Lulu Lens: What Features Do You Need To Make Your eBook a Success?

Today on Lulu we let our authors sell downloadable, unprotected PDFs, but we don’t offer a true eBook publishing option.  Many of you have told us you want your books available in as many marketable digital formats as possible. As a result, we’re investigating developing a better eBook publishing and distribution solution.

This week, we want to know: What features you need to make your eBook a success?

Some examples include: licensing/copyright protection; publishing in popular eBook formats like ePub; support for downloading your book to popular devices like Sony Reader, iPhone, and Kindle.  Tell us more!

34 thoughts on “Lulu Lens: What Features Do You Need To Make Your eBook a Success?”

  1. I second the iPhone app store, but why stop there? It would be great to also have our books available in the Kindle store, the Sony e-book store, and any other retail market that we can slip into. The more places we’re seen, the better chance we have of selling a book or two.
    I would also add that being able to make our ebooks available in a variety of formats would be advantageous.
    I’d like the option of allowing people who buy a print copy of my novel, to have access to a free e-version at their whim. Right now the only method of doing that would be to set the e-book as free, and while that isn’t a terrible idea of itself, it’s an altogether different selling strategy.

  2. Belinda D'Alessandro

    Nick
    Yes, offering copy protection (not the same as copyright) and security options for PDFs as well as other formats such as *.epub files would be good options.
    But I have been able to set security options on my ebook in PDF format (which is not attached to a print project, I used the ebook prokect) and offer it for sale, so this already seems to be an option.
    Belinda

  3. The big feature I want to see is full support for the epub format.
    PDF, even reflowable PDF, is simply not a very good format for e-books. epub, being XML-based, is much better suited to display on a clients whose capabilities and form factor are unknown in advance.
    PDF is great for targeting one particular device, and certainly if one has one device in mind, then PDF is the way to go, since it gives you the capability to provide true professional-level typesetting for that device.
    DRM: I’m abivalent about that. In theory, it’s a good thing for authors. In practice, though, it:
    (a) tends to alienate customers;
    (b) is trivially bypassed by technically-literate customers
    so it’s not clear (to me) that offering it should be a high priority.
    Downloading directly to devices: again, it’s not obvious that this should be a high priority. Maybe I’m biased because I have a Sony reader, and it requires staging files on a computer anyway.

  4. I know that the chances of success in the book racket are slim and none.
    Less that 1% of books even sell more that 100 copies.
    BUT it would be a whole lot easier if we had our books sold in more outlets than “My Storefront” [ http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=4520875 ] (which has been BROKEN for almost two weeks and nobody seems to give a crap.)
    I bought two ISBNs (one for hardcover and one for paperback) so that it could be at least available in other outlets, like Amazon, (maybe at Borders or Barnes & Nobles.)
    I have friends on the book retail business and I don’t think they’ve heard a word about the books either.
    So far, its not there even though the bills for that have been paid for in full on my AmEx card.
    So what am I supposed to tell the person at the Jersey Journal who’s reviewing my book?
    What am I supposed to tell the person in Ottawa who’s waiting for a copy of my book.
    The Tweets to Luludotcon aren’t answered.
    The on-line forms just gave me back a form email ref:00D56zQ6.50056zaKX:ref ] but so far noting but the one email, from “Sandra P.”
    I’m beginning to look for another publisher because I’m seriously disappointed by Lulu.

  5. Nick, I think you said it all with regards to protection and different formats.
    With the prices of ebook readers dropping, I think those changes would help a lot in a developing and lucrative market.

  6. Nick,
    I’m glad to hear that you’re considering more e-book options and I hope they are available soon. EPub, Sony Reader, Kindle, iPhone – I think most authors would welcome all of them! The current system of selling only .pdf files is not very efficient and it doesn’t offer any benefits – every author can sell .pdf “e-books” through his/her website. A change would be welcome!

  7. Make the following paypal option for eBooks possible:
    ‘Speed through checkout. There’s no need to enter your address details.’

  8. I’d like the ability to sell technical ebooks in a sort of subscription model, letting customers download updated versions of the same ebook. So I could start selling a draft, complete it, publish the printed version (and give a discount to those who bought the electronic one), and then keep updating the electronic version, letting those users download the updates.

  9. Yes, it would be good to offer ePub and other downloadable formats for iPhones and other ereading devices. As for DRM, I am not sure it will float. I use another service which offers my books in various formats and I did not start to sell until I dropped the DRM feature. On the whole it is an inconvenience to the customer, as only certain platforms can support it. As for Kindle, it already has its own platform so I would not recommend complicating the issue by offering to them as many of us already do independently of Lulu.

