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Lulu and Publish America

 Lulu and Publish America—The Reality for Authors

Publish America considers itself a publisher though it is really a cross between self and traditionally published.

I have used both Lulu and Publish America. Years ago, I heard conflicting information about Publish America (PA). At the time, I had been traditionally published with Barbour Publishing and the smaller Treble Heart Books. A investigative journalist at heart, I saw discovering the truth a challenge.

I had an historical romance about ready to go. I didn't care about the outcome, just about the process. I submitted to PA. They accepted my MS. Their contract was restrictive and quite atrocious. As a published author I had a clue to what a contract should look like. I asked for changes. They did give a bit. I got a less restrictive contract and ten free copies. It wasn't much, but it was better than the usual contract and more than an unpublished author could expect.

There was very little editing.

The cover was great!

PA does not charge for publishing or ISBN or any of those costs.

You do have to send them labels already made out. With those they will send out a nice promotion to everyone for whom you've sent labels.

They call themselves a publisher, but do little publicity.

The biggest problem with PA is the price of their books. And I don't just mean selling point.

The cost to an author for buying books for resale is terrible unless you buy a large quantity. Their “special” deals are not so special. By the time you add in the book cost, shipping, etc., there is no way you can price the book to make any money.

At times Amazon would run specials. I bought my books off Amazon at a much more reasonable cost than I as author could purchase directly from PA.

Amazon problem:

But, you realize part of the astronomical cost of print-on-demand publishing comes directly from sources like Amazon that demand something like 55% off the top. This greatly increases the cost of these books and leaves little or nothing for the author.

Lulu is clear they are a self-publishing enterprise, not a regular publisher.

I hooked up with Lulu through a contest. IBM held a contest for writers. Part of the entry was taking your book through Lulu. Whether you won or not, you ended up with a finished product. I did not win the contest (or the $5,000 prize which was my incentive to enter), but I discovered something. I liked the process and control.

There are no upfront costs at Lulu, though you can purchase packages to meet your needs. The only thing I have purchased have been books and distribution.

What books do I have? I have republished books for which I've gotten back the rights. I have devotions and verse collections of things individually published elsewhere. I have niche projects for which I got sponsorship.

Lulu handles all the details. I like that.

One huge difference between Lulu and PA is the author's book cost. The author has a big say in the price of their Lulu book. The author buys his/her own books at a competitive price. Once a book has an ISBN and is headed for Amazon, mark up does become an issue—but not books purchased by the author for resale which is very different from PA. (See Amazon Problem above.)

If a book is sold directly through Lulu or by the author, with no other distribution, price of the book can be very reasonable—because you are not dealing with a 55% mark up.

Early on, Lulu had live chat which quickly and efficiently dealt with problems. Now, it is email. Waits are long and communication frustrating, especially if the problem is unusual—or their fault.

But all things can be handled with persistence.

You also have a trend of multi-published, well-known authors going the self-publishing route for more control .

As for the media, bookstores and readers. Quite frankly, they don't care where a book comes from. If you have a good promotion package, if your book is professionally done, you can get it into stores, can get media attention and can get your book into the hands of readers.

Personally, I don't recommend most otherwise non-published authors take the self-publishing route unless they've studied the market, have a market plan, have an audience and are willing to put in the time and effort needed. It isn't an easier route...just faster.

Any time you self-publish you need to know your goals. If it is to make big money, you will probably be disappointed with either self or traditional publication.

Note: even traditional publishers expect authors to do most of the marketing these days. Unless you are a huge name, there is no free ride.

As with anything, the more you know, the better decisions you can make.

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2010 Carolyn R Scheidies

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