Thursday, April 28, 2005

All about Aunt Lulu

For all you folks who like to think of yourselves as do-it-yourself-ers, there is another option on your horizon for PODing: Lulu.

Check out this article about the company.

You can create your own POD files (that is, converting a Word document to a [book friendly] PDF and uploading, then doing the same for the covers.) Note: Lulu's software will convert the Word doc to PDF for you, though the results may be less predictable. Their charge? $0.00. If you can do it all yourself, you can reap the benefits (assuming the sales go through Lulu's site; to get listed with Ingram and available on sites like Amazon, you need to pay out $149 for set-up fees.)

So what is the difference between Lulu and the other big POD companies? You're on your own. You design your own layout, your own cover (they do have a handful of basic templates) and your own jacket copy. Lulu makes money by adding 20% on to your royalty. (Example: The cost of the book to produce is $9.00 and you add a $5.00 royalty. Lulu adds another $1.00 as their cut, making the total cost $15.00.)

The other difference? No promo support of any type, including someone to make bookmarks or posters, etc.

Going this route is certainly for the tech savvy, but not necessarily for the techno-geek. You just need to understand some basic tools (like Adobe or some other free PDF converter) and know someone who can design a nice cover for you (please do not try to do it yourself, unless you are a graphic designer - the results can be hideous.) But this technology-based way to go is not surprising: the founder was one of the co-founders of Red Hat.

From the article:

Although's software converts authors' documents into something that can be published, the site does not see itself as a competitor to traditional book publishers. Instead, it wants to create a new market for anyone who wants to get published, not just for a small fraction of writers, Hutton said. "Our philosophy is to let the marketplace decide whether there's demand for a book or not," he said.


Then there is this article from Publish magazine that also profiles Lulu, here with more in-depth coverage on the technical side. You get the nuts and bolts of how it all needs to be put together (and you get to see why you pay the folks at iUniverse and Xlibris to do this nasty stuff.)

Another plus to this do-it-yourself method is having total control over the product (you can even stick a picture right in the middle of the text if you want to--something you would have to pay extra for if you went with Xlibris, for example.

I would not be surprised to hear more from the Lulu folks over the next few years.


Bonus round:

MJ Rose weighs in on the article in the New York Times Book Review from this past Sunday. Not much to smile about, but she tells it like it is--and, as always, is right on the money.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Your homework assignment is due.

Well, I hope everyone finished the assigned reading for the weekend. That would be the article in the New York Times Book Review that covered POD.

Not many surprises here. I think we all expected to see some sort of coverage on Amy Fisher. And, of course, the predictable comments about how PublishAmerica scams their authors.

However . . . there are some interesting shifts going on, which indeed show us that POD is moving more to the center of the publishing game instead of getting stuck in the fringe. Please keep in mind that I am not a huge advocate of POD. My book(s) are published out of a New York house and I would prefer it always be that way. But it is foolish to ignore a technology as valuable as POD. And, it seems, the agents and editors of NY are starting to agree.

Of special note are the comments by agents here:

(1) Jenny Bent mentions her "success selling self-published books." And why not? Any book that has already proven itself in an admittedly tougher arena should always get a second look from New York. A book that sells 2000 copies via POD is decidedly a "better seller" than a book printed by Simon & Schuster that sells 2000 copies.

(2) Harvey Klinger, a highly respected agent and decent human being, actually advised one of his (best-selling) authors to publish POD (and, in fact, to go to iUniverse specifically) "after New York said it did not fit into any niche." The point: what are authors who are trying to break out of the "fixed categorization" supposed to do? Even the agents are realizing the only hope is POD. NY will eventually only produce thrillers, romance, cookbooks, high-profile memoirs and a half-dozen extremely high-priced literary pieces. Everything else will either go POD or in the garbage.

And an even more poignant item: that niche books "selling in the 10,000 range" are not as eye-opening to New York -- though 10,000 copies is a lot more than most titles ever sell. Where do these niche writers end up having to go? Duh.

If you have not read the article, please do. It is, indeed, the same article we see every 18 months regarding POD -- even mentioning some of the tired old success stories (though Natasha Munson finally gets her due.) But you will also notice the slight change in opinion, that people are realizing what I have realized (and what the point of this blog is) that there are many good titles swimming in the sea of garbage--primarily because these good books had no place else to go.

I've said it before and I'll say it again . . .

Welcome to the new midlist.

Monday, April 25, 2005

THE CIRCLE OF SODOM, by Pat Mullan (Authorhouse)

Let me say this about thrillers: they're rarely food for the soul. I enjoy them the same way I enjoy action movies (indeed I frequently find them interchangeable.) And, in so many instances, the movie is better the than the book--quite the contrary to their literary counterparts.

Let me say this, too: if a thriller has a compelling hook, I'll read through a lot of garbage to get to the point.

Fortunately, THE CIRCLE OF SODOM by Pat Mullan, is not garbage--and it is compelling. It's a political thriller that happens to be timely. And timeless.

In the prologue we find an Army Colonel having some sort of bizarre surgery via a MASH unit it Korea (1975) whose only witness is Owen MacDara (our noble protagonist) who is forced to keep the surgery a secret. As the novel begins, we have moved twenty years forward (1975 + 20 = 1995) where MacDara is the head of a financial consulting firm. His Army buddies start getting knocked off and suddenly MacDara is flooded with memories from his days in Korea (a la MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE.) As you can imagine, the conspiracy builds and builds and eventually finds its way to the President (of course), ultimately posing the greatest threat to the American Government that we have ever seen (okay, at least in the top ten.)

Now, if you're not into thrillers, this sounds sorta goofy. But it's not--it's engrossing. I'll admit the book has its usual share of thriller-esque elements (the hot sex that is misplaced, and oddly graphic; the close getaways that even James Bond might second-guess, etc.) But remember, these elements (almost) always exist in this genre and you have accept them and let them unfold accordingly.

With all that in consideration, this book is an even mix of Crichton and Clancy and written equally as well. It's a classic page-turner and almost comes across as though it had been adapted from a screenplay. It's was a guilty read for me. But who cares? I'm guilty of so much anyway.