Lulu, I Love You

19 Sep

As regular readers of this blog already know, I’ve been having some e-book issues lately.

You can read about the whole thing in detail here, but to summarize: I lowered the price of my book Mousetrapped from $2.99 to 99c in an attempt to sell more copies of it and, thus, sell more copies of its sequel, Backpacked, when it came out on the first of this month, but when I went to put it back up to $2.99 a few weeks later, I was tearing out my own hair in frustration waiting for the change to take affect on Kobo. And, until it did, Amazon couldn’t increase the price because they have to offer the lowest price available.

(By the way, since I first wrote that post, I’ve added a number of updates. If you haven’t read it since it first went up, you might want to pop back to have a read of them.)

The good news is that the whole saga is now sorted, and I’ve been able to return Mousetrapped to $2.99 across the board. This means that I’ve now also been able to release a combination title, Mousetrapped and Backpacked Too, which is both my travel memoirs in one Kindle book for $4.99 (they’re $2.99 each individually). Click here to visit its listing in the Kindle store.

So that’s the good news.

The great news is that late on Thursday night, Lulu sent out a mass e-mail unveiling their new MS Word-t0-Epub converter and their promise that, if you follow their instructions, they’ll list your book for sale on iBooks and Barnes and Noble’s Nook book store. And that if you publish with them now, you’ll get to keep 90% of your earnings between now and January 1st.

Why is this such great news?

Well, I’m a great believer – as Michael Scott is – in KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. I don’t ever want to complicate things. I’m against complication in principle. For instance, I don’t want to abandon CreateSpace in favor of a digital print run and a distributor, because even though my profits would be larger, it’s just not worth the effort. Same goes for bookshops. Same goes for using InDesign to make my interiors; for moving to a self-hosted blog; for purchasing my own ISBNs. It’s just not worth it and there’s no need for it. Things should only be as complicated as they need to be, and then not a smidgen more. If all your books fit into a single Billy bookcase, you don’t need the Dewy Decimal system to organize them. If you sell some homemade jams at a farmers’ market one weekend a month, you don’t need Sage to do your accounts. And if you’re an individual self-publisher with not very complicated books, you shouldn’t have to hire anyone to build your book in code. A well-formatted MS Word document will do the job fine.

After the Kindle store (which is taken care of with Amazon KDP), the two places I want my e-books for sale are on iBooks and Barnes and Noble’s Nook store. To do this, you need an .epub file. Now if I didn’t want to use Smashwords, every other option involved rocking up to an e-book site with an .epub file ready to go, which meant hiring someone to convert my file to .epub or purchasing a conversion program, which meant expense, more effort (to find these people) and – say it with me – complication. Frankly I couldn’t be arsed, especially since I know how to format a MS Word document so that it converts well.

So now that Lulu will convert your MS Word document for you, you have a simple, non-complicated, free option for iBooks and the Nook store that isn’t Smashwords. And it’s really easy to use. They have a style guide (which is almost identical to Smashwords’ style guide) and uploading it is quite simple, although I had to resize my cover images a bit.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to have two different companies distributing the same books to the same retailer, so I’ve opted out of iBooks and B&N (and, after what happened last week, Kobo) on my Smashwords’ distribution channel manager. I’ll still publish with Smashwords because I find them handy for downloading files of your own book, and it’s great to be able to send people to one spot where they can download my e-book in any format they like. I’m also still going to use them for Sony and Diesel.

So now I have three different services distributing my e-books. Is that really the simplest solution? Yes, I think so. Each of them accepts MS Word documents, each of them requires no money upfront and each of them is covering a different set of retailers for me. Would it be nice if there was one place you could go to get the job done? Yes, but if there was then there’d be less competition, and then Lulu wouldn’t have to do things like offering a 90% revenue to attract new e-book publishers.

And I quite like the fact that they do.

Check out Lulu’s new e-book converter here

18 Responses to “Lulu, I Love You”

  1. Tahir September 19, 2011 at 12:54 #

    Thanks for divulging the info. It is important though to question 90% of what? When Lulu says it gives you 80% of the revenue for print books Lulu means they put a very hefty markup on print costs and they mean 80% of a much smaller number which turns out to be a not very exciting percentage of the retail price. Obviously with eBooks they can’t hike the print cost because there is none but I’m pretty sure they don’t mean 90% of retail (otherwise they would say) and it’s not obvious what they mean from their blurb. I suspect when you do the explicit calculation that you end up with less than
    70% of retail (and it can’t be more than that otherwise iBooks and Nook would be making a loss).

  2. Tahir September 19, 2011 at 12:58 #

    Sorry, I meant that Lulu doesn’t explicitly state that it is 90% of 70% =63%, which is what you would hope, but the actual payment may be less than this if they have cleverly hidden some costs.

    • catherineryanhoward September 19, 2011 at 13:12 #

      I think they make it clear that it’s 90% of the author’s revenue, which is the retail price less (retailer’s cut + Lulu’s charge).

