Lulu Lens: How can we help readers better find your book?

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing how to get your book into broader distribution, and once it’s there what can be done to help it stand out. Now, we want your feedback on how Lulu can help bring readers to you?

Currently, approximately 90% of our traffic on Lulu is self-published authors. This means we have a lot of people interested in publishing, but very few people browsing for books. Most of the time, people purchase books via direct links to the author’s book. We want to try to come up with ways to help readers find the Lulu books they would be interested in, but may not even know about yet. We certainly have some ideas on how to accomplish this with more focus on selling on our homepage, helping quality content bubble to the top, and recommendations, but we want to hear from you. What can Lulu do to help readers find the Lulu books they want?

43 thoughts on “Lulu Lens: How can we help readers better find your book?”

  1. For many months on the forums I have been suggesting that lulu should spend as much effort promoting the Storefront section as they do promoting the self-publishing section. Many people did not see the point (!), but then later many more agreed and after all, a sale for us is a sale for lulu too and vice versa. I am sure some of the media on here may be rubbish, but the same can be said for any media, but a lot of the good stuff is published by people who do not have a clue how to market it, but lulu know how to.
    There may not be as many books on lulu as there are on Amazon for example, but there must be millions of them for sale here by now. Amazon spends a lot in time and money marketing their site as a place to buy media from, but lulu spend nothing doing the same about media on the Storefronts. So, market the lulu storefront Home page, but also make the storefront search engine read further than the first word!
    The storefront editor could do with updating also. It is very minimalistic.

  2. I never thought of it that way but Kevin is right. If you look at the Lulu website and compare it to Amazon or Chapters, there is a huge difference. The bookstore sites are designed to sell right from the top down whereas Lulu is primarily set up for publishers. You have to click on one small Buy link or scroll down to buy. It’s not a site priority, or at least doesn’t appear to be.
    It’s probably a natural progression for Lulu. They offer a great service and needed people to write so that was the site’s emphasis. Now that they have a lot of books to sell, perhaps it’s time to change the site’s emphasis a little.
    How about becoming a reseller of reading items like ebook readers (bebook just for example) and other things that people use while reading such as reading lamps, candles to read by, etc…just spit balling here.
    The biggest thing may be to have a Lulu Rewards program and offer gift cards.

  3. I agree with Kevin. Lulu is brilliant for publishing, but the storefront feels like almost an afterthought. There should be more books on the front page.
    You have a section for “popular sellers” and “staff picks,” which is nice, but what about everyone else? Popular sellers don’t need more face time. I’m sure they love it, but those of us just trying to get started need some cover time as well. How does one even become a staff pick? My book is great, how do I get the staff to read it? You should read my book, Nick. It’s phenomenal. 😀
    Back to the point…
    Why not have a scrolling marquee of some type that scrolls books featuring good ratings from different genres? Which brings us to the rating system. Does it work? …doesn’t seem to. I just did a search of scifi and fantasy and told it to sort by rating (five stars or better) and my first result had 3.5 stars, and I was dumped out of the scifi/fantasy section. Also, when I search for something, I should be able to see the rating next to the book before I click on the title for more details.
    Anytime I click on the Fantasy section I see the exact same books. They’re not in alphabetical order, so what order am I seeing them in? Plus, the “staff picks” and “what’s hot” sections do not reflect the genre I’m looking at, and they should. I know there are A LOT of books out there, and some are clearly better than others, but you are our publisher, and you can help us by making sure our content appears in the right places for those who are looking for it.
    When I click “Horror” I should see a “what’s hot” section that shows me what books are hot in horror, and a “staff picks” section that contains picks from the horror novels on Lulu. If no one at our publisher wants to read our books, we’re in trouble.
    I love you as a publisher, and even if you didn’t have a store front I would keep using you for that purpose, but if you’re going to do a store front, you really need to step up to the plate and clean up the system. Look at Amazon, and look and Barnes and Noble online. Lulu is THE place to go for self publishing, but why not make THE place to go for independent literature as well?
    You can do that by really watching your content, and finding the gems that are there to find. Highlight them, and encourage others to strive for those levels.

  4. Make the following paypal-option possible for purchasing ebooks: ‘Speed through checkout . There’s no need to enter your address details’

  5. It does seem as if the whole focus is on publishing, rather than selling. From the very beginning, you have to “fight” to get to things that are not about publishing. Is there a way to send buyers…immediately to the marketplace, rather than having them sort through all the info about writing and publishing? After the initial decision to browse and buy, users shouldn’t have to keep sorting through the promos about publishing. Those of us who want to publish will pursue that end, but buyers may get discouraged.

