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November 23, 2009

When I first published Morningstar, I used lulu.com. It was a 90 page novelette that I had to sell for $12 just to make a decent profit from Lulu itself. I made almost nothing through Amazon sales because the profit return there was pathetic. Through the sales of ebooks and lulu.com marketplace, I was able to break even.

Upon the decision to go the same route with Rachmaninoff and publish it ourselves, I went back to lulu.com. By the time Kris and I complete the epilogue piece to Rachmaninoff and the edits to the manuscript, it should come in — with title/copyright/dedication/blank pages — 160 pages, which seems to be right on par with most m/m romance novels now published.

With lulu.com, the base printing cost Lulu will charge me for Rachmaninoff will be $7.70 per book. I planned on ordering 50 books myself to sell direct through our website, which drops the price per those 50 books down to $7.00. Now, these books tend to retail for about $6.99-$8.99, and this pricing would be fine on our website (though we’d hardly make any money off of them).

The problem comes with selling through lulu.com or Amazon. Let’s put aside the insane shipping costs, hmm? The way the market works is that if you sell a book on lulu.com for $7.99, you must also sell it on Amazon for $7.99. This is, however, impossible. Absolutely impossible. With retail sales, there comes the retail mark-up/retail discount and the like. Even marking only $1.00 in royalties? The price is forced — across the board — to be $15.26. Who in their right mind would be over $15.00 for a freaking 160 page novel?

It’s simply insane.

Let’s not add the personal costs, because I want to own my own ISBNs and not use Lulu’s, which forces me to pay lulu.com another $75. This is in addition to the costs I’ve already incurred as an independent author, mind you.

This is why lulu.com is not the way. It’s absolutely not the way to go. Not if you want your books to sell. In this economy, people aren’t looking to blow their fun money on one, single book. They want to get as much bang for the money as they can. In order to keep the cost of books down, while still maintaining a profit, it’s time we cut out the middleman.

Lightning Source is the printer lulu.com uses, so why not remove lulu.com and go to LSI itself? You will have to educate yourself on interior book layout to their specifications (but there are resources for that). You will have to educate yourself on book covers (but there are resources for that). You will have to educate yourself, and there are resources to do so. By removing lulu.com as the middleman, Rachmaninoff goes from costing me over $7.00 just to print down to $3.30.

That, my friends, is a significant change in costs.

It means I can sell Rachmaninoff for $6.99 in print and still make money off it. (I say ‘in print’ because I intend to offer various e-book formats for the novel that will be cheaper.)

Of course, there are other start-up costs for this venture (the block of ISBNs, the barcodes, the set-up fees, the distribution enrollment, SAN set-up, and the like), but in the end? It will be worth it.

Instead of handing lulu.com their mark-up, I’ll pocket that money for my hard work, thank you. The key is not to approach this as an art. Yes, my writing is art. It’s my passion. I think I’d go crazy if I couldn’t do it. But this is business. I want to be paid for the writing I do, and that makes it an amalgamation of business and art that too few people recognize, I think. It’s a job, and it’s no less job for me simply because I choose to turn my back on the traditional publishing route.

We will be going with LSI directly. All we need is a printer, not another big company that want money for doing very little while we do so very much.

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