Friday, June 27, 2014

Update: How Lulu Distributes Your eBook - on a Lag

Something funny with Lulu - why the delay in distribution?

Lulu delays distribution of ebooks as an aggregator - are they worth your royalties?
(Photo: RainbowCave)

Lulu has now started e-mailing when they actually ship your book to the main distributors (iTunes, Nook, Amazon, Kobo.) Nice. But why does it take so long?
"Congratulations!  Your eBook, “[book name goes here]”, meets all retail distribution requirements and we have forwarded it to the retail distributors you selected. 
"...  Important Note: Generally, once your book passes the Lulu Review process, it will be available to purchase on retailer sites in 2-4 weeks. Retailers update their online catalogs at intervals determined solely by the retailers. Lulu cannot provide a release schedule nor can we influence the timing of your eBook’s availability on other retail sites."
On the other hand, given a direct upload to iTunes and Nook, your ebook goes live in 24 hours. Amazon and Nook have a similar lag.

But it's not 2-3 weeks on top of whatever delay (in weeks) that Lulu takes to process your book through their own filters. (In this case, I had to remove the term "Smashwords" and any link to it.)

Now, with my MAC, I send directly to iTunes (and anywhere else) without any delay such as this.

Meanwhile, I don't have to pay an aggegrator 10% of my royalties with all the delays.

The Lulu interface is also limiting - only 1,000 characters to market your book (while the rest are somewhere between 4-5,000 characters) and only a miserable few categories to prove your place in their "related" algorithms. Google Play, iTunes and Nook use true BISAC categories. Amazon and Kobo have their own versions of this, as does Leanpub (who is even more limited than Lulu.)

Note that Smashwords is on a similar footing - limited characters and categories. As well, they have month-long delays in shipping your book to distributors. Meanwhile, they take around 15% of your income.

The question then becomes: Are aggregators worth it?

In all cases, they charge for their services. The best of the best (lowest cost and best distribution) are Lulu and Smashwords. The rest are much higher priced and can be, quite frankly, "rip-offs."

What do you gain by using an aggregator?

Time = money.

The independent writer, who is posting his own work, this is probably a good deal. And the reason I stick with Lulu is as this enables the indie author to get their books published as print-on-demand (POD). And having printed books up with ebooks make both sell better.

The platform this provides gives the freedom and time to just keep writing. And writing is what brings in income for any author - not spending time at anything else (including marketing.)

Spending time publishing isn't in the best interest of the indie writer - who wants to make a living from publishing their own works.

BUT - the indie publisher sees things differently.

The depth of any backbench is the predictor of income.

The more books you publish, the higher income you can earn.

It's all dependent on the value you offer and deliver. The indie publisher is constantly looking for more authors with books which people want. Finding existing market niches and servicing these with valuable materials (books, videos, podcasts, whitepapers, manifestos, etc.) is the core business plan for such.

Profit runs business decisions. Speed of execution, time to market - these result in more profit.
Having to wait a month or two to get a product to market (and having no control over when such a product actually arrives) could mean missing relatively short buying seasons such as Christmas, Black Friday, and Halloween. Or longer buying seasons such as spring (gardening) and summer (vacations).

Books have seasonal buying patterns. These can be discovered and strengthened with promotion to increase sales and lengthen their sales duration.

This means that a self-publishing home-business is better to invest the extra time in simply publishing their books (and materials) directly. The offset in time used to directly publish is paid back in almost precise control of delivery and sales.

As well, the added analytics each individual distributor gives can allow you to tailor-make your promotion campaigns to fit those which result in greater sales. For instance, I have multiple PLR books which sell better on Google Play than elsewhere - as they are keyword-relevant to Internet Marketing niche. Certain public domain fiction authors do better on iTunes than elsewhere. iTunes also has certain extras such as discount coupons and pre-sales which could be a targeted campaign that would raise a single book or series by high-selling authors - and so raise more sales of related books.

Another point is where a book comes out which has recently been made into a movie. "12 Years a Slave" was originally a public domain book which started selling better once that movie came out. The Koran also started selling better after 9/11 (as a morbid example.) Current news discussions of Doye's "Sherlock Holmes" series now being in the public domain - as well as the multiple Sherlock Holmes movies that have been created over the last few years - would then prompt more sales (especially if these were linked with promotion pointing to the sites where your versions of these public domain books can be purchased.

A site with PLR and PD books on gardening, which was launched in late December, then promoted in January and February could get more traction. A collection of Gothic tales published and promoted in time for Halloween could bring sizable profits. Then a re-launch each season would spike sales again annually.


  1. The indie author, with just their own brand, should use Lulu to carry their water. This frees them to get back to writing their next book.
  2. The indie publisher should always do their own aggregation, as the savings and profit potential are much greater. This frees them to find more market-niches and publish books people will buy. How to publish from home - "Publish. Profit. Independence." is now live on Leanpub and available for purchase. Get Your Copy Today!

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