I started out as an Indie Author-Publisher with CreateSpace, and was content to leave it that way for several years. Then I tried Lulu, and found their output to be just as good, their range of print options to be more varied, and their customer service to be superior.
Lulu also distributes to all of the major online outlets and to Ingram. Moreover, at the Lulu Store, I can price my books more reasonably than the list prices that are required for non-Amazon-originated publications that are listed for sale at that Major Online Retailer – and I can still receive a reasonable return on my investment of time and talent.
As far as publishing costs are concerned, although the costs of copies in some standard trim sizes at CreateSpace were less than at Lulu, CreateSpace shipping and handling fees tended to cancel out the difference, because Lulu frequently offers discounts on purchases and free shipping (and sometimes both at the same time), while CS never did in the six years I’ve been enrolled there as a publisher.
The advantage of my continuing to publish with CreateSpace was that I could obtain a free ISBN for my autograph books, which are in a non-standard trim size, and they are automatically offered on Amazon (although their being non-standard disqualifies them from distribution to other outlets). Lulu doesn’t offer a free ISBN for nonstandard trim sizes, so if I wanted those books to have them, I would have to purchase my own, which is prohibitively expensive, for me. At Lulu, not having an ISBN for a book in any trim size restricts sale of that book to the Lulu Store, which at present is a discoverability disadvantage; nevertheless, my Lulu-printed autograph books are larger than the CS-printed ones (7″ x 9″, versus 6″ x 8.25″), which is an advantage to my customers.
But the game is about to change, because of alterations by Amazon to its printing business portfolio. I’ve read some of their explanatory posts regarding the impact of those changes on works formerly published through CS, but I’m not reassured about the ultimate outcome.
I’m apprehensive about my being forced to comply with Amazon’s self-serving protocols, such as Kindle ebook participation (because I have always opted out of that for my works published through CreateSpace, having preferred to use Smashwords), and the pressure Amazon puts on authors to give away their work, which falsely inflates Amazon’s “sales” statistics with freebie distribution numbers. (Lulu also produces ebooks, but Irish Firebrands is the only one of the many titles I have out that can be published digitally, and I haven’t gotten around to looking into that, yet).
I’m also displeased with the additional month of postponement in royalty payments that will occur with the transfer of CS titles to the KDP line: a move that’s calculated to squeeze as much revenue as possible out of participating Indie Author-Publishers, by Amazon’s earning an extra month’s interest on our royalties that they have on deposit pending payout.
It’s possible that other prejudicial actions may be taken, particularly against those of us who also publish through other print-on-demand providers who distribute to Amazon. For example, many weeks after having successfully put out Volume 2 of the two-part paperback second printing of Irish Firebrands, and having seen it appear at Amazon, I unexpectedly received a notice that the file was “corrupted” and needed to be fixed (no details provided) for it to be sold through that retailer.
Perhaps Indies who don’t publish exclusively through the Amazon system are going to be dumped, and that smacks of attempts to establish a monopoly – which sticks in my craw. It’s anybody’s guess how this is all going to fall out, but CreateSpace’s days are numbered – and so may be mine, in the Major Online Retailer’s grand scheme.
Now that the Amazon knife is poised at the CreateSpace throat, Lulu – with its stated commitment to printing on paper – may be in the position to step into the void that will be left by the coming demise. If you decide to publish with Lulu, be sure to let us know, so we can help drive more traffic there and improve discoverability and sales for all Indie Author-Publishers.
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