing packages on offer from some premium providers and I think it is clear Llumina Press is trying to appeal to the author with a specific budget in mind.
“Publishing your work through Llumina couldn’t be easier. We know you’re a writer, not a book publisher, and we don’t expect you to change hats. Our experts will format your book, design an eye-catching cover for your approval, publish your book and print it on demand as the orders come in from booksellers and individuals. You keep all rights to your work and earn higher royalties than you could with traditional book publishers.”
Royalties might be better than what is available from a traditional publisher, but they are far from spectacular. I’ll mention Llumina royalties a little later in this review.
There are four distinct publishing packages; Basic, Full service, Slam Dunk and Blockbuster.
The Basic package provides only template cover and interior design, ISBN (Llumina’s registered one), basic POD set-up for printers, a final digital-only proof, one printed copy of the book, and a basic single webpage. Distribution through Ingram and Amazon is not included and it is hard to see the appeal of this package to any author beyond a private publication for family and friends.
The Full Service package adds on full customisation of interior and exterior design, LCCN (library cataloguing), inclusion of up to seven interior images, Amazon listing, digital proofs at every stage of the process, a final physical proof, back cover copy edit, and ten copies of the completed book in paperback. Again, at $799, it is hard to see the value in this package without Ingram distribution, and many competitors of Llumina provide it and a lower price point. Frankly, describing the package as ‘Full service’ when it is anything but a full-service is somewhat misleading. The added ‘Extensive Customer Service’ included here in this package is also grounds for concern for an authors choosing the Basic package. Don’t they deserve the same kind of customer service if they are paying money?
The peculiarly named Slam Dunk package adds 34 author copies of a book, ebook publication and distribution, and marketing and promotional materials kits. Astonishingly, at $1999, we still don’t have Ingram distribution, despite the fact that we have ebook distribution included here! Someone really didn’t think all this through when compiling these packages. Of course, Llumina Press will argue that Ingram Distribution can be added from the A la Carte menu for $150, but when you are charging anything beyond three hundred dollars, this really should come as an automatic to be in any way competitive.
“Every book that is published by Llumina is automatically distributed through Amazon, the Llumina site, and other online sites. Ingram Distribution to over 25,000 bookstores across the nation and around the world can be added. Your book will be available, but it also needs to be noticed.”
The Marketing Kit for $199 includes 100 full-colour business cards, postcards, bookmarks and two 12 x 18 inch posters. The Promotional Pack for $529 includes a professional Press Release (author submits the initial PR to reviewers online and off); review copies, which the author must send, and Llumina will compile into a revised Press Release; the creation of a Sell Sheet (again, author must send this); and a link to the author’s webpage and space in Llumina’s e-Writer Magazine. Llumina also offers further extended marketing and promotional packages listed here.
The Blockbuster package, at $2999, finally includes the Ingram Distribution and 58 author copies, while adding a hardback edition, POD returnability for booksellers, a large professional promotional package, Book Expo America representation, and Polaris Reviews.
The publishing process with Llumina Press takes from six to eight weeks from the time of submission. Llumina sets the retail price of all books sold and offers a 30% discount to authors purchasing a small quantity of their books, and 45% on larger quantities. This means authors are not getting their books from the provider at print cost and there is a mark-up variable.
“On all sales of printed copies of the WORK, the PUBLISHER will pay the AUTHOR royalties based on the sales of the WORK. Royalties will not be paid on copies of the WORK sold to the AUTHOR or on books that are returned. Royalties for Print sales are 30% of the list price for all copies sold directly through PUBLISHER, and 10% of the list price for all copies sold through third parties.”
On a book sold through normal external distribution channels at $9.99, authors will earn just $0.99, not large by any stretch of the imagination, but not the worst I’ve ever seen from a publishing service provider.
While royalties are low with Llumina, and as much as I suspect the company targets authors looking for an assisted self-publishing package on a small budget, digging down into the detail of packages and book discounts leaves me less than impressed with what is on offer. Their entry-level packages are reasonably priced, but on closer inspection, the omission of Ingram distribution and one or two other important pieces for basic POD publication, means that the real costs mount up quickly for an author. That might still make Llumina a viable option for an author if it wasn’t for the low royalty rate and poor discounts on author copies. I like the fact that the provider insists on edited submitted and most services can be purchased individually with a specific listed price, but there are just too many necessary bits to be added on to make Llumina a really competitive publishing package provider. My other concern is that many of the books from Llumina look self-published, probably because many are derived from the basic templates used on the entry-level packages, and this fact is echoed in Llumina’s less than professional looking website. There is a place for budget-level self-publishing packages from a provider, particularly for non-commercial or very small self-publishing projects, but I think Llumina Press need to seriously tweak their packages and include more of the basic components other competitors include as standard for sub $1000 packages.