  6. John Broadwater

    I agree with all the remarks so far. If it is too costly for Lulu to make all these changes in the near future, there may be other ways to help. Are there other marketing and distribution options that haven’t been suggested?

  7. The problem is that very few people WANT to buy books that were published on Lulu. Unfortunately self-publishing has a bag stigma attached, mostly due to the fact that there is no filter for bad books. Compare that to self-promoted underground / indie musicians who are lauded as heroes to music fans. Before Lulu sinks any cash into promoting the books published through their service they’re going to need to find good books. If they can establish that there is quality in self-publishing, at least if only the ones they pick, then that would be a start.

  8. Bring post and packing charges back to planet earth, that way the few people who do browse Lulu with the intention of buying might actually go through with a purchase instead of abandoning it when they see the postage charge. Lower postage will encourage people to buy and encourage them to tell other people that Lulu is a good place to find unique books on just about every topic under the sun.

  9. I have been talking until I am blue in the face about marketing the books since 2006. Each time I said something, someone replied with some excuse why not or ignored me. I have even offered to host the buy buttons and listings on my site as an alternative.
    The best way you can do more to promote the published books and ebooks is to set up a store front for the books INDEPENDENT of the publishing section, with a full selling and shopping cart for buyers. The publishing arm should occupy a separate front page like the way Amazon and a whole bunch of other sellers do it. You can post links to the publishing arm and invite readers to self-publish, but for god’s sake, people, nobody is going to look at a site which has such huge banners on it. I log in and I feel like that is all Lulu does, and the books seem like just an afterthought. We publish our books to sell online, not just to ship and sell ourselves. Think about it.

  10. I am told by a lulu staff member that the lulu software is ancient. (And it does seem to be the case!) I think that the entire lulu concept goes back to the begining of small BOD machines and the whole lulu affair being run by PCs has just been left to plod on in some shed or other, and suddenly the CEO has looked here and noticed that lulu’s content is gigantic now! Massive! It seems to be only recently that the staff have been poking at the software to make it run better and to update the functions etc.
    Yes, self-publishing is still looked on as Vanity Publishing (and a lot of it is because no one checks to see if it is readable never mind marketable!) So perhaps the media sales part of lulu should be disected from the publishing section? Perhaps not even call it lulu …
    In a way, lulu is like amazon in that it is a retailer of our products even though we set it all up via our storefronts, and retailers make money from what they sell. The providers of the media on amazon, again for example, do not pay them to sell their wares.
    However, what I suggested (and was again shot down) was that lulu perhaps even charge a small monthly subscription instead of it being free or asking for money for ‘extra’ services. I thought perhaps just $3 a month. (Well lulu do boast that millions of people publish here (or have) that is a lot of $3!). For this you get an ISBN etc without having to apply for one. Lulu also then use the money to mass market a new Lulustore (or whatever. Mediastore?) homepage that randomly features the media and of course houses all our storefronts via the normal section links and search (one that works!) Oh and the storefront editors need to be updated. (Have lulu not seen the Booksmart software?) Oh, and some of the money needs to be spent on faster and better problem response. Bring back the very instant Livehelp for a start.
    Granted, BOD is not cheap, but if more products were sold here then lulu could buy their own machines and cut out some of the middlemen, that would make it cheaper at a stroke. They could also arrange a cheaper deal on shipping due to the extra mass sales.

  11. The main page is a little off putting for browsers because it is aimed towards self-publishers. I suggest that you make the website more customer friendly but make self publishing into a different section. You can promote both on the main site but if you make it more customer friendly than it’s not going to be overwhelming to customers.
    Make it so that a browse book section is easy accesible on the main site instead of just buy. Although lulu is a self-publishing site, i feel you would get more attention by catering the first page to the customers and making self publishing its own section. Maybe make it into a tab.
    You’ll start to see a huge difference if you focus on the customer aspect, it will also help self publishers get recognized too 🙂

  12. I agree with everything written here but especially the postage issue. I’ve only just published my book and am currently waiting for my first proofs but even I as a publisher was made to think twice about purchasing due to the ridiculous post and packing charge.

  13. Claude Bouchard

    See what can be done to reduce the ridiculous shpping costs.
    Get something going with Chapters/Indigo here in Canada.
    Other thoughts will follow!!

  14. I’d like to see a break in shipping as well. I understand books are heavy, and thus costly, to ship, but there has to be some way to get that price down. If amazon can do it, Lulu should be able to do something about it as well. Free shipping on orders over a certain price would be a good start. When I’m paying nearly as much for shipping as I am per book, something is a little off.

