There are different publishing options that you should understand before you decide how you will produce your book. The first big division is traditional publishing versus self-publishing. Self-publishing can be further subdivided into quasi-traditional houses, book packagers, or creating your own publishing company. I'll go through all of these, but since I received a question yesterday from Jessica about Lulu.com, let me review this one today.
Lulu.com sounds like a great self-publishing option, and depending on your goals for your book, it might be!
It works like this: Using online tools and helps, you simply format and upload your cover and interior files to Lulu. The cost is completely free; you don't pay a penny. For each book ordered, Lulu collects the money, subtracts the production costs and 20% of your profit margin, then sends you the remaining money. Lulu also has a number of services to help with, say, cover design or marketing.
My opinion on lulu is this: if you want to publish an extremely limited run, such as 30 copies of family memoirs for a reunion, by all means use this company! I have a friend who has done so, and she's been happy with the product quality. You probably wouldn't want an ISBN for this sort of run. You keep the rights to this book, so if you don't like how lulu does it, you've lost nothing.
However, if you're thinking of publishing, say, a novel or nonfiction book that you want to sell commercially, my strong advice is to find a different way to do this. Here's why:
1. ISBNs: The ISBN is like the social security number of each book. That number will ALWAYS be identified with this book, and its history is easy to research. If you sell on Lulu, even if you buy your own ISBN from them, it will always show a link to lulu, not to you.
2. The biggie: the production costs of this company are way high. If you want to make any kind of profit, you're going to have to set a very high price. They give the example of a 200 page book. If you want to have a $10 retail/$4 wholesale profit, you'll need to retail your book for $21, and wholesale it for $10.50.
I just looked through the lulu store, and it looks like they're charging retail prices for their books. Think about this. If you're a buyer, do you really want to pay $21 for a 200 page book? Furthermore, I randomly selected a few top-selling titles from the lulu store and searched for them on amazon: no dice. It's possible you can get your book listed on amazon also, but it didn't look common. Do most people automatically go to lulu to purchase a book?
I have my own publishing company. For my company to produce a 200 page, trade (6x9), perfect bound book, I would be easily able to retail this for $12 to make a comparable profit. By my offering the standard discount to amazon (the wholesale price that they pay me the publisher), amazon would in turn discount the book for sale for (I'm guessing since I don't control amazon) to about $8 or $9. All things being equal, who do you think is going to sell more books?
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