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DIY Poetry Publishing Cooperative

November 20, 2008

If you use Lulu...


I posted this in the Lulu forums. These charges have gone up since the last book I put out, but cannot be entirely explained by the increase in USPS rates.

Shorter: Poetry books are skinny and light + Lulu's packaging is heavy and mostly empty = Customer pays 37-60% over price of order for cardboard.
I was just testing a newly released book by logging in with a different nonseller ID to see what a customer would be charged.

The shipping + handling on a very lightweight (5 oz.) 80-page poetry book is $5.52 for Media Mail and $7.06-$9.16 for Priority, depending on where I told it to send the book. (Priority is priced by zones.) The price of the book is $15, which means Lulu's shipping + handling adds an additional 37-60% to the total! That's a whopping amount! I couldn't believe it.

There are 2 reasons for this (in my example):

1) In my opinion, Lulu's packaging is excessive. I recently received a single copy of this 80 page book--which weighs 5 oz. on its own--in a large box weighing 14 oz. That means the packaging weighs nearly twice as much as the book! This packaging is the same used for customer orders of 1-2 books. (I know this because I also shop Lulu as a customer).

2) Lulu adds additional handling costs over and above the cost of shipping. Lulu charges $7.06 for Priority shipping + handling of this package. But the postage is only $4.80 as calculated by USPS (using the same addresses/zones).The other $2.26 is for Lulu's handling. For Media Mail, USPS is $2.41, so Lulu is charging $3.11 for handling. Presumably, some of this charge goes to cover shipping materials like boxes and plastic wrap, which brings us back to point #1.

RECOMMENDATION: Lulu should consider reduced packaging for very small/lightweight orders like these! I can't imagine they'd send a single CD in a box this big. The box measures 11.5 x 14 x 1.5 and the book is only 6 x 9 x .185.

The same book could be sent with minimal packaging--a flat cardboard envelope with cardboard sheet and shrink wrap to protect the book, for instance--for even less than that. I mail 5 oz books ordered direct from our website for $1.68 using a sturdy envelope, a DO NOT BEND stamp, and USPS First-Class postage. For Priority orders, I use the FREE flat-rate envelopes provided by the post office and the cost is $4.80 (using the zones in my example).

I understand the need for protective packaging, especially when shipping Media Mail--the carriers don't treat it very nicely. But making Media Mail so expensive defeats the point of it. It's supposed to be discount postage!

Because I buy distribution packages for each of my titles, they are also available via Amazon, B&N, and other online retailers. I checked--and none of these other retailers charge as much as Lulu for shipping and handling. (They *all* use excessive packaging, alas.) For example, Amazon charges customers $3.99 for standard shipping/handling on this book.

A customer's total at Amazon would be $18.99 for standard shipping. At Lulu Marketplace it would be $22.06 for the same item. Where do you think they are going to shop?

I don't know the average size of books published via Lulu, but for thinner/lighter items like this, there badly needs to be an alternative. Most of the books in the Poetry section, and by definition all of the saddle-stapled books and chapbooks, must result in the same inflated charges. Why would a customer want to pay to ship a huge, mostly empty box--particularly in these times of high gas prices and tight wallets? They will go elsewhere, and Lulu sellers (and Lulu itself) will earn less in commissions as a result, even if total sales remain unaffected.

Make some noise if you agree. Lulu been pretty responsive to requests in the past, and maybe they'll consider it. In the meantime, I can't blame my customers for shopping with another retailer and I actually feel *guilty* directing them here just so I can make more.

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4 Comments:

  • I sometimes publish "proofs" of my own writing with Lulu just so I can see what something looks like on that format, and there packaging drives me crazy! It's reusable, which is nice, but your points are sensible and I hope Lulu agrees.

    I want to read a micro-economic study of micropresses.

    By Blogger Adam R., at 2:51 PM  

  • The majority of Bloof sales are direct or via our distributor, so this doesn't affect us much, but some customers do order via Lulu, and I shop there to get other press's books.

    I wonder what retailers are charged if they order Lulu books via Ingram? I would love to know that. Presumably Ingram doesn't fetishize the freaking packaging like Lulu Marketplace does. I sure hope not.

    By Blogger shanna, at 2:59 PM  

  • the majority of dusie sales are also thru the main dist. so perhaps the s&h thru these means are more economic and cheaper ...but the profits from lulu sales are much much better for Dusie...I wish more lulu users would come out...as using lulu i mean...perhaps if we as little presses hang together we can have more of an effect and say on some of lulu's marketing and general policies. Also, recent changes at Lulu have made buying at bulk rate also more affordable, which is great! but, again, I definitely agree that shipping a one off does seem too high...

    word ver: repho
    am i a rep ho or repho (ala reepo)

    By Blogger DUSIE, at 9:06 AM  

  • The totals for POD are whopping
    in general. S+H is gilding the Zeppelin.
    The basic punk chap still holds a
    solid spot in low cost and low setup
    if I don't have a lot of time
    and you don't have a lot of money.
    I'm working on low-hassle payment too.

    They really should have 6x9 envelope
    service and 20-lb pages, though.
    Could be an opening for another publisher.
    ..an auto .txt - to - saddle rig would be
    cool.

    By Blogger mister jim, at 8:14 AM  

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