  15. Change the entire look and purpose of the site to market to buyers. As everyone has said already, this site is geared towards publishers/authors. Changing the landing page to show titles, categories, communities, etc., would make it seem like the place to buy. Also, employ an editor and make a list of “editors picks” or “new finds.” If you can make this site look like the champion of the indie, and to herald the ‘new authors’ you have found, then it would make the site look relevant. As authors and publishers, we will always find you….
    Thanks for all you do!

  16. This is something I have been stressing for YEARS. And I’ve repeated numerous times very simple things Lulu can do.
    1. Offer the ability to generate coupon codes.
    2. Allow authors to set “sale prices” to actually show a sale price.
    3. Gift Certificates
    4. An Opt-in mailing list that authors can use to send promotional offers to customers.
    5. ability to offer a free PDF when a customer buys the print book.
    6. Ability to create product bundles of multiple products, including cross-publisher promotions.
    7. Lower printing costs. Sorry, Lulu will never be my primary printer when they charge twice as much as my other options! If I can’t make a profit, I can’t afford to promote and direct traffic to lulu.

  17. Hi Thomas,
    I believe Sandra has responded to you directly. Please let me know if you need anything else.

  18. There are a lot of fantastic ideas in here everyone, thanks for your feedback! I’m consolidating all of your suggestions and giving it to our product team so they know what our users think.
    Oh, and Heath, I’ll start reading your book soon. I’m sure I’ll love it. 🙂

  19. I too see many dismal stories in the forums about bad print jobs and lulu’s lack of response about them and they are becoming more prolific. The main problem with this is that I would assume that many buyers are customers and not writers buying their own items for whatever reasons.
    What this means is that those customers may be getting bad print-offs and we, the sellers, would not know because they will moan directly to lulu. (Even though stuff is bought from off ‘our’ storefronts, we have no idea who by.)
    So the question is – how do lulu respond to them? If at all? That is very worrying …
    I know that this is a PC controlled BOD system but surely someone should still check the print runs?
    POD has gone ‘mainstream’ now with a machine having been built at the cost of umpteen £millions that prints out 10,000s of newspapers and magazines a minute. I would assume that the machine is full of hi-tech ‘CAM’ gadgets constantly testing the print outs that adjusts, keeps the ink flowing or stops the machine and signals for a human. As I say, BOD/POD is controlled by PCs and we know that PCs work incredibly fast, so why are the BOD machines that lulu farm the jobs out to not fitted with QC devices? Or at the very least someone stood there watching them? The laser printers used for BOD are not so fast that a human cannot see each page as it is printed and an idiot should know that the text in a book should be black and not fading to grey. LOL.
    It surely cannot be good for business when a customer gets a smudged book or with the covers not printed, and then the place you bought it from ignores you or takes months to reply, and when they ever do reply it is often with a – “prove it … ” Sigh.

  20. Oh, BTW, when will Notify (to posting replies) be repaired? It has been broken for weeks.

  21. Back to shipping charges. These charges don’t actually seem to be related to bulk and weight. In fact, I’m not sure how they are calculated. Ebay recently cracked down on sellers who used shipping charges as a way to make more money off their item rather than covering reasonable shipping and handling. I hope that Lulu is not engaged in this sort of thing.
    I would rather have to pay more or have a customer pay more for a book and have more reality-based shipping charges. Have you looked into the USPS Priority Mail flat-rate boxes? I mean, you are shipping books, not fragile chinaware.

  22. Great comments, all. I too, would be greatful for better pricing on shipping.
    Hey Nick, when you are done with Heath’s book, read mine too!!!
    Shared Sentiments Of U.S… =D
    I bet all the authors say things like this to you 🙂

  23. Agreed with many of the points above.
    First, divorce Lulu sales from the self-publishing side of things. Register or something and make it a separate site from the main Lulu. At the bottom of each page, have a tagline like “Want to see your work in print? Click here.”
    A decent database system allowing search by author, keyword, etc. as well as a “People who bought this also bought…” shouldn’t be that hard to arrange.
    Yes, Paypal for quick and easy checkout even when not registered with Lulu.
    Lulu will never be Amazon, but I am sure that it can force better deals with shipping companies than the present outrageous prices. Even though I make far less money from retail than from Lulu sales, I am really embarrassed to recommend that people buy from Lulu, especially to my friends in Japan.
    I was taken aback by Kevin’s suggestion of a small monthly fee, but then I thought again. Yes, why shouldn’t Lulu charge fees? Not to publish (keep that as is), but to stock the books on a well-run, easy-to-navigate Web site that could provide a pleasant browsing experience for potential customers. For most people, a couple of sales per month would take care of the fees.
    Right now, though, shipping costs are what concern me most.

