Lulu Publishing Partner Program – Marriage of Convenience or Masterstroke?

I try to keep updated with as many newsworthy items and developments in the self-publishing world as much as possible, but occasionally something comes across my desk and either gets pushed to the bottom of the ‘to do’ pile or slips by in the quiet of night. I remember a couple of weeks ago coming across the headline to this Lulu press release while looking at Reuters business web pages and making a mental note to return to it that same day. It actually took Brian Scott’s posting today at Bookpublishingnews about the same press release to kick-start my recollection of it. In fact, I’m a little taken aback that baring the normal on line PR Web sources for these press releases like CNBC, Newswire, Yahoo Business and the like—very few have picked up on it or read any significance into it.

Here is the start of the original press release from the first day of September:

“RALEIGH, N.C., September 1 — Lulu, the marketplace for digital content on the Internet, today announced a new partnership program designed to maximize revenue for partner organizations while expanding the availability of its feature-rich tools and services for authors seeking hassle-free publishing.

‘We want to build mutually beneficial relationships with true partners,’ said Harish Abbott, Lulu’s Senior Vice President of Products. ‘Helping authors succeed is what Lulu is all about, and we’re excited to partner with groups that share the vision.’

The Lulu Publishing Partner Program supplies participating U.S. organizations and companies with a branded Web page to register members and customers with Lulu and a branded online marketplace to sell and promote their works. Lulu Publishing Partners can share in the success of their associated authors for a lifetime, receiving a portion of revenue from all services purchased and books sold.

The program lets partners expand their offerings while helping authors overcome typical sales and marketing challenges to reach a wider audience. And it’s all backed by Lulu, which has deep expertise in technology and the online marketplace.

‘We were astounded to see the Lulu Publishing Partner program was crafted to meet all our requirements,’ said Bruce May, CEO of The Expert Knowledge Network. ‘Needless to say, we are extremely satisfied with the Publishing Partner Program and look forward to future success as we grow our own publishing business with the support of Lulu and their fantastic team of professionals.’”

The Lulu Publishing Partner program has actually been in operation since August and two of Lulu’s significant new partners are The Expert Knowledge Network and Authorsden. It is noticeable that any news service or commentary on Lulu’s program has been circumspect and adhered largely to the detail contained in the press release without any great appraisal. This lack of appraisal is understandable in a new business extension and the past twelve months have brought their share of economic challenges, staff cut backs, software and application improvements, and a general realignment of their author services—not to mention a few of ‘faux pas’ along the way which has not always endeared them to their self-published band of authors.

Lulu lists the selling points of the program to potential publishing partners as follows:

Make Money.

Up to 15% commissions

Lifetime revenue sharing on author sales and purchases

Engage your authors

Help your authors publish and sell

Build a more connected author community

Expand your capabilities

Free print publishing platform

Custom branded marketplace

Exclusive partner discounts on

Custom Marketplace

Promote and sell your authors’ books in a unique, dynamically-updated marketplace

View a live partner marketplace

Encourage your members to join your program. Any member who has not published with Lulu and/or joined another Lulu program is eligible to sign up with your program

Partner Author

80% creator revenues from book

Free ISBN and listing on Amazon.

Exclusive coupons and discounts on Lulu.

Access to Lulu’s diverse range of premium publishing, marketing, and distribution services

All revenue generated by qualified partner authors is shared with the partner organization. See details below

Revenue Sharing

The details of the Lulu Publishing Partner program is described as a ‘mechanism’ for organisations to register members as Lulu authors and earn a share of the lifetime revenue generated by those authors’ book sales and the services the authors purchase. For me—while Lulu may mean any organisation from government departments, corporate bodies, to a workshop of local writers—it is more likely the ‘organisations’ who will most avail of this program will be small presses and independent publishers. It is no secret that a number of small presses already use Lulu as a print service for their books, and while the platform is not ideal, it serves its purpose for a publisher with a handful of titles per year. Lulu may not be specific out who they are aiming this program at, but they are succinct about whom it is not intended for.

“*Currently, this program is open to U.S. companies only. Individual authors are not eligible.”

My understanding from reading the information provided by Lulu also indicates that it is not intended for authors already using Lulu’s publishing services. Quite how the exclusion of these authors will work, I’m not quite so sure, particularly if they sign up to a service like say, Authorsden. This program also looks like a renewed effort by Lulu to bring in more authors through a third party and strengthen their Marketplace branding. If I could nail this program down with a definitive description, I would say it is a combination (and reaction to) Amazon’s Marketplace and Amazon’s POD printer/publisher, Booksurge.

Time will tell how successful a move this will be for Lulu, but I believe it to be one of the most significant developments in the self-publishing industry this year, and as far as new partnerships and opportunities go—it could prove to be a masterstroke for Lulu

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