Software Musings

Lulu’s Café

Posted on: 09/12/2006

Well, as a result of my last blog I’ve learned a lot about publishing. One of the comments on that blog led me to Lulu and since then a bit of googling has found Café Press and others.

These are all self-publishing houses, printing individual copies of books on demand. This seems to resolve the issue that J L Carr had when he fell out with his publishers and published his books himself—a garage stacked from top to bottom with unsold books. His Battle of Pollocks Crossing is probably the best book not to have won the Booker Prize.

So, I return to my latest opus which is approaching completion. I am not looking forward to searching for a publisher sympathetic to a book (The Largest Number Smaller Than Five) on mathematical philosophy for young teenagers. Judging by the teenage shelves in our local Chapters Bookshop, philosophy (even moral philosophy, about which I know nothing but which I vaguely feel should have applied to me when I was a teenager) doesn’t loom large there and mathematical philosophy is almost invisible.

Do I therefore join the august ranks of J.L.Carr and A.Pope and self-publish? The Lulu website cautions against self-publishing on three grounds:

  1. You are not willing to market the book yourself. They then undermine their own argument (the Devil’s Advocate has such a hard job) by saying that the web is a good marketing tool and, with an ISBN, customers can order not only through Lulu but also through Amazon.
  2. You are looking to sell primarily through book shops. My aviation book did appear in bookshops. Unfortunately it should have appeared at flying schools, and repeated poking at my publisher didn’t get it there. My two technical books were so specialised that they never appeared on a bookshop shelf at all.
  3. You’re a picky author. They don’t mean in matters of grammar where my pickiness is world-renowned. They mean wanting your book published on triangular paper in green ink on thin cardboard. Not for me.

This then is vanity publishing done properly: no up-front payment, an ISBN, proper binding, a nice cover (assuming you have the artistic ability), a shop-front through which to sell and a download option if you want it. The Long Tail Effect hits publishing in a big way and there is no waste: if only 10 copies are bought world-wide then only 10 copies are printed. We wouldn’t need a garage.

I’ll have to have a word with my young co-author.


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December 2006
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The author of this blog used to be an employee of Nortel. Even when he worked for Nortel the views expressed in the blog did not represent the views of Nortel. Now that he has left, the chances are even smaller that his views match those of Nortel.
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