Thursday, May 28, 2009

Adventures with Lulu (Part III)

This is the third and final post in my brief series, Adventures with Lulu. Part I offers some thoughts on why I decided to publish my book with Lulu, the online print-on-demand company. Part II gives you a glimpse into the process I undertook to create my book. In this post, I share some last thoughts on design issues and what happens after you hit "publish."

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When last we met, I had left off with a (more or less) completed book in need of a cover. Let me say a few words today about covers.

We Have Issues

I had a wonderful cover illustration in mind when I first began my Lulu odyssey. It did not survive the cover design process. The cover design process was, shall we say, a royal pain in the ass.

I'll preface by admitting I have issues with Lulu's book covers. They're glossy. I don't like glossy. The boilerplate templates are insipid. The instructions will get you through the process, but if you're looking for more substantial cover design help from Lulu, you'll have to pay for it. And honestly, you might want to do that if you have your heart set on your book looking a certain way.

Because otherwise...

I've seen some gorgeous book covers in Lulu's marketplace, so I know people can and do produce them. I just wasn't up to the task. And I'm such a bull-headed DIY-er that I didn't want to turn any of the process over to someone else.

So apparently my issues are not all with Lulu.

The good news is, by the time you get to this point in the publishing process, you will have either learned to accede to Lulu or you will have given up. I think they plan it that way.

My advice when it comes to designing your book goes double for designing your cover: know your limitations. The process of converting original artwork into a cover that looks great on your book is best left to those who know a lot more than I do about digital design.

As you can see from the photo in the sidebar on the right, I ended up creating a very simple cover for my book. It consists of text and background color. Nothing more. It's not at all what I originally envisioned, but I've come to like it well enough. It's black and red, my favorite color scheme. And it's simple and straightforward, which suits the simple, straightforward contents of my book.

And Then I Hit Publish

But was I finished? I was not. There were still a bunch of decisions to be made. Mostly they had to do with money and publishing rights and ISBNs and such. I waded through it. It didn't kill me.

I had fun playing with the price calculators. My original hope was to be able to price my book at $10, but that was too low a price to allow me to sell it through Amazon -- between Lulu's fixed charge and Amazon's markup, I would have been paying them to carry it for me. So I had to bump the price a bit, but then I added the very-low-price download option, and that made me feel better.

I had fun making my storefront.

And I took particular delight in getting my first sale, a download to my friend (and fellow unschooler) Kris.

In Sum

Lulu has its problems, and its detractors. It is, first and foremost, self-publishing for amateurs -- people who want to be authors, not those looking to establish book-publishing empires or see their books on the shelves of the local big-box merchants. There is nothing wrong with either of those goals -- it's just that Lulu is not the best way to achieve them.

Lulu's pricing structure leads to a higher per-book cost than you'd find with, say, CreateSpace, though it's much less than online publishers xlibris or iuniverse, which follow a different business model.

As it irons out bugs and correct problems, Lulu sometimes leaves old information in the archives and the faqs, which can lead to no small amount of confusion. And it can be precipitous in its policy changes, as it was recently when it made books available to Amazon Marketplace without first informing its authors that it was doing so.

That said, I found the process of publishing with Lulu to be pretty damn satisfying. The company markets itself as a simple way to get your book into print and available for purchase, and it pretty much delivers on those promises. It lived up to my expectations. I would do it again. And probably will soon.

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101 Reasons Why I'm An Unschooler is available in two versions through Lulu. One is a relatively inexpensive print version that will come to you in a handy, reusable shipping box. The other is a ridiculously inexpensive digital download that's extremely readable and very kind to trees. You can visit my Lulu store here.

1 comment:

  1. I just bumped into information from Sandra about this....I had no idea!! Congrats!:) You'll have to bring some to ARGH.


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