  24. I do not agree with charging people to list. I have already been down that road with people on my site. I have already taken steps to sell the books/ebooks on my site directly with my own buy buttons so I can control my prices and shipping charges. Yes, there is crap on Lulu but the READER determines what is good and what is not, yes? What LULU REALLY SHOULD CONSIDER is to create a different bookselling site to compete with Amazon, since there are already thousands of books published using its BOD engine. It should at least offer a replacement guarantee for defective books. If it does it will shake the bookselling world to its foundations. Pass that on to your team.

  25. Now this might seem a little out there, but here goes. Lulu could have a physical bookstore. How would that work?
    Well. Start with one. Put it in New York in a very visible place.
    There would be zero books in the store, instead, it would look like an internet cafe with all computers and on those computers would be Lulu’s gorgeous new website that sells books and doesn’t say anything about self publishing.
    If the book customer wants a book they can order it and wait for it to come to them in the mail like they would if they bought a book from any other computer.
    Now this would get noticed by the media. 1) Because it’s a bookstore with no books and 2) Because it’s a gigantic self publishing company doing something outside of the box.
    This pilot store could be a one store gimmick or there could be one store in the capitol of every country that speaks English. And for the U.S. it could expand to have a store like this in Chicago, L.A., etc.
    But to start with: one store. Imagine that and what it would do.

  26. The publications that end up for sale the ‘traditional’ way, that is via getting some old type of publisher to take on your work, is checked for the commisioning editor’s idea of what English should be. (But it will not even get that far if your first letter to them is not ‘Good English”.) Then it is proofread etc etc etc. That does not happen with lulu products. The Heaven and Hell of lulu is that anyone can create a book on here. That is what I meant by ‘rubbish’ (No offence but you do know what I mean …) But by rubbish in the shops I mostly meant boring stereotypical, written by numbers, stories. However, if you buy a book from a shop you know the words are spelled right at least, but on lulu you have no idea (except via the Previews, but that does not stop them getting a lulu distpack because lulu do not read them … ) You also know that it will have been printed right. Again via lulu you cannot be sure.
    Sorry, but it is true.
    I cannot see a bricks & morter store working for lulu or us if it carries no stock. People buy from book shops because they like to handle the goods (and many do not like to buy on line.) But having stock goes against the BOD principle.
    Charging a tiny fee to use lulu is no big deal to most users. If they can afford a PC and ISP they can afford a few $s a month also. But that small fee added up should be a huge and handy number for lulu to use to market the Storefront section, and even better if they also create a stand alone online outlet. Perhaps the problem lulu has at the moment is not enough people buy anything from them, apart from proofs perhaps. But if people did pay to use lulu then lulu would have steady and almost predictable money coming in.
    It is interesting after all we have said that all lulu seem to be taking up with is to allow customers to be added to a mailing list. Many people on lulu will now be asking >> “What customers?”
    Lulu really does need to mass market the products we put on here. It only makes sense …

  27. If you’re really going to invest in bricks and mortar (not sure how good this idea is, but…), invest in a couple of Book Espressos.
    For example, Blackwell’s (UK) got an enormous amount of publicity from their installation of a Book Espresso. Lulu should be hooking up with the makers of this revolutionary product, ensuring that all the Lulu catalog (at least the b/w color cover books) is available to every one of these machines, no matter where it is installed in the world.
    A few attractive paper brochures advertising Lulu, special promotions, the concept of independent POD services, etc. scattered around near these outlets would drive up (a) awareness of Lulu’s services and (b) the number of sales direct from Lulu.
    As it is, I was taken aback to receive a $80 quote for shipping for my $20 book (it comes down to $20 if I go economy – but if I didn’t know that option was available, do you think I’d buy the book? Does anyone really pay these prices? No. And they go away with the book unsold. It’s been said before, and it’s being said again now. Lower the cost of getting the book into the customer’s hands. Or give up the idea of selling books, and concentrate solely on production.

  28. What is it ‘they’ say? United we stand … (etc)
    $3, for example as a monthly marketing budget is laughable, but $3 times by, perhaps, 10,000 (lulu subscribers, although there could possibly be far more even if not always ‘active’) is a handy number for the mass-marketing of the LuluStores’ Homepage, be it a new one with a new address or not.
    Actually, ‘store’ is the wrong word and very American in usage. They should be called shops. 🙂

  29. First off, your home page is all about self-publishing and not much about book buying. Making book purchasing for the public in general more prominent would probably help. Or even create a second site that’s really focused on selling books directly to the readers.

  30. I’d also like to be able to offer a more competitive cover price. My 41-page color paperback children’s book is listed at just under $20. I can’t imagine I’ll get many buyers at that price. And I’m only making $1.33 on that myself. I’d like to get it down to at least $15. Under $12 would be better.

