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DIY Poetry Publishing Cooperative

April 28, 2006

A DIY Pub Web Ring storefront?

[your book here]

Since so many of you lovely people use Lulu.com to print & distribute your books & chaps, I am trying to figure out if it's possible to highlight your books in a DIY Pub Web Ring-sponsored store on the Lulu.com site, and eventually here. I've poked around in their help topics & the member forum, & I've also written to ask if any kind of recommended list or affiliate program is in the works (like Amazon's Listmania feature or those "What I'm Reading" affiliate lists with buy buttons + thumbnails).

I do have a Lulu.com storefront, but I can only add product that I have produced myself (which is nothing, at this point, so it's empty). What I would like to do is showcase YOUR books there, & mirror or link to that storefront from here.

Not sure if that kind of function is high on Lulu's priority list, but don't you think it's something they should consider? (There are two Wish List topics on the Lulu.com boards. You might chime in there if you are a member.) Something like this would allow me to link to a bunch of authors & books in one place, and give shoppers the convenience of having a single shop to browse, instead of a million individual links (like I've got now). I've got a feeling more & more people will be turning to Lulu. It's easy, the books look great, & if you go with the Global distro package you've honestly got better distribution through the wholesalers than most small presses!

So this might be what's next. A Lulu.com mall. Why not?

In the meantime, I think it might work if you Lulu'ers put "DIYPubWebRing" (or something else consistent) in as one of your storefront keywords. I could do a search for that, and link to the results page from here. It wouldn't be quite as sophisticated as I'd like, but it'd be a start. Does this make sense? Wanna give it a try?

Some kind of workaround with the "Friends" feature might work too, assuming I could display a list of "DIY Pub's Friends" on that storefront page or here. I haven't looked into that yet.

I guess I will try to sift through and make an Amazon Listmania list for DIY/micro stuff available through Amazon too, but that's gonna take some serious sifting & building. (Something like this might be possible at Powell's too--but their small press poetry section is already pretty well curated, so that might just be redundant!)

Just thinking out loud here, y'all. Any other ideas?



  • Sounds good, Shanna. I am glad I found your blog. What are your plans for your own publishing company? Have you found anything comprable to LULU, but better?

    By Blogger Pirooz M. Kalayeh, at 6:00 PM  

  • hi pirooz.

    lightning source is also a POD service. we've used them to print galleys and short-run books for soft skull (many presses use them, big and small). but i've never used them or lulu for any of my projects. yet.

    i've mostly been working on a smaller scale & doing lots of research about what is the best way to go, if i'm gonna go. i'm probably gonna go.

    how has lulu worked for you so far?

    By Blogger shanna, at 6:14 PM  

  • I think this is a wonderful idea -- I'm forwarding your e-mail to the PR person I know at Lulu and see if she can point me towards the person to direct this to.

    By Blogger RL, at 12:48 PM  

  • cool. thanks, reb.
    i've started kinda playing around with the blog function over there too to see if i can make it do something like what i'm after. (since you can display blog entries at the bottom of your own storefront. but i still think a wish list or listmania type recommended reading list feature would be better suited.)

    By Blogger shanna, at 12:54 PM  

  • the blog lets me list recommended pubs by category, and I can include cover pics & etc. but i'd really need "add to cart" buttons for it to work as a real store.

    By Blogger shanna, at 1:13 PM  

  • if i could do it on the blog, i could mirror the rss feed here. that'd work. if i had the add to cart function.

    By Blogger shanna, at 1:16 PM  

  • What do I not like about Lulu? Mmmm. The paper quality for the books is fairly shoddy. It almost seems artificial. You also can't get ISBN's for music, or get it distributed on Amazon. That is why I have been looking at digital labels that put your work on itunes or the other digital warehouses.

    Digital audio is where I'd like to take books as well. I have yet to find a digital label that will agree to take on books, but I'm hoping one will get keen to the idea.

