Lulu’s Old Curiosity e-Book Shop

Lulu has become something of a curiosity in the old shop of author solutions services for me in the past year. Yesterday, we reported their announcement of an improved e-book facility, allowing them to properly embrace the development and continuing changes in the e-book market and provide self-publishing authors with something more than, what was, a pretty bog-standard e-book option. Bravo, Lulu. It was a step in the right direction.

Today, just when you think you know where you are with Lulu, and things may be on the up, they make another announcement. I’m all for announcements. Announcements are good. They provide this site with content and fill the hours of my day (when I should be working on my next book) with plenty of head-scratching moments. Today was no different in the Lulu stratosphere. Harish AbbottSenior VP of Product with Lulu explains:

“Dan Brown. Malcolm Gladwell. Emeril Lagasse. They all have something in common with you: They’re on Lulu.

You’ll now find their works — and about 200,000 other eBook titles from traditionally published authors — in the Lulu Marketplace. We’ve added them through agreements with Ingram and other distributors to make their public catalogs available on our site.

It’s a significant shift for Lulu, but one rooted in a strategy to maximize author success that has guided us from the beginning. To sell more books, you need more exposure. We’ve long provided distribution choices to help you reach customers in myriad stores, including and Barnes & Noble. We’re continuing to expand those options, and we’ll have more to share soon.”

Abbott is right. This is a significant step for Lulu. But I disagree with Abbott’s strategy that making the Lulu Marketplace open to mainstream authors like Dan Brown is going to somehow increase the sales or exposure of my books or any other author who has self-published through Lulu. Yes, Lulu may derive more casual online search traffic, but ultimately, people out to buy Dan Brown’s latest opus are not going to Lulu to purchase it. They are going to Amazon or Barnes & Noble if they wish to buy an e-book. In some ways, it is the same self-publishing sand trap authors who use an author solutions service assume will happen when their book is made available on sites like Amazon. Hell. someone is bound to stumble over my book on their way to the virtual checkout with a copy of Dan’s Angels & Demons under their arm. Unfortunately we are in the desperate land of success by association, and that’s like buying Irene Cara’s old sweatband on ebay and thinking you’re a cert to be in the next remake of Fame.

Interestingly, this was the first comment to appear on Lulu’s blog after the announcement. I’ll leave it to ‘jrharv’ to sum up the piece.

“I fail to see how this will help my books sell. Just like highly discounted books at Target/Walmart/Amazon by big name authors doesn’t help us, this certainly can’t. Our voices cannot be heard if people are looking for them instead.

I have 5 books with Lulu, haven’t decided if I’ll do a 6th. I am using another service for my current project that has a greater success rate at getting authors noticed.

Many of their authors are picked up by big name publishers like Simon & Schuster or McCleland and Stewart. That’s my aim.

Currently as a Canadian published by ME (YOU) is not available and all my works are Published by LULU so far. This prevents another publisher from taking me on.

I’ve changed genre and pen name and service, because my voice needs to be heard. Dan Brown and Emeril will easily outsell all of us, that’s not helpful.”

There is an age-old adage in self-publishing that says self-published books are bought more often by the author themselves, or other self-published authors. It seems to me Lulu are simply trying to expand the the buying catalog for their own registered authors by adding a mainstream element. Perhaps, you may think me cynical in that view, but I don’t think Lulu will be ordering too many more shopping carts to accommodate the extra rush.

Leave a Reply