  31. Okay, anyone can self-publish. This means there are a lot of bad and mediocre books in here. I don’t know, maybe mine is one and I don’t realize it. Off the point though… What if authors who really want to sell can request somebody at lulu review their book. The lulu reviewer can look at it and if they feel that it’s a good book, they can give it a “Lulu best pick” designation or something like that. Those that don’t pass don’t get marked in any way as failing, but just don’t get singled-out as special. Then Lulu can focus on promoting these “lulu picks” and the others just get the normal listing that everyone gets. Yeah, it would disappoint an author not to get picked if he applies, but making it an opt-in would help in that it’s not an unsolicited rejection, at least. Or perhaps the Lulu community could review the book and you have to have so many votes to get designated as a Lulu pick. Something like that to help weed out the good books from the rest.

  32. Re: Real, Physical Lulu bookstore
    I heard recently about a bookstore or a coffee shop or something where they would print out a copy of a book right there for you. They were, if I recall, all public-domain things, so they could do it without asking permission from any authors.
    Anyway, you could partner with a coffee shop or something like Starbucks and allow Lulu authors to allow “Quick Copies” of their books to be printed at these places. They would be limited in format and colors, I imagine. But it would be a cool gimmick that would get Lulu books out there. Especially if the prices were low enough for it to be an inpulse buy for the shoppers. Lulu could also do public domain books and maybe partner with newspapers or magazines as well.

  33. Oh, and maybe have a deposit on the book. If they don’t like the book or have finished reading it, they can return it for recycling or donation to a library or something and get a portion of the cover price back. That would help if the cover prices were a bit higher than the customers really wanted. And green too.

  34. FYI: Media Mail costs
    I’ve been selling used books on eBay a bit lately. Media Mail for a book usually runs around $2.30-$3.15. Depending on destination and weight, of course. I haven’t shipped anything out of the country or to Hawaii or anything like that. And that’s including paperbacks and hardcovers both.

  35. I published here because it was free. I don’t want to pay a monthly fee to Lulu. I’m sure some of the cost of the cover price is going to Lulu other than just printing cost, so I think that’s enough to pay.

  36. The price charged is indeed for the printing of the book and I assume a percentage for the running of the site also, however, the storefronts is as far as they get unless you do more to promote it, and as I keep saying, a few 1000 people paying a pittance each month will pay for the entire lulu ‘shop’ pages to be mass marketed for the good of us all. Including lulu who I am sure would be glad of greater sales. I do not really see what there is to argue about 🙂

  37. As we “creators” realize there’s a big difference between CREATIVE WRITING and SELLING— Writers must eat too. However, not everyone who can write a novel can sell it. The process is different. I’m not a sells person (can’t expect that of myself). So, any help I can receive with the marketing-selling aspect of creating is greatly appreciated.

  38. I’ve had similar REVENUE questions as Karen Jones mentioned on the price of her book—My 611 (hardback) book was placed on the Storefront at $53.00 ___ I hit the roof! My family and closest friends wouldn’t read my work at that price–It’s fine that Nick explained the “mark-up” distribution and shipping of course would affect the price of the a book I would only receive something less than half (as author). But we do need to understand the revenue element to publishing with Lulu.

  39. After some mailing, my problems are solved.
    I wanna thank in especially Nick for contacting me and helping me out. I hope really, from my hearth, that the service will more open and faster at Lulu. So the way Nick showed me gives me the feeling that we customers are important for Lulu.
    Nick thank you and also the other people who helping me out last days. Keep going the good work Lulu.

  40. I got an email from Lulu saying that Amazon had picked up my book, the Triangle Jewish Chorale Songbook. But now, months (maybe a year) later, the only copy of my book at amazon is sold by a private reseller something for twice my retail price! Others have said their books at Amazon theoretically published by Lulu say “out of print, no telling when it will be available.” That’s worse than not being listed at all. What gives?
    Also, I have asked several times why I can’t pick up books AT lulu. I would drive an hour to save the horrendous postage, but the fact is I live 20 minutes away. I would buy lots of my books but it sticks in my craw to have to pay that shipping fee.

  41. Hi Jane,
    I’m sorry you are having trouble with your Amazon listing. Have submitted a support ticket? If so, what is your reference id?
    As for picking books up at Lulu, I see from your website that you are in Chapel Hill, our books aren’t printed at the Lulu offices, but rather by our print partners. We have a number of print partners and they are based in different cities in the US for domestic shipments and we have print partners in other countries for international orders. I hope this helps clarify things for you.

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