Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Up the Lamazon Without a Paddle

A lot of people seem to be asking the same question of late: what is up with Lulu? For example what is with:

* International shipping and currency conversion fees that are beyond ridiculous.

* Buying the domain despite the miasma of scam-iness that will hang about it for years to come.

* Listing books on Amazon without changing their terms of service or asking people to opt in, including many book set to "private".

* Responses to help requests slowing to a crawl.

* A blog that does not inform people about these issues and only belatedly even refers to them in a post called, perkily if unrealistically, "Improvements to Customer Service".

* The Lulu site in general remaining under-developed and hard to use with clunky and ineffective search capacity, no recommendations methods, no widgets, no real social networking capacity, and no affiliate program.

* The website being increasingly out of sync with what Lulu actually offers, including some outright inaccurate information.

*And over the past few weeks there have been reports that customers are experiencing errors on the website and having a lot of trouble completing purchases.

...And I bet those of you publishing with Lulu could give me a few more examples.

Once upon a time what they had was adequate--but this is no longer that time. Even of the goal is to maximise author sign ups, minimise staff and development costs and not worry much about sales volumes there is a basic level of service that you cannot sink below. You need to do what you promise do, not do random things that are contrary to your terns of service, and sell book to people when they ask for them. That really is not asking for a lot.

Is the era of Lulu as the top fee-free self publishing provider coming to and end? Is there any real successor in the wings?
See also:


Henry said...

I agree. Terrible, terrible management at Lulu. Unsustainable. Think they've been riding on the backs of people who don't know any better - that quote "we publish bad poetry" really does seem at the heart of how they run the business. They don't respect their writers, but writers are getting a lot more savvy about self-publishing tech and will take their business somewhere else. Wordclay and Createspace look a lot more attractive now.

Shannon Yarbrough said...

I agree with Henry, and was going to say Wordclay and CreateSpace are going to steal Lulu's share of the market over time.

If CS ever expands beyond Amazon and keeps their pricing low, Lulu might has well call up AuthorHouse and see if they've got room for one more.

Floyd M. Orr said...

You hit it out of the park, Shannon! CreateSpace will eventually take over Lulu's market share.

duskpeterson said...

Well, I haven't been on the Lulu forums recently, so I haven't encountered the problems that others are having. I think that Lulu has done a good job of updating its software periodically, and I haven't found its search engine to be hard to use, but I agree that it's behind the times as far as social networking is concerned. I also don't much like their procedure for shopping checkout, though they've improved it.

The only act by Lulu that I find really alarming is the Amazon Marketplace snafu, but I'm hoping they've rolled back that policy by now?

As for CreateSpace . . . While I don't have anything against their business model, I'll quote here Helen A.S. Popkin in Shocking Truth Behind Amazon's 'Glitch', because, from the reports I've been hearing, these words are also applicable to CreateSpace's customer service:

"Sudden onset homophobia on Amazon's part was just one of many eventually disproved conspiracy theories, all of which distracted from truly shocking story here: Mark Probst attempted to contact someone at Amazon . . . and someone actually contacted him back!

"Seriously. Dude. Is that something you ever expect to accomplish in your life?"

Shannon Yarbrough said...


Your quote is a bit out of context.

"Sudden onset homophobia on Amazon's part was just one of many eventually disproved conspiracy theories..." That's a good thing. The theory that Amazon was a big homophobe was DISPROVED and the whole thing was chalked up to being a glitch. Now, I don't really believe that, but it's what they said.

The real worry lies in what Mark Probst's was told when Amazon called him back (before the www cannons went off). Here's what Mark said they told him (from the same article you quote):

"In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude 'adult' material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature."

I think that speaks volumes when it comes to blatant censorship of books. Amazon sells sex lube and dildos, but even they are allowed a sales rank. There's even a "fisting" tee with, you guessed it, a sales rank!! So if Amazon failed on purpose, why did they single out books?

And it's actually easy to get Amazon to call you back. I don't know why the article makes a big deal about that. You go to their customer service screen and there's an option to enter your phone number and have them call you immediately, in five minutes, or in ten minutes. And a live person will be on the line. I've used it often.

Lulu has no phone customer service, no online chat support, and has taken up to 25 days to reply to emails since getting rid of chat. At least Amazon is a tad bit quicker with a response.

duskpeterson said...

"Your quote is a bit out of context."

I think you missed the point of what my purpose was in quoting the article. I quoted someone mentioning Amazon's poor customer service (I'm afraid that Amazon's customer service does have a reputation in cyberspace for not answering e-mails, and I'm afraid not all of us are in a position to communicate with customer service by telephone) because I've heard that CreateSpace's customer service is equally poor. I was responding to the comments above about how good CreateSpace is.

I take your point about Lulu not offering as much customer service as Amazon does. Can we agree that all of these businesses could do with some improvement?

As for the article I quoted, I took it to be mainly a complaint by the article writer about Amazon's service to its customers. Clearly the article writer didn't know the full nature of how Amazonfail started. I did. :)