    There are also sites that only take a registration sign-on and then you can upload whatever you want. This may be the best way to go in the long run. I don't know. I am sort of feeling things out as you are.

    That is why I put the comic book for sale before any books. I wanted to see what Lulu's capabilities were. Thus far, it doesn't seem as wide reaching as something like itunes. It may grow to something. It may not. I am not sure.

    I would like to find a POD that gives more options as far as paper quality and actual physical products. Lulu gives you a discounted rate for every 26 books purchased. It is still rather high though.

    If you do put out a book on Lulu, my suggestion would be to make the book as cheap as you can with a very minimal profit. 50 cents or a dollar lets say. Then you can order books at a much cheaper price than I am. I mean, right now, if I wanted to order books I have to do it for the price that is set for everyone else, and 20 books at 10 bucks a pop is pricey.

    My mistake. But, whatever. I'm learning as I go.

    I will check out the Lightning one you mentioned.

    Have you ever thought of doing a POD, and doing a print run yourself?

    By Blogger Pirooz M. Kalayeh, at 5:23 PM  

  • Pirooz -- that hasn't been my experience with Lulu -- the book/paper quality was not shoddy. (Although I do wish I had more options with paper). It's different paper depending on whether its ordered through Lulu or another retailer -- the quality was slightly better for the Lulu orders.

    Also -- when I order copies of the Bedside Guide -- I don't pay the price I set for customers -- I pay the base price. Are you logged in to Lulu when you order your own book? You shouldn't have to pay the customer price.

    By Blogger RL, at 6:14 PM  

  • yes, i am thinking about doing some books POD, which i would probably do in split editions: 60-75 percent of the print run POD, and the other 25-40 percent letterpress or book-art quality, with handbinding, etc., depending on the project. burning deck has done this kind of thing for a long time. and tarpaulin sky just did it with jenny boully's new book (see a couple of posts below). the idea would be to get the poetry out there, with the possibility of actually selling it for at-least break even, with additional editions made especially for collectors. not all readers give a hoot about handbinding and paper quality.

    lulu.com just started offering more trim size options. i imagine it's only a matter of time before they improve the paper choices too. i haven't seen that in any of the forums yet, but i haven't really looked thoroughly.

    i have a few books produced by lulu tho (other people's books) and the quality of the printing and paper stands up well to what would be feasible for a micro or DIY publisher to do on her own with a traditional printer. i mean, 60# bright white & cream are both industry standard. and that 80# white for the "brochures" (which are chapbooks, really) is pretty dang nice. the only thing i don't like about the paper options is that they don't offer an acid-free version (so the books aren't up to Library of Congress permanence standards, for instance) or any recycled stocks. i bet if more people asked for them, they'd think about heading that direction. even trade publishers are using nonacid-free lighterweight stocks to keep costs down nowadays tho. it's really a matter of balancing, on the part of each publisher or author, the cost to benefit ratios. if they can't afford to produce the 60# acid-free cream laid with matte lamination 4-color covers in a print-run of 1000 should they just not bother? many will be willing to compromise, feeling that it's worth it just to be able to make the books available at all.

    i wonder too, why the books distributed through their "global distribution" option have only 50# or 55# stock. reb remarked on the difference of quality for the copies of her anthology that come via amazon. i guess they are printed and bound differently (presumably at a different location) than the ones ordered through lulu. i'll have to poke through the forums to see if anybody has asked about that.

    i forgot to mention before that Book Surge is another POD company. trade publishers have been using them for years too, to print bound galleys and digital short-runs but they'll work with DIY authors too. amazon bought them, a few years ago, so they are already integrated into their inventory systems. there's no info on their site about paper quality other than the cryptic statement "BookSurge's quality paperbacks are printed on better paper than typical trade paperbacks." and they do charge an upfront fee, which lulu does not, in addition to offering more options.

    By Blogger shanna, at 6:38 PM  

  • sorry, that last sentence is a tangle. i mean that lulu offers more options than BookSurge and in general, seems designed for a more saavy DIYer, who can do or hire out her own design, etc.

