Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lulu vs. CreateSpace

I'm not sure how badly I really want to shill for POD publishing service Lulu yet since my relationship with it only just began, but I am willing to go ahead and say that my initial experience with it has been reasonably easy, user friendly and efficient...whereas my experience with POD service CreateSpace FREAKIN' SUCKED! 

Just yesterday, in a matter of a few minutes (or certainly less than an hour), I uploaded to Lulu and made available for sale a print edition omnibus (a word I am always looking for an excuse to say) of M-Branes #1 and #2. There's very little learning curve involved in understanding their interface, it walks you step-by-step through their process, and (best part) they let you download your document and look at it right then and there after it has been made "print-ready" for their system. If all is well with it, publication by way of one's virtual "storefront" is immediate. They also accommodate pretty much any page size including the normal, every-day letter-size pages of M-Brane.

Contrast this with CreateSpace: First problem was my page size.  I uploaded my zine to them and then waited one business day for a reply by email. Which took at least three days because my first attempt with them was on a Friday a few weeks back when I was putting out #1. The email reply I received was a lengthy litany of little problems with my document formatting, but the biggie was that my 8 1/2 x 11 pages were too big. Biggest page size is 8 x 10 with them. I can't believe I didn't just stop there, but I pressed on because it appeared that they would be slightly cheaper for my theoretical print readers to purchase from than Lulu.  I sat here and painstakingly reformatted the whole goddamned M-Brane #1 to slightly shrink the page dimensions. And that was just for the interior contents. The cover was a complete other fiasco.  Each upload of my repaired documents required another "one business day" for a reply, until finally, blessed holy day, they sent me an email approving my files and informing me that I am now ready to publish on CreateSpace...AFTER I purchase from them a "proof copy" for about $8.00 plus about $6.00 shipping...and WAIT up to three weeks to receive it. Then I gave up on CreateSpace.  It'll be a cold day in hell, apes will rule the earth, and squid will swing from the trees before I purchase a "proof" copy of my own zine unless I am turning around and selling it right away, and I'm not going to wait that long for it to show up either. Not in the age of the interweb and its series of tubes.

One glitch that Lulu shares with that other company is the apparent impossibility of printing stuff on the inside cover.  It makes the process a bit incompatible with how zines are often laid out. I don't think they anticipated anyone wanting to use this service for magazines. But I am satisfied with my Lulu experiment so far. One reason I gave it another look was because I follow Wil Wheaton on Twitter and on his blog and he is always talking about how great his new book, self-published via Lulu, is doing.

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April L. Hamilton said...

Christopher -
You might want to take a look at my blog post, "Lulu vs. CreateSpace: Which Is More Economical For The POD Author", here:

Long story short, while Lulu is the clear winner where author services and customer service are concerned, CreateSpace has them beat far and away in per-copy production costs. You'll pay more than twice as much in per-copy production costs with Lulu than you'll pay with CreateSpace---the math is all laid out in my post. A CS book of mine that's priced for retail sale at $14 still earns me $3 per copy sold in royalties, but if I'd published the same exact book through Lulu I'd have to price it for retail sale at $20 just to earn a $1 royalty per copy sold. This is because my per-copy production cost is only $5 per copy at CS, and over $11 per copy at Lulu.

If Lulu's higher per-copy production costs force you to price your Lulu book higher than a comparable mainstream book, I think that should be a deal-breaker because your Lulu book will be hard to sell.

Christopher Fletcher said...

I'll check out your post on that and review the numbers...I did find the production cost on a shorter thing (like one issue of my mag) lower at CreateSpace but it also seemed like CreateSpace made me set a higher-than-necessary sale price which kind of made it all about the same in the end. Thanks for the info, and I'll look back into it.

April L. Hamilton said...

Hmmm, not sure what you mean, since CS doesn't require you to set any specific retail sales price---other than the minimum required to cover production costs. But I've never done magazines with them, only books; maybe magazines are different.

Christopher Fletcher said...

I'll check it out again--I still have a project sitting there with them that I can go back into...I remember not being allowed to go as low as I would have liked to with the price...the difference between to the two services for my thing seemed to be mostly a difference in the POD service's commission or share or whatever they call it (more at CS than Lulu, though Lulu's production charge was higher). In each case it ended up being that I had to go with a price of about $8.50 regardless what each company called their costs. But with Lulu, I didn't have to devise a whole new page format for my zine. I read your post about it, and you're certainly right to favor CS since there was such a huge difference in your price per copy (and I would never consider paying Lulu that kind of money for their extra services). I bet if I were doing something with a much higher page count (or in a trade or mass paperback format) then I would probably come to the same decision you did, since production cost with Lulu does seem to increase steadily with page count.

Anonymous said...

Lulu has not given me anything but satisfaction.
If M-BRANE is offered as a two-in-one issue through Lulu, we will be able to offer purchases of this zine as a convenient link on our own web sites, at a reasonable price. I do that with my books, with satisfying results.

Christopher Fletcher said...

I'll keep that in mind, John. The plan right now is that #3 is going to become available there at the same time as the normal PDF edition goes out. Then I am probably going to fix the file conversion problems that I ran into with #1 and #2 (now that I know how) and then put together the fabled, long-promised "omnibus" edition for sale on there. It might actually be all THREE of the first issues under one cover depending on what that does to its base cost. This mega-issue, however, probably won't be ready by 4/1 because I have lot of fixing to do to the #1 and #2 files and probably won't get to that until I am done with #3 but before I've gotten too deep into #4. I'll keep everyone updated on it as it happens.

Bruce N. said...

I respectfully have to disagree - I uploaded the same identical PDF to Lulu and Create Space, and Lulu JUMBLED the text SO BADLY it was impossible to even proof, let alone publish.

OTOH, Create Space got it right the VERY first time, and are my choice.


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