Thanking Lulu

swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
edited March 26 in General Discussions
I want to thank Lulu staff who helped me find and retrieve a file I had uploaded here years ago under a different account which I had forgotten how to access. Ron Miller had been pushing me to try to retrieve my lost manuscript digital file for my first self-published book (the file lost in the flood of 2012) and we had discussed different ways of going about it (since I didn't want to manually transcribe the whole thing again from a print copy of the book, of which I still have several). Ron pushed going the OCR route but I resisted because of the complexity I anticipated would be involved (still obliging me to go over the file line by line to fix errors in the material converted from image to usable text again). And so, after some thought I went back to the original self-pub service I had used, Xlibris (now owned by AuthorSolutions which grew out of the old POD called AuthorHouse). The Xlibris people had once declined to help but this time, when I mentioned I might like to re-issue, with a new cover per Ron's suggestion, they seemed eager to accommodate me.

After a little correspondence, they did return the original file to me although it came back with some distortions and coding problems. Then I remembered I had once uploaded a later version of the same file to Lulu in hopes of reissuing from here. But it was in a lost account. The reason I had stopped the process was the anticipated retail price the book would have commanded via Lulu. The Xlibris edition came in at 637 pages and was originally priced at $15 for the paperback, $25 for the hardcover and it sold surprisingly well at those prices. But within a year or two, Xlibris raised the prices. I assume it was an economic decision but it adversely affected my book's saleability. At one point they were pricing the paperback at $28 as I recall and all sales collapsed. Because I had developed a relationship via the Internet (and later in person) with then CEO of Xlibris John Feldcamp, I was able to appeal to him and the upshot was the paperback price came down to $18 and sales picked up again.

However, Xlibris couldn't make it as a standalone and Feldcamp eventually sold out to AuthorHouse, following the lead of other PODs like iUnverse (once known as ToExcel). Other PODs like GreatUnPublished.com which had rechristened itself BookSurge eventually sold out to Amazon to become CreateSpace as the consolidations continued apace. Lulu, a do-it-yourself self-publishing POD, found a different niche as we all know, and has remained independent. All of this consolidation changed the industry so that may explain why the now corporate owned Xlibris was more cooperative with me this time than last (when I tried to retrieve my lost file shortly after the flood).

However, the corruptions in their file proved daunting when I began looking at it, and the Lulu file, retrieved a couple of days later turned out to be a better iteration of the original book. (I had revised it and, I believe, improved it for what turned out to be an abortive attempt to reissue it through a company, now defunct, called SuperiorBooks.com.) So now I have BOTH files in my possession and must decide what, if anything, to do with them. Republishing poses some problems, including 1) folding a new edition into the extensive and important amazon review history for the old Xlibris version; 2) figuring out what changes to make to differentiate the new edition from the old (a new cover for sure but also the addition of some maps I think); and, of course, 3) what to do in the way of promotion that would make going through all this trouble and commissioning the new cover and maps worthwhile.

And then there's the problem of which service to work with? Xlibris was helpful but their file is no longer the best one for the reasons mentioned above. The file retrieved through Lulu, on the other  hand, has fewer problems (though some corruption crept in there as well) but issuing such a long book using Lulu would make the book nearly unsellable at the anticipated retail price.

Of course, I can break the book up into two or three distinct volumes to create a series (trilogies and such are currently quite popular). But then, to do that, I'd have to shut down the single volume version from Xlibris or people wouldn't see a reason to buy the new book(s) which would inevitably be much more expensive. And then there's the problem of promotion, something I did entirely on my own on a budget thinner than a shoestring when I first published the book, The King of Vinland's Saga, but which isn't likely to be doable now. In the old days I haunted the Internet and especially sites like Amazon to find people who had read and liked books of a similar type: historical fiction, adventure, Norse myths and legends, medieval fantasies, etc. and emailed them to announce my own book. But people are savvier now and don't routinely post their emails and Amazon certainly doesn't make that information available anymore. So that sort of project wouldn't fly nowadays..

I did other things, of course, but I am older now and much less energized and have other projects I want to make happen including a new novel still in the writing stage. So to reissue or not remains an uncertain prospect for me. Much will depend on what comes together, I guess. Can Lulu figure a way to make the book less costly at retail? Can I figure a way to break the story up into two or three less costly volumes and can I re-publish it without shutting down the Xlibris version and, if I don't, without cannibalizing sales of a newer version? Would anyone care about a newer, more costly version even if the new one is enclosed in more impressive covers and contains maps and a new afterword which I wrote for the briefly offered SuperiorBooks edition in response to some reader concerns (expressed in amazon reviews) that more historical background would have been appreciated?

At any rate I owe a big "thank you" to Lulu staff for their help with this (and to Xlibris staff, too, though I don't know if they maintain a blog like this anymore -- probably don't -- so I can't publicly thank them, too). Now the rest is in my ballpark I guess as I play around with finding answers to these questions and deciding whether to move forward or just be grateful that I have the manuscript back again (now safely stored in the cloud this time so as to avoid a replay of the 2012 experience).  

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