Thursday, August 16, 2007

I love this quote from Publishers Weekly's August 6, 2007 issue:
"'We publish a huge number of really bad books,' admitted Bob Young, the
Canadian enterpreneur who founded the digital tbook publisher in

The title of the article? "Turning Bad Books into Big Bucks."

As Jim Milliiot of PW explains,
"But that's in keeping with Young's original vision for Lulu, which he sees
as democratizing the publishing process. Rather than publish hundreds of
thousands of copies of a few books, Lulu's mission is to publish 100 copies of
100,000 books."
Apparently to great success, with a projected revenue figure of $30 million for this year.

Uh, thanks but no thanks. While companies like Lulu serve a purpose and I don't begrudge them their sales, there is still a level of acceptance to be met. Until the books are heavily reviewed (and not by shills on Amazon, ie family and friends), there's no way for potential readers to judge, other than by the author (if a known author chooses this route) or by the rep of the company. And if the company will *publish* anything, why should I trust I'll enjoy the reading experience?

At least, Lulu doesn't charge fees upfront for their services, the way many other companies do, but the costs are paid by the author, with a cut going to Lulu. And with its Published by You program, for a $50 fee, they'll get the ISBN for the book.

So, if POD/self-published is how you want to go, this is the better of the companies to try. But I'll wait til I've exhausted the traditional houses. Twice over. I still like the idea of getting paid and having someone else do all the work. After all, I did all the work to write the thing!


  1. Ah, the lovely
    Here's my take on things. Good books come out of bad avenues. Bad books come out of good avenues. And good and bad books come out of that middle ground. I see Lulu as a middle ground. It's one of the first successful self publishing sites that doesn't charge you to publish work that is hosted on their catalog, and only charges you for distribution packages, which any other publisher would have to pay for anyway. It's a great place for your little memoir, or maybe a book about a family member that nobody but family and friends will likely read anyway--unless someone in your family is famous.
    Just like any self-pub place, though, lots and lots and lots and lots and lost of complete and utter garbage gets made and placed up on their site. I've seen the stuff on there and it is really easy to spot. These are the guys who fail to write an appropriately engaging synopsis with correct grammar and spelling. Go wading through the fantasy section and you'll see what I mean.

    Do great books gets published through Lulu? Yes. The Pocket and the Pendant is probably the best example of a success story. It had terrific sales for a book from a self-pub site and was eventually picked up and optioned for either a mini-series or a movie (I can't remember which). I don't know where it is now, but honestly, just getting optioned is a huge step forward. There are books that are great that get published through Lulu. There are some success stories of authors who were discovered through a self-pub route and are now writing for a major publishing house.
    But, because Lulu and similar sites don't have a magic filter that gets rid of stuff that should never see beyond the walls of the computer screen, lots of garbage gets flung about that floods the catalogs. At least going to the bookstore you know that all the books there have likely been chosen by an editor that should know what he or she is doing. There's an expectation there.
    Good stuff comes from Lulu, it's just hard to find. It's sort of like being the editor of a major publishing house really. You get to wade through the crap to find a gem.

    Now having said this, I am editing an anthology of stories for a writing forum for young writers and we're publishing it through Lulu. We're doing it that way simply because we're not too interested in making big money on it. It's more or less for the people of the forum and their friends and families. I'm also being very strict in what I accept. I do have lower standards that a traditional editor might, but I'm doing my best to find the best of the writers of the site.
    But again, we're not going to make big money or think of doing such a thing by self-pubbing. That would be silly.

    Okay, I've ranted far too thoroughly here...

  2. Hi, smd,

    Oh, has its uses and it's probably the best of its kind out there.

    Companies that publish as they do, unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, garner expectations of the content of their books that may or may not be warranted. For people who want to publish a book as you suggest, it's great. But for those seeking fame and fortune, so far, not so great. Maybe in another decade or so, it won't matter because that's how most books will be published!

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. Well, I would wager that your chances of getting 'famous and rich' not that far off at Lulu as they are in the regular publishing market. I think someone said 150,000 new books are published every year. How many of those authors do you remember? Maybe the big names who are already famous and rich, but most of the authors aren't rich. Even John Scalzi, probably one of the best writers in SF today, doesn't make a whole lot of money on his novels, and he sells tons of books.
    There have been some success stories at Lulu, probably in the same mold as some of the minor successes in regular publishing. But again, most of the stuff found on Lulu wouldn't have passed the slush pile of a real editor...But, heck, what does Lulu care...they're rich :D

  4. Well, "rich and famous" is an exaggeration to be sure, and if I do sell my manuscript and it's published, I'd be happy to earn out any advance and a bit more.

    But I think in another 20 years, if not sooner, the publishing industry will be different than it is now. But for now, I'm a traditionalist. Or at least, I'd rather exhaust that venue first.