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.