      • Tahir September 19, 2011 at 14:14 #

        Ok, I just played around with their calculator and did some backwards calculations and figured out that Lulu’s markup is 10% of your real revenue from the retailer. That means that when the rate goes back up to 80% Lulu will actually be taking 30% of your potential profit. Then, assuming I haven’t made a mistake (and I probably have) it looks like for a 2.99 book your Lulu “revenue” is 1.88 which means, compared to putting the book on Nook and iBooks yourself you’ll be paying Lulu $628 per 1000 books when the royalty rate goes back to 80%. That’s a humongous amount of money to pay Lulu considering that their customer service is less than satisfactory (they never did contest my credit card company refund on the basis of false information on the Lulu website re. global distribution, despite their no refund policy). If someone is only going to ever sell a couple of books it’s not a bad deal, but you’ll definitely be helping them keep their lights on. Still, I guess you have to wieigh up the convenience of only having to deal with one outlet instead of two separately.

        • catherineryanhoward September 19, 2011 at 14:43 #

          But I CAN’T put my books on Nook and iBooks myself. I need to live in the US to use PubIt and I’d need an epub, which I don’t want to get in to because it’s needlessly complicating what can be as simple issue (which is the whole point of this post). Lulu’s cut isn’t for kicks; it’s what they’re charging for the service they’re providing, and I want that service.

          • Tahir September 19, 2011 at 15:19 #

            Aha, yes, I forget about the US residency bit. I have no problem with Lulu charging for the service but there is physically no need to flower up the 30% cut into a 20+10 scheme. The only reason is to make people feel they are getting a better deal and make it difficult to compare. They are charging a 30% cut of your profits for their service, period. That means a Nook/iBook royalty of 70% becomes 49%. But yes, I’m with you on the simplicity front- making your life easier is worth paying for.

  3. Lindsay Edmunds September 19, 2011 at 13:26 #

    This is great news! I will investigate.

  4. DSchmidt September 19, 2011 at 14:30 #

    Thanks for keeping us current with developments like this. Will be helpful for some imminent publishing plans….

  5. Leonard Kinsey September 19, 2011 at 16:00 #

    Question: what exactly happens if/when I opt out of iTunes and B&N on Smashwords, and then go with Lulu for those two channels? I’m sure my sales rankings will reset, but will there also be two copies of the book on those sites? Given your recent issues I can’t imagine Smashwords will quickly pull their version from those stores.

    I won’t bore you with the details of why I want to move off of Smashwords, but the short version is I’m not happy with their support and am ready to make the switch to Lulu if it won’t be too painful….

    • catherineryanhoward September 19, 2011 at 17:13 #

      Your sales rankings will reset, and there might be two listings of your book on there for a while. I’m not really too bothered about it, to be honest – these are both places where I’m not exactly setting the Top 10 on fire or anything! ;-D

      • Leonard Kinsey September 19, 2011 at 17:53 #

        Hmmm…. Reviews and star-ratings would also be reset, too. Per I’ve been ranking very high in the “Travel and Adventure” category in USA, UK, and Canada. I also have at least one review and 25 or so star ratings. So, not sure if it’s worthwhile to scrap all that and start over for what might or might not be a better customer service experience. Better the devil you know….

        Maybe I’ll wait a bit and let you take another bullet for the rest of us! ;)

        • catherineryanhoward September 19, 2011 at 18:31 #

          LOL! The way I look at this whole thing is that my e-books have been on sale for about a year and a half, and they’ll be on sale for years to come (presumably!). So if I discover that I have to make a course correction to make things better in the future, I’ll do it, even if I lose reviews, ranks, etc. I’ll get more. I always think about things in the long run, or try to. But either way, I’ll let you know how I get on!

  6. Lindsay Edmunds September 19, 2011 at 18:38 #

    If I understand lulu’s guidelines correctly, cover image is NOT included in epub file, only in product listings and search results. In other words, lulu epub editions are coverless.That is a bit odd. Image can be inserted as first page, though.

    As an experiment I uploaded Word file for epub conversion and it went beautifully. Stopped there for the time being.

    • catherineryanhoward September 19, 2011 at 19:42 #

      I don’t think it’s that odd. If you download a Kindle book you see the cover in a thumbnail but when you open the book you go straight to the text. I think the conversion goes better because it’s only converting into 1 format – thankfully! :-D

  7. Moira Munro (@MoiraFMunro) September 20, 2011 at 08:32 #

    Catherine, thanks – you are super-informative, as always. I don’t get hits, though. What’s attracting you to Lulu (apart from the very short-term discount), when it sounds like Smashwords is already providing you with the same (?) thing?

    • catherineryanhoward September 20, 2011 at 11:58 #

      Because they’re not providing it very well (see earlier posts this week) and up until now, I had no other alternative option. Now I do, as do the rest of the Smashwords authors who don’t live in the US (and so can’t services like PubIt) and who want a service that converts a MS Word doc to epub (which is the simplest, easiest, non-techie way). Competition is a great thing and hopefully it’ll get both companies competing to provide better services.

  8. Moira Munro (@MoiraFMunro) September 20, 2011 at 23:50 #

    Oh yes. You were so reasonable about Smashwords’ role in your 99c troubles that I forgot they were the source of it….
    And when I wrote “I don’t get hits”, I had meant to write “I don’t get this”, but I’m glad you still understood my question.

  9. Ian Hutton November 26, 2011 at 01:56 #

    Calibre is a shareware program which converts .doc, rtf, etc to ePub, PDF and many others.


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