Amazon and me

I’ve been concerned about Amazon charging the full retail price of $24.50 for Matcher Rules, as I mentioned before and I’ve niggled away at the problem, and I’ve (sort of) solved it. I sell the paperbacks myself, on Amazon, at a lower price.

Amazon does not do price matching for books, and it took quite a bit of pounding around on their site to find this out, because the back end of Amazon is not as well-organized as the front end. True, it’s better than Lulu, but Amazon does have more money. I got a definitive answer from a chat session with an Amazon rep. One of my friends who has his privately printed memoirs for sale on Amazon gave me some pointers and I set myself up as a seller. So when you go to Amazon for Matcher Rules there is a choice of prices for the paperback. Remember I have to buy the copies from Lulu and get them shipped to me, so I’m cautiously offering them at $18.00 plus shipping so my costs are covered.

There’s no answer on Lulu as to why they are not listed as a seller on Amazon, with their discounted prices. My guess: Lulu has a legal agreement with Amazon which precludes them doing this, and I suppose it makes sense because it’s always possible to buy a book directly from a publisher but you don’t see those publishers as sellers on Amazon. Also, Amazon has a contract with Lulu as a POD supplier where orders through Amazon get 24-hour fulfillment, unlike the rest of the orders including those from authors.

However, according to other authors on Lulu’s discussion forums, Amazon will lower their prices without notice and at random, leading to the bizarre situation where it can be cheaper to purchase copies of your own book from Amazon and pay less than you pay to Lulu. There may be some time limit or other trigger event affecting the price, which can then re-set to full retail. The mysterious ways of supply and demand? Phases of the moon?

Right now, the cheapest way to buy a paperback of Matcher Rules is on Lulu, followed by ordering it from me via Amazon, then directly from Amazon. And no, you can’t send me an email and order the book directly because I’d like as much ISBN-tracking as possible for statistical purposes and (ahem) tax records. Right now if I read the rules correctly this qualifies as a hobby but perhaps in the future it won’t. I can hope.

Moving On

The paperback of Matcher Rules is again available for order via Lulu. The consignment copies have been delivered to Bookshop Santa Cruz. With luck the book should make their Christmas newsletter promotion and will be featured on their web page. I don’t have a link for that yet.

So, moving on the next project: I’ve decided to resolve the plot issues with The Bone Road before moving on to the new, untitled, book. Bone Road is much bigger, in size and story, to Matcher Rules, but the basic structure of who does what to whom, when and where, should remain unchanged. I need to clarify some motivations, add/remove backstory, and take a hard look at the second half of the book.


Lulu Redux, or Re-Do

I swear, the devil’s in it. I received and approved the proof copy from Lulu. I have also received 10 more copies for consignment in my local independent bookstore and as gifts for friends. I sent out announcement emails. I did all the ‘marketing’ stuff, including Facebook.

And yesterday I received an email from Lulu: they have pulled the book because it will not print. Obviously, it has printed, so I was confused. Also, angry. I look like a fool vis-a-vis all the marketing, plus all my pleasure in my publication has been destroyed.

The problem seemed to be with the dimensions of the file, but the email didn’t say whether it was the cover or the interior text, or both. We used their template for dimensions and the files were accepted by their system, plus the proof copy printed. Other copies, ordered by friends, are printing. And yesterday was Thursday, when Lulu Customer Support (please insert sarcastic tone) was not available.

So today I attempted to get some information from a live chat session. I did get some: it’s the interior text file, not the cover. I won’t need a new ISBN. The PDF file created from their Word template is off by .12″ in one dimension. No one is saying why or how they let it get this far, no one has apologized.

I’ve asked my PDF designer to re-size the text file dimensions. She hasn’t gotten back to me yet and I can’t blame her. The whole situation is infuriating.

Update: I seem to be using a lot of bold type for this one. Anyway, the problem seemed to be the Word to PDF conversion altered the dimensions by a smidge. Lulu’s system didn’t catch it — don’t get me started — but Linda kindly re-did the PDF to be exactly 6×9. I uploaded it and told Lulu Customer Support to manually check the file, because if the first file got through how would I know if the second one was any better? They did so and now the book is back in the proof process. Lulu only grants one free proof so I thought I was going to pay but someone there obviously feels guilty, as well they should, and they are giving me another free proof with free shipping. All I lose is time and marketing, sigh. I have no idea how many people are going to try for a print copy between now and then, but I hope they email me if they have problems.

In the meantime I have contacted Bookshop Santa Cruz about their consignment program and I’ll post later about that process, with links when it goes live.

Nothing Smells Like An Old Interface

Which sounds horrible, but sometimes when you sign on to a service, the scaffolding shows. It’s not quite as bad as a six-letter password in caps, but the Lulu website is putting all its pennies and time into their ebook section and letting the print option roll on as if it was 2001. Or 1990.

For example, there’s a neat manual for ebook publishing, which you download from the main page. For print, you sign on and start working your way through the steps. As you complete each step, then, when it is too late, you find out the rules and have to back out and do the step again. I’m sure the answer to “why is there no print how-to manual?” is cost-based. Or perhaps they lost enthusiasm, because ebooks are hot and print is not, but there are many many ebook publishers out there and Lulu has made its name in print. Dangerous, to ignore your core customers.

According to the main page, there are many sizes of print books available for authors, and there are templates for equivalent page sizes. Only after you sign on and decline their expensive marketing services do you find out you’re limited to only a few of the sizes. Bait-and-switch. If you’ve spent a considerable time formating to a template, you toss all that out the window and resize and reformat.

After the happy news Word documents are acceptable, there are ominous warnings that the system may “resize to fit” and make the book unreadable. Or you can create a PDF and imbed the fonts, which is much safer. Assuming, of course, you have the full Acrobat suite, which is about $500 and not easy to learn quickly. Or, you can pay them to format, imbed, and size your manuscript — and we haven’t even gotten to the cover.

There are Help screens. They aren’t specific to the process steps, and you have to exit the process to search them. There’s the main help screen, then you pick out of three options, Knowledge Base, Users, and something else, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and select help again. Why? And once you are in a section, say the Knowledge Base, it’s not a keyword search, but a thesaurus-based search on controlled keywords, which isn’t a phrase I thought I’d ever type again, having left the 1990’s behind. I suspect it’s a tree structure and you must be very careful to be at the top of the tree since it searches top to bottom. Then you log in again to pick up the publishing process.

At certain times of day — and certain days only — live chat is available. The wait is long, and the answers tend toward “no, you can’t do that.”

I’ve paid a very good friend of mine, who is a file formatting expert in Word, Acrobat, graphics and layout, to format my manuscript. I’ve also found a cover designer, also paid, to do the cover. Next week I’ll return to the Lulu interface, upload the various bits and see how far I get.

In the meantime, I’ve downloaded the Smashwords ebook manual and completed the formatting on the electronic version. I’m waiting for the final version of the cover to upload. I’m not using Lulu’s ebook version because the Smashwords free distribution and file creation software is so very superior. Not to mention the interface was written in the current millenium …