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POD vs. Amazon: Updates

Based on sketchy information posted in the Lulu Forums, it looks like Lulu.com has probably agreed to Amazon’s ultimatum. Due to the fees I’m sure Amazon will be slapping publishers with for having to use its Booksurge printing services, we can probably look forward to increased fees to be passed on to users as well.  I chatted with a Lulu representative today through their online chat support hoping to get some info for you, but was pretty much given “blanket” information that anyone would already be privy to.

But Lulu has always been a very different star shining down on the great big world of POD by not charging its users any up front fee for producing a product. Lulu basically takes the manufacturing cost and gives the author the opportunity to make money by marking up the product at their leisure. For instance, at present, Lulu’s cost calculator shows the production cost of a 6×9 perfect bound 150 page black and white print trade paperback as being $7.53. If I was the author of such book, I’d probably mark it up at least 5 dollars. That makes the retail price of this book $12.53. That’s not too bad for a trade paperback.  Having no control over pricing when I published with Xlibris in 2003, the retail price of my 176 page book was $19.99 for a paperback.  My cut of a sale was 10%.  End of story.

However, Lulu could easily tack on another 3 or 4 bucks onto this business model, ultimately increasing their cost to counter the fees Amazon will probably bestow upon them. Heck, if Amazon’s fees are going to be as high as most blogs are saying they are, Lulu could double their manufacturing costs to cover their expense. But this would quickly throw them into the expensive pricing realm that authors all too often experience with other POD publishers. Would it even make a difference by now?  Who knows? Only time will tell. But consider this….will this increase only affect authors who purchase an ISBN to get their book listed on Amazon, B&N.com, etc?  If so, that would probably require Lulu to build an additional set of services (and pricing) only for those who plan to get their book listed on Amazon.  For the author who plans to just use Lulu for set-up, binding and printing, but not purchase an ISBN, should an increased pricing structure apply?  Chances are it will across the board just so Lulu doesn’t have to come up with a separate business model for ISBN purchasers.

At this point, I highly agree with Angela Hoy’s advice she gives to BookLocker authors.  I quote:

1. Remove all Amazon.com links from your marketing materials - website, ezine, blog, email signature, press releases, articles — everything.

2. Change those links to your book’s page on BarnesandNoble.com. To obtain that link, search for your book’s title at http://www.bn.com. All Booklocker.com print books are on their website.

3. Don’t forget to contact Amazon to tell them what you’re doing in response to their horrible actions!

Angela has done a magnificent job at Writer’s Weekly of covering this issue. Catch up with her blog here.

As Angela states, the success of a POD book is really left up to the author.  It’s all about self promotion and marketing.  Your readers will more than likely buy the book from wherever you tell them to.  You DON’T have to send them to Amazon.  Almost all POD publishers, Lulu included, support their own online bookstore.  Lulu even prints a link to your book on their marketing materials.  They have free BUY links available to you as well which you build onto your websites and blogs. And if your book has an ISBN, then B&N lists your book as well.

Book Reviews: Check back this weekend for this month’s first review:  OH Brother by Paul Ciccone, Jr. 

7 Responses to “POD vs. Amazon: Updates”

  1. While I can’t comments on the internal working of Lulu, or give out information on pricing, I can give out some other information, since I’m a Lulu Engineer. (Even I don’t know everything that goes on with decisions such as pricing, but that’s mostly because it isn’t my job to worry about that - it’s my job to make sure the site works and to develop new features).

    Lulu does provide every user with the option to set up their own storefront, which they can use to promote their books. As you mentioned, we do have Buy buttons available. We also have widgets now available: one for Facebook, a Flash based one, and a Javascript based one. I also encourage users to take advantage of the flash based previews that we recently added. Although I do have to sheepishly admit there appear to be some bugs with those at the moment. If the preview for some reason doesn’t work correctly for you, we are looking into the causes and hope to have a fix ready as soon as possible.

    Sorry I can’t provide any more information on the Amazon issue, but I’ve started keeping an eye on this blog, so if there is something you want to ask me that isn’t currently internal company information, I’ll try to answer it.

    - Mark, Lulu Engineer.

  2. Thanks Mark for your comments. I also enjoyed the comments over at PodPeep. They’ve been very informative, and its nice to have some feedback from the inside and know that Lulu continues to improve its services for its authors and customers.

