This is the next post in a multi-part series about self-publishing your eBook. Posts include:
1. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 1: Introduction
2. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 2: E-book Formatting
3. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 3: Book Covers
4. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 4: Amazon.com
5. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 5: Smashwords
6. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 6: Scribd
7. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 7: Lulu (this post)
8. Selling Your eBook Without a Publisher, Part 8: Selling Strategy
The next ePublisher I want to look at in this series is Lulu.
What is Lulu?
Lulu is a bit different from the other ePublishers I have featured so far because in addition to offering traditional eRetailer services, Lulu also sells traditional books by using the magic of POD.
POD, or Print on Demand, is a service where a paper book isn't actually printed until someone orders it. Once someone places an order for a traditional paper book through Lulu, Lulu's machinery kicks into high gear, prints the book, and next thing you know you've got a printed, bound book waiting on your doorstep. The advantages of this model is cost (from the publisher's perspective) because no inventory exists until it is needed. This differs from a traditional vanity press in that there is no upfront cost associated with the POD service. Lulu doesn't "make" anything until someone buys one of your books.
Besides for POD, Lulu also sells straight eBooks. That will be my primary focus here.
You can follow Lulu on Twitter or subscribe to the Lulu blog.
How much does Lulu charge?
From their FAQ:
Lulu takes a small commission when your content is purchased. Lulu's commission is 20% of the profit from a purchased item.
Sounds great at first glance. Dig a little deeper and you'll find that Lulu also charges a "base price" which is built into the price of your eBook which, of course, ultimately increases your asking price. The standard base price for eBooks is $1.49, which goes to cover "file hosting, bandwidth, and credit card transaction costs".
Previous analysis showed the following charges for the other eRetailers I've covered: Scribd charges 45%; Amazon, 65%; and Smashwords, 42%.
So, let's say you're charging $5 for your eBook. How much are you really making on each sale with Lulu? The breakdown is this:
$5.00 (asking price) - $1.49 (base price) = $3.51
20% commission of the seller's profit: $3.51 * 0.2 = $0.70
So, $3.51 - $0.70 = $2.81
You'll see later on that Lulu provides a calculator to make this process a little easier. Using it, I found that I have to charge readers twice as much as I what I might charge on Amazon, for example, just to make the same amount of money for myself. Here's a quick screenshot to illustrate:
That's a whopping 84% commission Lulu charges to sell eBooks on their site at the $2 sale price. Put the price at $5/eBook and it comes out to 44% (56% in your pocket). The base price obviously skews things very badly at lower price points. Unfortunately, lower price points are where eBooks want to be.
What file formats does Lulu support?
Lulu sells eBooks in ePUB and PDF format:
For both, you have the option of selling with or without DRM.
See my post for more info on E-book File Formats.
The Lulu Storefront
Lulu sells a variety of items, including books, eBooks, calendars, photo books, DVD's, etc. Since I'm principally concerned with eBooks, I'll take a look at that storefront.
Lulu does a very nice job of breaking down their available eBooks into the many genres and categories. Clicking on "Science Fiction & Fantasy" brings up what you might expect. By twiddling with the interface a little you can search just the section you want, but only by Title and/or Creator:
I like the Lulu interface, especially that they're upfront and center with price and the format available for purchase.
Publishing with Lulu
Lulu publishing can be accomplished in three easy steps:
I'm going to go through those publishing steps here and now, as I write this post, so I'll see firsthand just how easy the process is. ;-)
Here are the steps:
1. Start a New Project
The first step is creating what Lulu calls a "project". I'll use the title of my book as the "Working Title", my name was already filled in since I'm logged in, and I'll select "Make it public to sell in the Lulu Marketplace" since that's the reason I'm here.
2. Add Files
Next step is uploading files.
Lulu says you can upload in a variety of formats:
It's nice that they added support for EPUB. Because my eBook is already in PDF format, though, I'll upload that version and make a mental note that I still need to convert my eBook to EPUB format as I would like potential buyers to have that option.
Choosing my PDF and pressing upload flashes some activity…
…and in no time my file is uploaded:
3. Design Your Cover
For those following along in this series, you know why book covers are important. Lulu has a nice feature in that you can create a generic cover using their templates:
Besides for generic templates and background colors, you can select your own image or browse the Lulu Gallery. While the gallery had some nice images, I've already created my own. Uploading it went smoothly though I did have to tweak the image size to fit Lulu's minimum size requirement of 621 x 810 pixels.
I went, of course, with my stock image for my eBook:4. Describe Your Project
You'll notice Lulu said we could do this in three steps. Yet here we are on step four…
In any case, now we get to add some descriptive detail to our eBook, including keywords and copyright information:
5. Digital Rights Management
Now this is kind of interesting. I have the option of adding DRM to my eBook, but at a cost:
Of course, I won't be paying the extra $0.99; my readers will. I don't like DRM to begin with, and certainly don't want to make people pay more just to have to deal with it's hassles. I'll choose the DRM-free option.
6. Set Your Project Price
Note that we are now at twice the number of steps Lulu said we'd have to go through. Just saying…
This is where we'll set our eBook price.
Focusing in on the right-hand side:
Because of the pricing discussion above I'm going to leave the price of my eBook at $5… for now.
7. Review Your Project
This is the last step. A quick review of what we've already entered, click the confirmation button, and we're done.
You can now purchase The Hall of the Wood from Lulu.
Lulu is another viable option for selling your eBook, though I found their pricing structure not as competitive as the other eRetailers I featured in this series. Still, it's another outlet in which to gain some eyeballs.
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