Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Lies of Lulu

One side of Lulu is a vanity press which charges up to $1369 for various “publishing packs.”

The other side of Lulu prints books for self-publishers. If you can provide a properly formatted and edited digital file, Lulu will have it printed for you. In the book sample I received, the actual printing was excellent, but many pages had ripples where type disappeared. The book should never have been shipped.

Lulu boss Bob Young (quoted in the 8/6/07 issue of Publishers Weekly), said, "We publish a huge number of really bad books.” Bob also misspelled “misspell” and confused “less” and “fewer” in a blog post. A publisher should know better.

In addition to his deficiencies in literary taste and use of the English language, Bob has a major problem in separating truth from fiction.

Lulu claims to rank #1 among self-publishing websites and to provide free self-publishing. But if you use Lulu you may not be self-publishing, and Lulu’s publishing is not free. They get paid for every book they publish.

Lulu says it is “the only publisher that offers you all that it does for free.” The company has run online ads touting “Publish Your Book— Free,” “Free publishing,” and “Free Self Publishing.” Their website promises, “free book publishing,” but their publishing is free only if you don’t want any books to be printed!

Lulu's notion of free publishing is like free car ownership where there is no charge to view your beautiful new vehicle in the dealer's lot. But if you want to actually drive it home and put it in your garage, you have to pay $54,327.

Bob and his staff also have trouble with basic arithmetic.

Their deceptive book pricing example shown above uses a book that sells for $14.

It says that the cost to manufacture is $4, Lulu gets $2, and the author gets $8 ("your share 80%').

I recognize that there have been advances in mathematics over the past 50-plus years, but if I use the method I learned for figuring percentages back in the Davis Street School, $8 is NOT 80% of $14. It's actually less than 60%.

Furthermore, the chart makes it seem like the $4 manufacturing fee is going to some distant unnamed entity. It goes to Lulu, and you can be sure that there is profit built into it.

And, of course, the example is FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED because $14 is MUCH TOO HIGH for most 100-page books. Unless you are selling 100 pages of new and vital information, a book that size would sell for about $8, leaving very little money for the author.

Most $14 books have 200- 300 pages.

Lulu has a lot to learn about publishing, and honesty.



  1. I'm starting to think you have a beef with this guy, Michael. ;)

    Does anyone still USE Lulu? The last time I used them was in 2007. I also got books with defects, mostly on the interior. But sometimes I got rippled covers and even torn covers. They usually shipped a new book, no problem. But it was a hassle.

  2. Michael,
    A little math goes a long way. It's unbelievable they keep putting out advertising like this. Thanks for holding their feet to the fire once again.

  3. I must admit Michael a bit of a beef? ;)

    At any rate my math must be really bad as well yours makes more "cents" than theirs does...

  4. You must also factor in handling costs. Shipping+handling is routinely a few bucks higher than what it would cost to deliver the book by the methods they discuss, leading to an increase in consumer costs. That $14 book really costs $18, shipped.

    That being said, I found them easy to work with, got fast answers to my questions, and the books arrived rapidly and correctly printed. And having a visible online storefront for 'free' (zero dollars out of writer's pocket) is handy, though I've done the bulk of the selling myself.