Lulu Decides To Screw You, Your Mother Too

Lulu, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a hip new self-publishing outfit.  To get a book published, you don’t need to find a publisher any more, you can just hook up with them as a print-on-demand outfit – they print your book, send it to your customer, and give you a percentage royalty.  Sounds good, right?  Well, it used to.  And a number of RPG authors decided to use them for self-publishing.  From Forward… To Adventure!, to vs. Monsters, to Dread: The First Book of Pandemonium, there’s about 500 RPG products published through Lulu.

I had been hearing rumblings about Lulu’s business practices for a while -but now, the RPG Pundit brought up their newest move, a truly world-class debacle.  (The RPGPundit, since about one in ten of his posts is not on RPGs, isn’t carried by the RPG Bloggers Network.)

They changed mail providers on November 1, and suddenly their shipping prices skyrocketed.  Not a little bit – a huge amount.  People report the lowest cost shipping option for single book deliveries costing $100 or more to many countries – prices far, far in excess of what the major shipping companies actually charge.  One author reported their shipping charge to Bosnia went from $5 to $140; another from $12 to $82 to Canada (these for books that have a cover price of like $10).  A CD shipped to Spain cost 105 Euro.  The RPG Pundit’s “Forward… To Adventure” game, list price $28, costs $160 to ship to his home in Uruguay all of a sudden.  The increase was so large that some people assumed it was a technical glitch – but no, after a time of silence a Lulu customer service rep chimed in to say “You know, the economy, fuel prices…  Those prices are right, suck it.”  Coming as it did right before Christmas, the authors are rightfully freaked out.

So Lulu said “Oh… Yeah, we’re working on an economy shipping option.”  So while people reported their sales dropping to zero, they worked on it and today rolled out “economy shipping”.  They had promised an economy option of $11 worldwide, but it appears from early reports it’s nowhere near that in many cases, instead being $20 or more and accompanied by a disclaimer that “Lulu does not recommend this shipping option and cannot guarantee delivery.”  Nice.

Even to the US, their shipping prices are ridiculous.  Contrast Amazon’s, quoted for a similarly sized paperback, to Austin, TX.  Amazon quotes me free (5-9 day), $3.99 (3-5 day), $11.98 (2 day), and $17.09 (1 day).  Lulu quotes me $9.64 (5-9 day), $27.99 (2 day), and $59.37 (1 day – not priority, just standard!). It’s one thing if USPS, UPS, and FedEx are charging anywhere near what they are – but no, they’re not, it’s just usury on Lulu’s part.

And the way Lulu has handled this is criminal.  Hell, they don’t even bother to make any annoucements about it in their main News & Announcements forum, and they have only responded with a couple posts on other forums to the legions of irate authors.  People report that customer service jsut responds with “Yeah, the rates are right, have a nice day” (it’s apparently quite hard to get customer service from Lulu, it’s email only and they are infamous for not responding to emails).

So if you’re a RPG author – heads up.  You may want to be looking for other alternatives.  And if you’re a RPG customer, be careful and CHECK THE SHIPPING COST before buying something from Lulu, or you might just get a $100 surprise.


24 responses to “Lulu Decides To Screw You, Your Mother Too

  1. All of these publishers should have multiple avenues for their books already, but I notice that stuff like Dread: the First Book of Pandemonium is only available at Lulu.

    These guys should have eBooks up at RPGNow, e23, IPR or Key20 in addition to their PoD options.

    As far as other PoD options go:

    Owned by Amazon, which is great because it gets your book listed on Amazon as part of the deal. The quality is nowhere near as good as Lulu, so it is a trade-off.

    Has books and CDs in addition to the t-shirts, posters and other items. A little pricey and the quality is not as good as Lulu, again. However, it allows a small press publisher to have their logo (or art) on multiple products.

    There are plenty of short-run printers to look at as well: Lightning Source and QualityPoD both great, but do not offer a storefront.

  2. If anyone knows of a good alternative, let me know. I can’t find one. While there are alternatives, all have some major “gotcha.”

    (Also, FYI, Lulu’s been around in its present state for at least 5 years. So it’s not exactly new.)