  10. I have to agree with Theresa. There is no benefit to an author to add Lulu as a middleman in order to get on the Kindle when it is so easy to do yourself. It would just add another layer of beaucracy and it into the already slim profits of authors.

  11. Sony Reader, iPhone, and Kindle would be good formats to make available. I don’t have those devices myself, but I know there are a lot of people who do. I’ve never heard of ePub and I don’t think it’s as well-known or popular as Sony Reader, iPhone, and Kindle, so I don’t think that’s very important.

  12. One of the most useful and wonderful thing is having the possibility to transform our ebooks in audiobooks or videobooks. I think the best innovation Lulu.com can do is more than only have our ebooks available in the most popular readers formats is open the possibility to sell them as audiobooks or videobooks. A friend of mind who use to be in the traffic jam everyday uses audiobooks to save this lost time of his life listening nice books.
    Small kids can learn best listening or seeing histories.
    Please think about these incredible possibilities. Lulu.com must be the first!
    Tio Ilmo Brandt

  13. What I need is to talk to someone who can make promises and keep them and communicate the problems I have had .
    I have published several books and have been unable to have anything printed and sent to me in spite of the fact that I paid for the sending.
    I still believe lulu can be a good idea but needs good communication, individual attention with the same rep each time an incoming call is made so that everything is not always starting over, which is what I experienced.
    That way nothing has to be repeated a million times because the assigned rep already has the information.
    A system could be worked out so the lu lu customer can call when the assigned rep is there or a phone number left with lu lu along with a best time to call.
    Mike Sipe

  14. I’m all for making having the books available from the Lulu storefronts in all popular e-book formats, especially Kindle.
    I agree that PDF isn’t a particularly good format for e-books, but I still see a fair amount of sales in that format — more than I do of print versions. The 20% royalty that Lulu charges is a much better deal than the 60% that Amazon charges for Kindle downloads. Direct to device downloads would be nice, but not absolutely necessary — most readers are computer savvy enough to be able to transfer a file.
    To be blunt, I’m not worrying much about copy protection. Having readers share files with friends, so long as my name and URL remains on the file somewhere, works fine for me. In fact, it’s excellent word of mouth advertising! Many if not most of my readers have found my books through friends, and I figure anything I lose in the book being paid back is well paid back in advertising.
    I don’t know enough about all the formats to be able to talk intelligently about them, (especially about Kindle) but there are popular conversion programs to transfer the basic .doc or .rtf file to most appropriate formats — it’s only a matter of programming to make them available.
    I recently bought a Sony 505, and after a few weeks of use I think I can say that while it’s not perfect, it is exciting to know I’m holding the shape of the future in my hands. Considering green issues, e-books are going to be a growing part of the total book market and we might as well be jumping on the bandwagon.

  15. I wonder if I should put an F-4 Phantom on the cover since the book is about bombing in Viet Nam with an F-4. Maybe a picture of one on the cover?

  16. Because I wanted to build a landing page, advertise my book and blog, and control the page content, I also sell my ebook on my own site. [WordPress, 1shoppingcart]
    It just didn’t work referring people to the lulu site and hoping that they’d complete the transaction.
    It also gives me control of a an email list of purchasers.
    On another front, the thing I’d like to do with Lulu is publish a second edition and inherit the statistics of the first edition… perhaps that’s just crazy talk.
    steve

    Steven Tylock
    The LinkedIn Personal Trainer
    http://www.linkedinpersonaltrainer.com
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevetylock

  17. I am interested in you putting the e-book in as many formats a possible. i want the wideest audience possible for my e-books. I write and market e-books on finance and insurance. information that buyers can put to use as soon as they have read the book. So it is important to mee to be in as many markets as possible.
    what I don’t understand is why LULU would not do that in the first place.

  18. My background is as a professional photojournalist and graphic designer, but I’m new to “selling” eBks.
    Two issues:
    94% of the book I have available at my store is images. As a professional, who makes his living from the value of his images, I want to be able to manage my digital content; this is PRIMARY concern, BUT the publishing “Wizard?” will not accept a secured pdf file. This is unacceptable, and made it very hard to go with Lulu; frankly I am still looking at other options. My programming and computer BG tells me it would be easy enough for this alternative to be made available. Also from the legal/admin standpoint, Lulu creates a disclaimer and the author accepts the responsibilities and gets their own ISBN direct from Bowker. Lulu can and could still make profits by offering various levels of promotion services. This ties into the second point.
    A “book” is 30% concept, 30 percent production and 60% marketing.
    Creating some sort of aggregate, structured access to blogs (among other vast internet information/marketing flows) does not appear to be currently or EASILY available via Lulu as a way for an author (new or otherwise) to get the word out and viral for their work/s.
    If an author does not already have skills, savvy, awareness and resources identified about the internet ocean the task of creating genuine attention, buzz and ultimately sales is v-e-r-y tedious, time consuming and daunting. Lulu is missing a real opportunity to create a competitive advantage by not generating this resource. – THKS — ###

