Don’t Sign Up for Book Galleries

I can’t say that definitively, as there are possibly success stories in the past, but the likelihood that you’ll sell any books at a showcase – or even that someone will remember your book after seeing it – is small.  This past weekend I went to the LA Times Book Festival, an enjoyable madhouse of booth after booth of publishers/writers, etc. selling their wares.  There were booths for Authorhouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, and Author Solutions.

Fairly daunting, but fascinating.  You can read about 300,000 books being self-published a year, but until you’re in a booth like this one it really brings home the idea that: Oh my god, there are a lot of  books being self-published.  The trouble is that people at these festivals will buy books from the booths of bookstores like Book Soup or Vroman’s, but there wasn’t a lot of bookselling going on at the subsidy publisher booths.  More, it’s for Author Solutions to show off what people can do with self-publishing – not about selling those individual books.  Same old, same old – it’s about selling services to writers, not about selling books.  So for a writer with a book, the return on investment may just be the feeling of progress, without making any actual progress.

Pod Peep has this cautionary tale about Lulu – which says as much about Lulu’s customer service as the validity of these packages:

26th February
Lulu: “Your book will be displayed physically at the New Title Showcase on the Exhibit Floors AND Your book, along with your contact details will be listed online and in the printed catalogue given to attendees … $399” (250.17 British pounds)

28th February
Peter May: “First, Lulu is not shown as an exhibitor at the London Book Fair. They do not have a stand … Your book will be displayed on a shelf in The New Title Showcase area of the show for passers by to look at if they want to … Does it cost £250.17 to place a book on that shelf? Not if you book directly with the New Title Showcase organisers at http://newtitleshowcase.com/ who charge £125 plus VAT per title. Yes, £125.”

Cut to:

Peter May: “There were 91 books listed in the catalogue under the Lulu.com heading. But it wasn’t clear on the shelves which books were Lulu’s as there was no separation on the shelves … I couldn’t see any advantage over the Lulu £250+ package and paying £135 directly to the organisers.

Basically, this pinpoints the uselessness of being displayed in a subsidy publisher’s racks.  Authorhouse charges $499 to show off your book at Book Expo America.  Granted, this is a lot cheaper than the $3810 price to list individually, but still, there are better ways to spend your money.  Authorhouse brags:

With the Combined Book Exhibit, your book is:

  • featured in the display
  • included in an Exhibit Catalogue, created by CBE for the show
  • included in a comprehensive online database where interested parties can easily find and buy your book

Translation: your book will be listed alongside a dizzying list of other books.  iUniverse has this list of promotions for the LA Times Book Festival.  At the iUniverse booth, there was a fairly long line to get autographed copies of books – especially from children’s authors.  So a book signing could definitely be worth your while – depending on the nature of your book.  But gallery placement?  Does about as much good as a listing on Amazon.

P.S. Unrelated to book galleries, but this post is a must-read about Lulu.

  • klcrumley

    Lulu is becoming more and more of a “smoke & mirrors” con man’s game than anything else…
    I find that disturbing.

    The next thing you know, they’ll be employing pyramid scheme tactics…
    I can just see it now “We’ll give you $100.00 for each friend you refer to Lulu!”

    I could write down a long list of all the problems I’ve found with Lulu, but I’d be here all day…

    I’ll share this though: At Christmas time I put together a picture book of the first children’s story I ever wrote, complete with my sister’s artwork. I set its access to private & printed one copy, as a Christmas Present to my niece. It was made especially for her, & she was the main character. It was filled with little “inside jokes” that only our family would get. I had no intention of going public with it. I just wanted ONE printed copy, just for my niece. JUST ONE.

    The next thing I know, my email box was flooded by spam from Lulu, trying to get me to buy a marketing package, distribution, etc. It really annoyed me.

    I realize it’s just automated, but GEEZ!

    It makes you realize how they are out to dupe their customers by pimping their expensive packages.

  • I am the author of the self-published Sci-fi Adventure Gamadin Book Series, and I had a booth at the LA Times Book Festival. Self-published authors take note of this article and Ms. Crumley’s comment. They are correct. The only one that will ever sell your book is you. Putting it on a shelf is like a “Dear Resident” letter. No one cares. I sold over 5 cases of books last weekend and who knows how many sales I will have from the handouts and bookmarks I gave out for free. Sure it cost more money to get a booth. But for the 400 dollars to put my book on a shelf vs the 900 it cost for a booth. Who got the most exposer and the most sales? Not only that, I met a ton of nice people along the way. Thanks Henry Baum for the article and Karen Crumley for your comment. Both were right on.

    • Thanks for the very helpful info. You are right. You can’t leave it up to someone else to market your book. It’s fine if they want to try, of course, but that would be in addition to your own efforts as an author. In considering self-publishing, I am not ready to make the plunge yet. But I am keeping it in mind.

  • For authors who want to self-publish, who would you recommend instead of lulu?

    • I’d recommend Lightning Source. You can prepare all your files at Lulu and then just upload them to LSI. For a 300 page book, it’ll cost $4 per instead of $9. It costs more upfront, however. Otherwise: CreateSpace.

  • Just about ANY outside, for-pay, remote-control “marketing” tool offered to the self-publisher is offered in the same spirit as brain exercises for the terminally stupid, diet plans for people who are never going to slim down, and fancy coffins for poor dead Aunt Em. Which is to say, cynically.

    Your bank already treats you like an ATM. So does your phone company and your stock broker and retirement advisor. You need some of those folks, so you have to take it. But do you need another hold in your head–because you’re going to make one yourself when you analyze the good any of the usual book marketing schemes are going to earn back.

    You probably know me as a mild-mannered author and publisher. But before that I was an advertising and public relations pro. I owned my own ad agency. That said, I want to add that I spend no more than $00.00 annually to market my books through other people. My =books= market my books. Period. I just have a few website showcases and give away free digital samples wherever I’m allowed. Most years, I make good money from committing acts of rational self-promotion that leave me all the time I need to create new books.

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