Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lulu pisses me off, too.

I've used this blog to do a lot of dumping on Outskirts Press -- the vanity publisher I love to hate.

I don't hate Lulu quite as much, but the company really pisses me off!

The company has the dubious distinction of publishing the absolute worst book I've ever seen. The only requirements for having a book published by Lulu are a valid credit card and blood pressure over zero. Subject matter and literary quality don't count.

The price of a Lulu book is often higher than books printed by others. To make an adequate profit you’ll probably set a higher retail price than you otherwise would, and this may cost you some sales unless your book is unique and important.

Lulu’s founder Bob Young said, “A publishing house dreams of having 10 authors selling a million books each. Lulu wants a million authors selling 100 books each.” He also admitted that the average Lulu print run is for fewer than two copies, and said, “We’re not trying to get books to a mass market.” There’s very little chance of that happening if his company continues to turn out crap.

Young told Publishers Weekly: “We publish a huge number of really bad books.” I don’t think that’s anything to be proud of. If he knows they're bad books, why does he publish them?

The company advertises FREE PUBLISHING. Unfortunately, if you expect to see or sell real books with actual paper pages, Lulu's publishing is not free.

OK, so Lulu is deceptive and has low standards, just like its competitors.

But why am I pissed off at Lulu?

A few days ago -- as an experiment and possible source of income -- I used Lulu to publish an eBook. It did not cost me anything to "publish" it, and all I had to do was fill in some blanks on my PC screen and upload a PDF file.

I expected that I would be able to choose the formats my new masterpiece would be available in, because there are about a dozen different formats used by PCs, phones, and dedicated eBook readers.

I had no choice.

Lulu publishes eBooks only as PDFs, which are mainly used for reading on a PC screen and limit readership and sales potential. In 2007, Lulu announced their “eBook Optimization” service which would allow users to format their books for viewing on Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch, and Sony eBook Readers. The program was canceled. (I asked one of their public relations people what happened to the program, and after 24 hours I had no answer.) UPDATE: After four days, I still have no answer!

After I uploaded my PDF and chose a suitable cover, I naturally wanted to try to buy a copy of my new eBook. At first it was easily searchable by both title and author, and then by neither, and then by title but not author, and then by author but not title, and then by neither.

The Lulu search system is absolutely miserable, guaranteed to display dozens, hundreds, or thousands incorrect search results.

When I was able to find my book, it was impossible to put it into the electronic shopping cart to buy a download. I tried on several days with several PCs and different web browsers, but I could not buy my book. And neither could anyone else.

I have no idea how many other books can't be bought. Obviously Lulu and at least one author are being deprived of revenue.

Normally in a case like this, I'd call tech support. But Lulu's tech support functions by email only, and can take 24 to 48 hours to respond -- an eternity in the Internet Age.

The first email response was automated, from either a person or a robot named Sandra. It or she sent a bunch of useless and irrelevant copy-and-paste nonsense filled with lots of links that would do absolutely nothing to fix a problem with Lulu's e-commerce system.

Sandra assumed that I would fix their system myself or just fade away. Unless I replied to the email, which would "re-open the ticket," my complaint would be dropped.

That's not a good way to run a business.


  1. Love this post. Love this post. To bad I can't use it you bring up way to many valid points...

    Sandra you say? Hm, Sandra is also the email repondant to AuthorHouse.

  2. lulu has one shining grace.
    i needed my manuscript to be edited.

    but to print out a manuscript with paper and ink it would cost me 45 dollars at home, and 25 at kinkos(SP) or office max.

    i was able to print my book, in book form for 15 dollars with shipping.

    so i saved at least ten dollars.

    for anything else, i dont think ill be using lulu.