A Lulu from Lulu

Publisher’s Weekly reports this week that Lulu.com is,and I quote, "Turning Bad Books Into Big Bucks."

"We publish a huge number of really bad books," admitted Bob Young, the Canadian entrepreneur who founded the digital publisher Lulu.com in 2002.

He doesn’t care whether the books he publishes are are good or bad. His job is to play on the ego and despiration of aspiring authors who are eager to see their unpublished (and usually unpublishable) manuscripts printed in book form so they can delude themselves into thinking they have been published. Lulu, like most vanity presses, makes the vast majority of their money on authors, not readers. 

Andrew Pate, Lulu’s vp of global fullfillment (now there’s an interestig professional title….I wonder if his wife agrees with it?), provides a statistic that puts Lulu’s business into sharp perspective: 80% of their orders are for ONE copy of a book. Can you guess who is buying that copy? The author, of course.

"Retail is still a low percentage of sales," said Pate. About one million people have signed on as members, with about 60% of those buying an item from the site and 40% using the site to create a product.

The company is heading towards revenue of $30 million this year

10 thoughts on “A Lulu from Lulu”

  1. Mr. Goldberg,
    I completely understand and agree with your feelings about vanity press, how they gouge their authors and give little in return. But from what I’ve been able to discover, Lulu works differently. There are no costs to the author at all. Lulu gets paid on a per book basis, so, for example, if the printing costs for a book comes to $5.50, then that’s the minimum you can sell it for and Lulu gets all that money. If, however, you decide to sell the book for $15.50, then you pocket the $10.00 and Lulu gets their $5.50. This seems extremely fair. True, I don’t believe they advertise for you, but you can provide a link from your own webpage to your book’s page on Lulu’s website. All other advertising is up to you.
    Now, I hesitate to call them Publishers, since they are really little more than on demand printers, but beyond the author’s delusion that they are a “published author”, how is this a bad thing? And, of course, if I’ve missed some things in my brief look at Lulu’s website, please let me know.
    I’m seriously curious about this, I don’t work for them or anything.

  2. I’ve used Lulu to put together pre-ARCs for my latest. Got a bunch of good blurbs early that way. Of course, that book was already under contract. Can’t imagine the nightmare of trying to get people to buy a book through the Lulu website. Can’t even get them to come to MY website.

  3. Can’t find the story now, blast it, but just today I was reading about how Lulu and Blurb are catering, not just to deluded authors, but people who want books for other reasons: to preserve family stories, or just to create something beautiful for themselves.
    I’ve been tempted to use them to print a scrapbook of a year’s worth of photos. Unfortunately, I haven’t the time to cull through several hundred digitial photos yet.

  4. I agree that Lulu should not be considered publishers but merely printers. considering all of the trickery in vanity publishing (PublishAmerica???) – lulu isn’t bad for yr buck i think…

  5. I don’t see a reason to condemn Lulu; they’ve never pretended to be anything other than what they are. They’re a service, they’re not like Poetry.com. A coworker used Lulu to assemble a collection of her family’s stories and to get nice printed copies of a script she’d written. Why not? They even stress in their FAQ: “We’re not the publisher — you are!”
    I’m certain there are people — maybe a lot of them — who have printed through Lulu and consider themselves on the same level as authors who have gone through the culling process of actual publication, but they started deluded, it wasn’t cultivated.

  6. A belated WELCOME HOME to the guy who is changing the face of European television.
    Have enjoyed your travelogue postings as well as your reports on “Fast Track.”
    Now, take a couple days off.

  7. I use Lulu to print single copies of early drafts of my novels and short stories because I can only take so much squinting at a computer screen while doing revisions. It’s much cheaper than printing things out at home.
    As for the people who think that “publishing” through Lulu makes them a “real author” those folks need a reality check. I’ve only gotten a few short stories published after hitting the Writer’s Market hard and heavy and still don’t really consider myself a “rea author” yet.

  8. I agree; people who think being printed by Lulu is tantamount to being published by a major house are mistaken or fooling themselves, but that’s their fault, not Lulu’s. Lulu doesn’t do all that ‘Welcome to getting properly published!’ jazz that places like PublishAmerica do to mislead people: it just lays out its terms and doesn’t flatter or promise.
    As people are always going to try to get their books printed if publishers reject them, at least Lulu offers them that option at a reasonable price rather than demanding hundreds or thousands of dollars for it. They’re probably saving a lot of people a lot of money.
    It might cheer you up, Lee, to note that they refuse to publish fan fiction:

  9. Tee hee! Pate used to be with Lightning Source! Nothing incestuous about that. No siree!
    Lightning Source has no business relationship with you directly, and , so, we encourage you to speak directly with__Vanity Publisher_____________.
    In so far as I can help, though, you may call me at 615-213-4467.
    Thank you,
    Andrew Pate
    VP, Publisher Business Development

  10. Your jump from “80% of their orders are for one book” to the assumtion that those one book sales are to the authors a bit puzzling. When I, as a reader, buy a book, whether at a brick and mortor store, at Amazon, Fictionwise, Lulu, or elsewhere, one copy is usually what I buy. Granted I sometimes do gift shopping and may order more than one copy of a particularly loved book to give away, but that is the exception.
    As an e-publisher, using Lulu for proof and promotional print copies, I also set up an author access. Guess what, when authors want copies of their books they do not order just one. So, my experience leads me to conclude that those one book orders are someone other than the author. 80% is good!


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