Monday, October 25, 2010

Lulu Makes A Big Mistake

I received the following email over the weekend from Lulu:

Get your book on the iBookstore with our eBook Conversion Service

Get your book on the iPad (TM) and other eReaders

eBook Conversion Services

Lulu now offers eBook conversion services to take your book into the future. Get your book ready for the iBookstore*, the iPad and other eReaders with our ePub conversion service. Based on your page size, please select the appropriate service.

ePub Conversion Services
250 pages or less: $99
251-500 pages: $199
501-750 pages: $299

This is a service that Amazon and Smashwords provide for FREE.

Why is Lulu doing this? Are they trying to recoup the investment made to create or license the software? Are they completely ignorant of what Smashwords is doing here? Or even Amazon? Or are they hoping that authors are?

When I first looked to self-publish my novel, Armistice Day, the only option I had was to go with a vanity press. Not wishing to spend thousands of dollars on printing costs (I'd already spent plenty on editing), I chose to wait. Then along came Lulu with its zero start up costs. They made their money as copies of each book were printed and sold. All in all, I was happy with them.

A year later, I'm not so happy. While I've been fortunate not to have any quality issues, I've discovered that their book production costs make it difficult for a nobody like myself to sell copies at a competitive price. My research has determined that $15 is too high. I've had success with a $10 price point as it is only slightly higher than mass market paperbacks. Unfortunately, my per unit cost with shipping is around $11/book.

Now Lulu wants to up their presence in the hot ebook market. But they're forgetting that the reason why ebooks are hot is that they're cheap. Charging a hundred dollars and up for the service when most indie ebooks sell for $2.99 means that an author will need to sell a lot of copies just to break even. But since Smashwords and Amazon don't charge a thing, I think that this is a serious mistake. For me, it's further evidence that a formerly good company for independent authors has failed to adjust to the changing publishing climate.

1 comment:

Samuel L. Lytle said...

It's because Lulu probably has a high overhead and is completely dependent on the sale of your books. Amazon also has high overhead, but they sell thousands of other products. Smashwords, on the other hand, probably has low overhead. Lulu isn't vanity publishing, but it is vanity publishing's fairly close cousin.

Samuel L. Lytle