    -LLBR

  3. Well, I just have to note, one option is for authors to simply not use Amazon. I’m a proud Lulu author who never has (and never will) use Amazon for material I consider Lulu-exclusive.

    I blogged about it today, in fact.

  4. Keep in mind what Amazon is trying to do, foist off on the public BookSurge, a POD printery they own, whose bad service and poor printing quality ensured that LightningSource became the respected market leader. Getting clients by using Amazon’s market share isn’t going to change that. BookSurge will still be pitiful. Amazon’s ethics will remain dubious. We just need to make sure neither can do harm to our books or our relationship with our customers.

    The POD community needs to get together and create a list of demands Amazon must meet before we sign, demands that ensure that customers receive quality books quickly and that Amazon doesn’t distort the market so badly in the pursuit of profit that they force book prices upward. Those demands would include:

    1. Since Amazon is handling every aspect of publishing from printing to shipping, Amazon must handle all defective returns. It must place a notice to that effect on the detail page of all BookSurge titles. It must make replacement easy with a widely publicized toll-free number. It must pay postage both ways. Replacements must ship within two weeks. Otherwise, as others have noted, authors and publishers will get blamed for BookSurge’s poor quality control. And we must be allowed to place a notice inside books noting that Amazon/BookSurge is responsible for a book’s print quality.

    2. Since Amazon is doing the printing and selling, there’s no way authors and publishers can know how many copies are actually being sold. Amazon could print and sell 1000 copies and only pay us for 800. To provide a way for us to check, Amazon must provide authors and publishers with weekly sales figures, listing the date and time a book is ordered and shipped as well as the city, state and zip where it is shipped. (No names required.) It must provide a legally binding agreement to allow us to examine their internal records any time a discrepancy appears.

    3. Books created for BookSurge aren’t likely to be distributed many places outside Amazon. There is no need to stick authors and publishers with the cost of creating two books just to increase Amazon’s profitability. BookSurge must change their front end to accept precisely the same files as LightningSource. Until it does so, Amazon will continue to carry all POD books from Lightning.

    4. BookSurge can print in fewer formats and sizes than Lightning, so books in all the other formats will be supplied through Lightning. That will never change.

    5. Only Amazon benefits from this change, so Amazon will cover all the costs of placing books into BookSurge’s system and commit in writing to never charge for this service.

    6. Amazon must allow authors and publishers the same freedom to set prices and discounts as Lightning permits.

    7. Amazon will not attempt to force authors and publishers to sell them books at a greater discount than they offer other retail outlets. (Doing so is illegal anyway.) Authors and publishers will still be allow complete freedom in the discount they offer in retail sales of their own titles. (This is to counter the strong-arm tactics Amazon has begun to use in the UK.)

    Other items need to be included, but you get the point. We don’t let Amazon run this show. We set down the conditions they must meet, conditions that ensure that the public is treated properly and we aren’t abused or cheated. Will Amazon be willing to agree to these quite reasonable conditions. Almost certainly not.

    Legal action will take time. This is something we can do now to rally everyone to the same flag and keep BookSurge’s salesmen from wearing us down one by one. And this ought to make it clear to everyone that Amazon’s goal is more control and more profits not customer satisfaction. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they agree to quickly replace any book they misprinted and sold? Why won’t they agree to give us the ability to make sure they aren’t cheating us?

  5. Well, as a Lulu author, all I can say is I publish at Lulu.com because of low publishing costs. If costs or prices go up, I simply will not be able to take advantage of their distribution. It just isn’t affordable or profitable, and I may have to rethink self-publishing entirely. It is sad that authors are going to be the ones to suffer from these new policies.

  6. “The POD community needs to get together and create a list of demands Amazon must meet before we sign, demands that ensure that customers receive quality books quickly and that Amazon doesn’t distort the market so badly in the pursuit of profit that they force book prices upward. Those demands would include:”

    I might be more inclined to listen to what you appear to believe you have to say if you weren’t posting anonymously. Damages your credibility; if you really believe what you’re saying, why are you scared to state who you are?

    If not even the author himself wants to rally behind some flag, why would I?

  7. I have found that Lulu prices are about double those at CreateSpace. But since both are in the US I am still looking for a way forward (I am in UK). Lightning had no prices so i eliminated it. Any other ideas ?

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