(This is the third of four excerpts from Jonathan R. Husband’s short story of his publishing experience as a first-time indie author. It was written for the benefit of other BAIPA authors. In BAIPA, he is known as John Cammidge. — Linda Jay, BAIPA blog editor)
As my second round of editing took place with Lulu.com, I diverted my attention to website design and web hosting. Although Lulu.com offered a basic web product I reached out to a specialist author website design company. It took them a little over a month to create my site at www.jonathanhusband.com. My son who is a cameraman produced a video of me and I established a blog and links to Facebook and Twitter. I confess that this is all new to me. However the professionals that I came in to contact with stressed the importance of establishing an author website.
I found the second round of editing with Lulu to be very helpful. I had made changes to the text since my first edit and this process ensured consistency in the final text. For some reason the editing process was delayed over the year-end holidays and it was not until mid-January that the process was completed. I was then moved to the production process where I worked with the Lulu Services design team. My Fulfillment Services Coordinator was to work directly with me to ensure that the book went through the design process as smoothly and cohesively as possible. At each stage my Project ID number was passed on to the new team.
This part of the process generally proceeded well. I was able to review cover design and the internal galley and make changes and corrections. All changes were accepted and I was soon ready to approve my files for printing and e-publishing. Because the Lulu e-book format is not compatible with Kindle I asked a colleague at BAIPA to help me establish a Kindle edition. She did so very quickly with the result that as I write this short story I am selling significantly more reader copies through Kindle than through the Lulu Bookstore. Two noteworthy events occurred during this part of the production process.
The first concerned the pricing of the printed book. It turned out that Lulu’s printing costs for my book and the mark up for retail purposes would make my novel relatively expensive compared to other novels of similar length. I visited several bookstores to confirm my suspicion. It turned out however that the Lulu printing formula was fixed and other than by reducing the number of pages, no change in the wholesale price was possible. This left little revenue opportunity for me although the 80:20 split used by Lulu allowed most of the royalties to come to me. There was also a significant royalty margin for books purchased directly from Lulu. I mention this situation since it is important to would-be authors. Information about pricing is available on the Lulu website but it seems many authors are like me and carry out insufficient research on pricing before buying a self-publishing package.
The other matter concerned printing the price of the book on the novel. Most other books I have read seem to follow the practice of including the price on the book cover. However I was told that because I had already signed off on the cover design I would have to pay extra to add this information. My argument was that pricing could only be finalized once galley size was known and approved. In Lulu’s own process this occurred after cover design approval. After further consideration Lulu decided to waive the additional fee and make the additions. My compliments to Lulu for this decision. As I said earlier, it is important to have a real human being connected to you throughout the publishing process; but you also need to project manage every aspect of the process.
My final delay occurred in mid-February. I happened to be sitting in a hotel in Sydney, Australia. On my lap top I had the final copy that was going to print. And then I saw it!! The typo of all typos. It wasn’t in the text; it was on one of the interior images. And it was entirely my fault. At first I thought I could ignore it and no one would notice. But by the time I arrived home in California the typo was all I could think about. So my very last act before publishing – and for a small fee – was to have this page corrected. I had to make the changes to the original image which once again involved me in understanding spatial printing and dots per inch (dpi). Fortunately Lulu was able to provide me with its Graphic Preparation Instruction booklet that transformed me into an expert!!
At about the same time I made one last discovery. My design work with Lulu.com had in fact been performed by employees of Author Solutions, LLC. Apparently Author Solutions has been contracted to fulfill design services for Lulu. My contact suggested that this arrangement should not be considered as outsourcing because she believed Lulu had always contracted with other companies to fulfill design services. Again, I suggest that early-on disclosure is preferred over late-in-the-process surprises. Lulu apparently aims to offer much more than many self-publishing companies; more trim sizes, binding options, and especially its DIY program. At the same time I read that Lulu has also partnered with Author Solutions to provide marketing and multimedia services. I received a call recommending I purchase four marketing products – Lulu’s Premium Global Campaign, its Social Media Publicity Campaign, its Kirkus Review, and it’s “Hollywood Treatment”. The total cost quoted was approximately $28,000. All were declined.
Fortunately or unfortunately I have hired a specialist publicity firm to assist me with publicity and marketing at a much more modest fee. I am yet to see how it performs. If only I could trust the many firms that now occupy the self-publishing space to be honest and up-front about all aspects of their services, and to help unsuspecting authors like me make the best decision, rather than the one that blindly adds revenue to the publisher’s balance sheet.
But my confession. I doubt that I would have made a different decision had I known then what I now know. The one firm that I might examine more carefully is IngramSpark. It has been developing its business model during the past few months and increasing the flexibility of its services. Its focus appears more on printing and distribution and less on book design and development. But the latter requirements can be sourced elsewhere. I also hear that some of its technology may not be user friendly, and it may be less responsive with human contact than some other firms. But it continues to work on improvements. Other firms also continue to develop and improve their services. Any new author should consider all options open to them and make the decision that is right for them and which reflects the nature of their book and its likely audience.
I now sit poised to see whether An Unplanned Encounter will sell or not.