  3. The Pundit is not a member of the RPG Bloggers Network because he has a malformed feed thanks to Xanga that won’t allow it to be categorized, something we discussed with him. But thanks for the passive-aggression.

  4. I was planning on using LuLu for the 2008 Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs; but this makes me consider other options.

    To second BPNewhall above: does anyone know of any other reliable options?

  5. Amazon has a site, don’t they? BookSurge?

    And FYI regarding the Pundit: when he learned about the mess-up with Xanga, he instead went for a link as a “Friend of the Network”. So it worked out ok (not that you were saying it didn’t)…

  6. EDIT: Sorry, that friend link arranged was for theRPGsite

  7. Lulu got bought out a few months ago by Platinum Studios, which is well-known in certain circles for screwing the authors of print books they published (like the comic Hero By Night) out of their pay. Can’t say I’m too surprised by this development.

  8. @Dave – I didn’t mean to open up a can of worms; I was just going by the private email conversation we had on this subject in August where the concern cited was his blog not being 100% RPG content. I assume the feed thing was an attempted workaround for that. Anyway, my point is that I was reporting it as more than a “me too” to get it on the network.

  9. @the resta ya – Matt’s post there got caught in my moderation filter till now, but he notes a couple options including Amazon’s CreateSpace. Now, Amazon isn’t pure as the driven snow either, I remember something about them forcing out other POD publishers unless they used Amazon’s BookSurge printing unit – here’s a lengthy explanation of that. The differentiation between BookSurge and CreateSpace is hazy to me; both are Amazon-owned. Other ones mentioned favorably are LightningSource/Ingram and Author House/IUniverse. Though the space is a little confusing, some people mention that Lulu uses LightningSource for the printing?

    Although a lot of it has to do with your needs. Here’s an interesting compare a guy doing coffee-table photo books did between Lulu, Blurb, and MyPublisher. Here’s another recent comparison page that covers some of the majors, including Lulu, BS, CS, and LS.

  10. Over at rpgnet, someone from Lulu is blaming the UK shipping prices on their UK printer’s inability to print to US letter size, laying the fault with the printing rather than the shipping.

  11. Which is not to defend Lulu, by the way, as I find it a weak excuse.

  12. After reading this I had to check what the shipping price would be for be (because I was waiting for a cash surge before buying some RPGs). Turns out it’s 5 pounds… not the best price, but it’s not so bad either…

  13. This is a blow. Lulu was looking like a good option for when 6d6 Fireball starts producing adventures.

    But I can’t see them keeping such ridiculous prices that have no relation to the actual cost. We ship 28mm miniatures around the world and out costs are much lower.

  14. Oh, for those following along I think this is the forum thread kelvin is referring to.

  15. I don’t think the claim in that thread that the problem is just with hardbacks is accurate. On the Lulu forums people have reported problems with CDs, calendars, and paperbacks too.

    It looks like the “economy” pricing has helped some markets but not others, depending on what country you’re in.

  16. Someone brought up the company Quality POD over at this thread at theRPGsite…

  17. Someone brought up the company Quality POD over at this thread at theRPGsite…

  18. I’m wondering if Amazon gets some kind of volume discount for shipping in the US, because whenever I go to ship something via UPS or USPS, the price is usually around 20-50% more than a comparable Amazon rate.

    That still doesn’t excuse Lulu but I also don’t think comparing them to a huge volume place like Amazon is a good comparison. What are the shipping prices on other POD sites?

  19. Found a handy listing of several POD presses.

    There are a lot out there, looks like it is a matter of what fits you the best.

  20. Also

    I am considering starting my own POD service, but it is still a mere twinkle in my eye at this point.

  21. And lastly, a good overview of the POD market in general – with a skeptical eye.

  22. Thanks for the POD information.

  23. I’ve never understood the reasons behind companies committing suicide like this. At this point, even if Lulu fixes their insane prices, in a better way than a ‘maybe it will get there’ sort of economy service, they will never have customer confidence again. Nothing will be Lulu exclusive with this kind of mark on their history.

    Way to screw it up, guys.

  24. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Roost Master’s Web Roundup Stuffed Thanksgiving Edition

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