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I would like to share with all of you my experience of an online marketplace that functions a bit like e-bay, except that you actually sell your own work ! So you no longer have to search in your attic for old things to sell, but search instead in your imagination or hard drive for stories to tell, calendars, photobooks to create or songs to sing.
SO WHAT IS LULU?
No, it's not just the name of the famous uk artist who sings 'the locomotion', it's the only place on the web where you can publish, sell and buy any and all things digital - books, music, comics, photographs, calendars, films, and even the latest addition, photobooks. So you can write a book about your childhood or publish your diary, create a 2007 calendar with photos of your dog or your baby growing each month, themed photobooks of your romantic escapes. You can also turn your love songs into a cd and your digital videos into a dvd. It seems that books are the most popular thing there at the moment though. The most amazing thing is that it is free to upload your content and sell it: if you want to buy your own copy then you just have to pay the production costs which are minimal (often less than 10 pounds depending on the size or format of the book). If someone else buys your work, then you keep 80% of the revenue you set for yourself and 20% go to Lulu (no, not the singer...) In other words, the company only makes money if you do.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
So far I have only produced one book (my student dissertation) but the way it works is very simple: you sign up by giving just your email address and providing a password, then your account is automatically created. Once you have an account, you can upload your digital files (word documents, music files, photos, etc...) onto their system which then converts them into a press-ready PDF. You then choose the format, size and cover of your book, they have a wide range of sizes and you can even turn it into a hardback if you want to. The company then works with professional printers based either in the US or in Europe ( depending on where you live) which are in charge of turning your files into a real book, cd, dvd, calendar, photobook, whichever you wanted to create. They print on demand, which means that they only produce the copies that are bought.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Lulu is not a publisher or a bookstore. You are your own publisher and decide for what you want to write, what you want to sell, and when you want to sell it. Those who use Lulu keep complete control of their works, they have the choice of everything, the price they want to sell it for, the way the cover will look. Your product will look exactly the way you intend it to be, and no one interferes with its appearance or content. Of course, that means you are responsible for checking spelling errors, typos, etc.. .as no one will be doing the proof-reading for you. You are also free to save your work on the site for as long as you want. In fact, just like this ciao review, you are free to keep revising your draft before you decide to make it available online.
What I love about the Lulu concept is that it gives anyone a chance to write a book, for example, and tell their story: whether you are a professional writer, an academic, a gardener, a footballer, a stamp collector does not really matter. You can even publish your personal diary if you want and make your work 'available to you only', so there is no obligation to sell it to the world. But if you do want to try and sell it, not only will your friends and family be given the opportunity to purchase your creation but also anyone who is searching for the subject you are treating in your work. So this is potentially good for niche interests, if you have a passion for 'trees' and write a book about trees, another person in the world with the same interest is likely to search and find your book. As a result, you will find all sorts of unusual books. Admittedly, not everything is a work of art, but everything is original, and most importantly everything is the author's creation.
Another great thing is the fact that you can exchange ideas with other 'creators' on the site if you want to through their forums. I have noticed that they are now even available not only for UK authors but also in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Dutch, each country having its own forum in its own language. So it is really a multilingual community. Being French myself, I noticed that the web site is also available in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Spanish and Dutch, although each version is still being improved it seems. In the forums, people can promote their books to others if they want to or just ask for advice on the publishing process to other more experienced users of the website. If you are into blogging, each country has its own blog and you can also have your own blog in your account and a storefront which tells people more about your work. So it can be as interactive as you want it to be, really. If you prefer to just write your book for yourself, that is fine too, there is no obligation to take part in the forums. It's just nice to know that they are there if you need them.
I am really impressed by their customer service. If you have a problem, technical or otherwise, they have great 'Live Help' which functions like an internet chat in which you explain what your problem is. They were very patient dealing with me one day; I am not a very technical or computer savvy person but I have had no big problem and find the site very easy to use and navigate.
MORE ON MY EXPERIENCE....
I discovered Lulu as I was a poor student needing to bind my 300 page-long academic thesis and feeling lazy to take it to the high street. I was looking for a way to do it online because it would have been too much hassle to carry the 300 pages to the binder's (and I needed 3 copies), especially as I ran the risk of damaging or creasing them on the way. I noticed that it was actually cheaper for me to get the thing bound on Lulu rather than taking it to a traditional binder, I was paying 11 pounds only for the production cost (including postage) when taking it to the binder's would have cost 18 £ and a lot of time queueing and waiting for it to be ready. On Lulu I even designed a nice cover which is really like a book cover with my photo and a summary of my thesis at the back!! It only took a couple of weeks for the thing to be printed and delivered on my doorstep and it looks really good! I saved on ink, paper, time, energy and money and the final result was truly impressive. I really recommend this service to students, writers, really to anyone who wants to give life to their work.
I think the nicest feeling is to order a book that is actually your own, not only with your name on the cover but also unaltered by other hands. And it is a proper book. It may not be perfect, but it is yours, and in your eyes "your baby" is always the most beautiful. Actually Lulu gives you the possibility to keep this "baby " just for yourself, or to share it with like-minded people and make some money in the process!
That's how I understand it at present, anyway - I've written and asked them for further clarification... Cheers Sweary
Sweary 06.04.2008 17:02
It sounds brilliant but I am currently finding it's more complicated than it seems! I'm investigating the possibility of using them to publish a children's book. I wanted to buy some to sell here but also set up a LuLu marketplace page and sell it there. Any royalties accrued from any US buyers in my lulu shop or for example on Amazon.com if I use one of their ISBN packages is withheld until the end of the tax year. You have to fill in a form and send it to the IRS along with your passport or a copy signed by a solicitor as genuine - to prove you are a foreign national and then possibly your tax return. They then give you a number and you have to fill in another form and send that - with the number - to LuLu. Then I think you get the payment but as I understand it (and it's taken me the whole day to work it out) you have to do the same thing every year at whenever it is the American tax year ends. If you don't do this they take 30% in tax but what I haven't managed to work out is whether or not the are able to send you the outstanding 70% at the end of their tax year, anyway or whether, without the form, they are able to pay you nothing. All a massive kerfuffule unless you have the next Harry Potter book up your sleeve. Cheers Sweary