Monday, June 05, 2006

Lulu POD Self-Publishing

Over the last year or so, I have been working with a close friend from college, on getting as much detail about the POD business as possible before I launch my own book. In the printing business himeself, he goes to a ton of conferences and late last year he said he met a gentleman who spoke about Lulu. He said that Lulu sounded like a truly great deal for anyone who was looking into POD self-publishing. Not only did they not ask for any money up front, but they allow authors to go the whole nine-yards by customizing their publications (publications that include books, CDs, DVDs, images and calendars).

I have been slowly checking Lulu out (got myself a free account), and what I have seen so far, I really like. Here's Lulu's 'slogan' (right on the front page): "No set-up fees. No minimum order. No catch. We print and ship each product as it's bought, and the purchaser pays for it." Sounds almost too good to be true, because on top of that, there is a wide selection of books styles/sizes and two kinds of sales mediums possible -- traditional print and electronic downloads -- for reaching a wider audience.

So as to get the best feel for it, I decided to hook myself up as a customer first. Logging in to my account, I went hunting for a cyberpunk themed book, something I would personally enjoy reading. (A quick note: for all you cyberpunk writers out there, there are very few CP themed books online at Lulu right now, good chance to break in and get a foothold.) I latched on to a book called SHANGHAI DREAMS by Johnny Sahr, and decided to go for an electronic download.

Dear readers, this is what I call 'the moment of truth': I have no credit card, not one!, never have. I'm damn proud of that. Some would call me foolish, and perhaps they are right, as there certainly have been times when I could have used one... yeah, used one to put myself in so much debt, I could never get out! Instead, I use PayPal -- a great method of payment in my opinion. But sometimes purchasing online with it can be a real hassle, despite the fact that PayPal is quite established. (It boogles the mind really.) To me, the true test of an online store's mettle is whether or not they accept PayPal (or one of the other e-money places). Seriously, how can you call yourself a true online store and NOT accept?

Holding my breath, I clicked the NON-credit card payment section, and LOW AND BEHOLD, PayPal popped up. SWEET! Score. Within the next minute, the book (in PDF format) downloaded, and Lulu had instilled in me great confidence that my future books could easily be purchased by anyone, even people without a credit card. Of course, the real challenge is yet to come (ie putting my own book together), but Lulu has a very self-explanitory site, with tons of FAQ and commonsense topics set right at the fingertips of would-be authors. Granted, with all the information that there is, it can seem a little overwhelming, but with carefully guided mouse, 90% of all information sought, can be figured out easily. And when all else fails, there is live help available.

For now, I'm giving Lulu two-thumbs up, while I continue my publishing journey. In the meantime, I encourage others to comment about their own experiences with Lulu -- good or bad. I want a broad a view as I can get. I'm pumping it now, but there may very well be something I'm missing. I wouldn't like to be blind-sided if I can help it.

Until later,
Made in DNA


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