Self-publishing: Who’s watching the store?

Growing up, we went to my aunt’s house for every holiday dinner. She loved hosting and every holiday was the same. Great food, gentle jibes, funny reminiscences and invariably my uncle would wait for the inevitable lull in the conversation.

Then here it would come. “Ramblers are the best car ever made.”

There it was. Every holiday dinner. I believe the last Rambler rolled off the assembly-line in 1969 so chances are pretty good that you have never even heard of the Rambler. It had its heyday. There was a time when only Ford and Chevrolet were more popular.

Today, when I think about holidays, I think of Ramblers. They are charming memories right up there with the 8-track player in my first car or the curb feelers my friend’s dad put on her car when she went off to college. Yes, she was humiliated but dad was helping pay her tuition.

It has mystified me for quite some time that writers find it so difficult to consider an alternative to Createspace for their publishing needs. It would be like talking about a Rambler when everyone is driving a Prius or a Tesla.

Yes, there was a time when the Rambler was cutting edge. And, there was a time when Createspace was the only game in town.

Today—just today–I had a conversation with a writer about the advantages of publishing books through Lulu when I finally understood the confusion. It’s about the store.

As consumers and producers, we can’t see the store for the publisher.

…we can’t see the store for the publisher.

Traditionally, if you wrote a book, you sent the typewritten pages to a very large company where someone decided whether your words would ever see the light of day. Oh, a typewriter was a machine that was just a keyboard that printed characters directly onto paper. And, you used these little bottles of white paint to correct mistakes.

There were a limited number of publishing companies and they could only create a limited number of titles. The vast majority were discarded and hearts were broken.

That’s not to say they were bad books. Partly, there was a limit to how many books editors had time to read and were willing to take a chance on publishing.

I worked for a very, very, very brief time for a major bookstore. I was mortified that there was a special dumpster out back where, every single day, it was our job to dump books that weren’t selling. It would cost too much to even sell them on eBay. Obviously, traditional publishing has its issues.

The old-fashioned solution was vanity publishing. A writer—any writer–could pay a vanity publisher to print books. Yes, they paid to have their words published. Vanity publishing was very popular with family histories. If you wanted to print out 17 copies of your family’s genealogy, you could do that.

You paid. You paid to have them printed. You paid to have them shipped to you. Then, you schlepped the books to the family reunion and handed them out or, again, paid to have them shipped to Uncle Bob and Aunt Margie.

You can still pay to have your books printed. It’s a charming method, kind of like the Rambler sitting in my uncle’s driveway.

Paying to print still exists. You can actually pay to print through Createspace and even Lulu. You can hire someone to do the layout. You can hire someone to create a cover. You can hire someone to edit.

But, you don’t need to. And, you shouldn’t have to.

I predict that, as time passes, we will see fewer and fewer people paying for publishing. It’s a dying tradition. You will even see fewer instances of writers paying for layout services.

Right now we are in a mystifying time. It is overwhelming to many writers attempting to get their words into reader’s hands.

Part of the issue will solve itself. Part of the issue is age. (Let me just mention here that I am 59 years old, as of this writing.)

I used to be a software trainer. There was a time when I could literally not remember the last time I saw anyone under the age of 30 show up for a computer class. Even the youngest thirty-somethings already knew most of what was covered. Sometimes they would actually tell me they were only there to give moral support to someone who was really intimidated by Microsoft Word. Someone older.

The world had changed. You couldn’t give away a manual typewriter. Everyone was growing up with the opportunity to learn ever more sophisticated uses for computers and learning to do amazing things easier and faster than we expected.

Enter Amazon.

Where is the store?

If you knew the basic Styles process, you were lightyears ahead. Suddenly, you could create and sell your own books and it cost you nothing. In fact, you got paid just for doing it.

That’s where the confusion first arose. Where was the store? The store was inside your computer.

But, where?

Amazon is not a publisher. Nor are they a printer.

Amazon sells books. That’s are a store. They sell things. They don’t produce things. They sell things. There are a number of stores. Just like any store, they sell products from various producers.