  19. I’m very new at this, but marketing definitely looks to be my main hurdle to overcome. I’ve been able to adapt the Flash widget to help out somewhat, but the Facebook widget seems not to work at all, and the HTML widget generates a “null” result. (I’ve used the MySpace widget, too, but the fact is I’m not a MySpace guy, so that’s of limited help. Good for those who need it, though.)
    Just having the tools already provided for us to self-promote actually WORK right would itself be of tremendous help.

  20. This is a very interesting thread. I was told recently that in order to be listed on ebooks.com and others it is neccessary to be listed with an aggregator. I was told to approach LighteningSource or other aggregators. Whay can’t lulu.com establish itself as an aggregator for the purpose of distributing through the different e-book distribution channels. Can somebody tell me how to offer my book The Knights of Black Chapter to Kindle users? I note a few other contributors have asked the same question.

  21. I would like ability to:
    1. add files (like video/voice clips) onto my ebook
    2. have full protection like can’t print/copy/transfer/forward particularly if you have a refund policy of 3 days
    3. many distributable formats

  22. Why don’t you guys RAISE THE UPLOAD LIMIT. I want to use DVDs as an alternative format option, but a DVD is two gigabytes and the limit is 100 megabytes. My only other real option is to turn to Amazon for DVDs even though I’m currently selling my book through lulu!

  23. Yes protection is very important as is as many formats as possible. With devices like Sony Reader support is not really necessary as all the required software comes with the device and I have found ebooks very easy to download in all formats.

  24. I do not know much about marketing. I would like to sell my poems with colourful graphics online that’s all. I want to send you the whole stuff in PDF format.You are now telling that PDF is not safe. If it is not safe, could you please suggest me any alternative method.

  25. I did a survey of my readers to see which e-book formats I preferred, and nearly all of them wanted PDF or HTML. I’m currently publishing HTML e-books through Lulu, using the digital files (multimedia) option (which I very much hope you’ll keep, because one of my e-books has multiple files and is therefore sold in zipped format). ePub is another format I’ve considered, since it’s gaining ground. Support for downloading to mobile devices would be a handy feature. As for licensing/copyright protection, all of my writings are Creative-Commons-licensed, and I do *not* sell DRMed versions of my writings – so I’d like the ability to opt out of any DRM.
    Also, I’d like to be able to choose which formats my books will appear in – so if six formats are offered, I’d like to be able to say “no” to particular ones.
    What has held me back from using e-book seller sites like Smashwords is two things:
    1) Detailed requirements for formatting of the source file. I don’t want to have to spend as much time on formatting as I did on writing the e-book.
    2) The inability to sell e-books in the exact formatting that I upload. That is, I can’t upload an HTML e-book that I’ve formatted myself and know that it won’t go through some sort of re-formatting procedure. Automatic re-formatting is fine as an option, but I’d like to be able to turn off that option if need be.

  26. I have a book which I have been selling quite succesfully as a hard copy on Ebay. The topic is quilting and it illustrates a revolutionary way of quilting which is totally unique. I would like to publish it as an ebook on lulu but I need to protect it from being downloaded and freely copied. I know of a program called EBook Gold which protects my pdf file from being copied, cut and pasted etc and provides links to paypal for purchasing etc and provides a means of refund which at the same time wipes the bought copy off the buyer’s hard drive so he cannot hang on to his bought copy after obtaining a refund. I wonder if I created my e book with this program whether it could be donloaded onto Lulu.

  27. I believe guys at lulu should make all best efforts to pre-include all the mst popular features re e-books so we artists dont have to think about it much…it interfears with artistic process…:-) Thank you Lulu, withouth you i wouldnt publish my e-book…i already have 2 copies sold…and i published yesterday! 🙂

  28. I think DRM is a red herring. As mentioned in a few other comments, it’s inherently anti-consumer, and it’s also pretty ineffective at preventing piracy anyway.
    I think having a reasonable variety of formats available, as well as being able to sell them at other bookstores (Amazon, iTunes, etc.) would be a requirement for any reasonable system.
    In general, it would be nice to move beyond the pdf format to accommodate all the new ebook readers out there.

  29. I think the best innovation Lulu.com can do is more than only have our ebooks available in the most popular readers formats is open the possibility to sell them as audiobooks or videobooks.

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