They do own Createspace. But, they carry books from a myriad of both traditional and self-publishing sources.

Where is the printer?

The printer is not the store. But, the printer can sell books.

The printer is Createspace or Lulu or a handful of others. I just Googled “Self-publishing.” The top four hits were paid advertisements for companied that will print anything you want—if you pay them enough money. The first unpaid entry is the Wikipedia definition of self-publishing.

Lulu is the top hit for any self-publishing company. So why do so many writers not know that?

It’s a dizzying world and it moves fast. So, let me help you understand it.

Lulu prints books. You pay nothing. You earn royalties when readers buy your books. They assign a free ISBN. It is a legitimate ISBN required by brick-and-mortar and other stores and libraries.

Createspace prints books. You pay nothing. You earn (lower) royalties when readers buy your books. They assign a free ISBN. It is a legitimate ISBN required by brick-and-mortar and other stores and libraries.

Then there are the printers who, for a fee, will print books. Royalties? It’s all a little foggy.

Again, where is the store?

Createspace is a store. Createspace sells books, film and music directly from the artists to the public. Go to http://tinyurl.com/BuyCreatespace and you can chose from 518,980 books, 2,730 videos or 1,385 works of music. Createspace has existed since 2007 and actually dates back to a conglomeration of companies dating back to 2002. That’s almost 15 years. And you didn’t know? Yes, they are a printer. But, they are also a direct-to-the-public store. But don’t worry about that for now.

Amazon is a store. Amazon owns Createspace. You can buy Createspace books, videos and music through Amazon. Or, you can buy from Createspace.

Think of Amazon like this. Walmart is a store. But, Walmart is also Sam’s Club. They are just different flavors of the same company. Amazon is a store and so is Amazon’s Createspace.

Barnes & Noble is a store. They may publish your book, if you send it to them in the right format and leap nimbly over hurdle after hurdle. You have to buy your own ISBN number. According to their website, you will be competing with 100,000 submissions annually just to be considered. B&N prefers that you sell your book to them through a wholesaler. “Wholesalers normally expect a 50-55% discount, pay in 60-90 days, and expect books to be returnable. Some expect free freight.” But, primarily, B&N is a store.

Lulu is a store. We already said that Lulu is a printer. But, they also sell books. You can go to Lulu.com and buy books. Since, they are a printer, as well, they also offer volume discounts.

And, Lulu distributes their books to—Amazon. And, Barnes & Noble. And, more.

So what does this all mean to a writer?

As a writer and a self-publishing guru, I recommend printing through Lulu and distributing, from there, to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, in addition to Lulu. And more.

Lulu offers free print and eBook distribution options that will get your book into the global marketplace. This network reaches online print book retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and retailers in the Ingram catalog network. Lulu also provides eBooks distribution (English content only) for Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, and all online eBooks distributors associated with the Ingram network.

There really is no competition. Literally.

Lulu is your best self-publishing option precisely because it is  not in competition with that list of distribution sites.

Lulu charges you nothing to print your book.

Lulu distributes your books to the stores.

Lulu is not an alternative to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Lulu is a supplier to them (and more) and actually offer you a better chance of getting into B&N and Ingram than if you submit your manuscript directly to them.

So…what was your question again?

The answer is Lulu.

#thinkfastwritefast

P.S. Your blog host, Judy Rosella Edwards, is likely to appear as a top hit if you Google “Self-publishing.” See below.

imIt

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5 thoughts on “Self-publishing: Who’s watching the store?

  1. Growing up, my family had a couple of Ramblers. I remember clearly the lack of seat belts and the hard metal dash us kids would slam into as Mom panic stopped, searching for a fallen lit cigarette rolling around on the flammable floor carpet. Those where the days (and the cars)!

    Thanks again for all the input on the various POD outlets, been most helpful in trying to pin one down and get the book going. Reading up on LuLu currently.

    Scott.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Learn to Self-Publish Like a Pro | Think::Fast::Write::Fast

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