    & reb and i crossposted. :)

    By Blogger shanna, at 6:40 PM  

  • reb-yeah, i hear you. I have been logged on when I order books. I just feel like the base price is still to high for lulu. It needs to be much lower. Just the way I would like it :)

    Now as far as paper quality, that is very interesting that it comes different from Amazon as opposed to Lulu. I think I got mine from Lulu though, and I didn't like the paper. It didn't seem right to me. Now how I expected it too feel. I guess I am spoiled with all those wonderful library books. Who knows?

    I was also doing a comic book, so I think the paper stood out to me more than if it was just text. I haven't ever thought of that before, but maybe the aesthetic ends up slightly different for me when I'm viewing a page that has a visual on it. No idea.

    SC- I do like that idea of splitting runs. Seems a smarter way to go. I wonder if I'll release one of the novels like that. Mmmm. I have yet to decide. I am still playing with the whole idea. Like, right now, I am trying a different form of PR. What I do is hit message boards and forums. I quote myself, or put a little blurb highlighting the music or my blog to see if that will result in more hits. I figure this experimentation will come in handy once I release the next product on lulu or wherever else. This is a tactic I used for the television show I am working on now, and it seems to have done its job.

    I have more to say about marketing poetry too. What is it exactly? Well, it's more a question. Like, for me, the best way I can see to get poetry to people is to concentrate on the buying market, which is other poets, so you put your book out on other people's blogs, etc. right? But that doesn't do much, because really only your friends are buying it. In order to really sell books, you got to go out and tell people about it. You got to give them away. That means either putting out a mailer of poem postcards, or just going out to coffee shops or hotspots and literally giving them out. That's one way. Mmmm. I'm thinking as I write.

    Okay. Here's another idea. What if we put out a book that was like an anthology, but not? Like it's like those journals that are going around? Those 1000 journals? We advertise the journal. Then we actually send it to all the poets who reply. They, in turn, write on one page and mail it to the next person. This creates a paper trail to people who are interested in poetry, and also invites people to be a part of the community. There is no hierarchy. You don't have to have a pulitzer. Just be a part of the BIG ASS POETRY JOURNAL.

    Then as it's going around we can have people scan it, and put it up on some blog, where you get to be a member of it, if you agree to take and pass on the journal. Voila! Then when it comes time to buy Shanna's book, there are all these potential buyers and new poetry aficianados. Sound fun to me.

    Another possibility would be to put it on LULU for sale. There will be a big hoopla about it, and then many of the founders who were a part of it, will have free press etc. for their other projects. And this is an event that could keep going. Be done in limited printing. Exhibited as works of art in different galleries. It could go on with its possibilities.

    That may be a fun way to distribute a book too. You make like a printing of 112. Lets just say "112 copies" of the new Compton Book, right? And the thing is its a community based thing. The person that buys it has to pass it on and so on. Each time they pass it on, the person who passed it gets to sign up on some virtual thing, right a review about it, and say who they sent it to and why i.e. "I sent it to my boyfriend, Tom. I figured he would like the line about CATS. He is a CAT fanatic."

    Who knows?

    I like that idea though.

    I guess there are hundreds, which leads me to my question. Have either of you ever thought of doing anything like that?

    By Blogger Pirooz M. Kalayeh, at 5:28 AM  

  • If you're thinking of tagging and releasing a book to circulate in the wild, there's BookCrossing. That might be an interesting site to utilise if one were going to give books away and want to be able to track where it's going...

    By Blogger Ivy, at 6:38 AM  

  • those are both really neat ideas. i like the 1000 journals project a lot. i think i actually had one of them handed to me at the four-faced liar once, before i realized what it was. i may have been an unrelated but similar multiauthored journals. i hadn't thought of such a project in terms of a promotional event though, pirooz!

    bookcrossing is intriguing too, ivy. the last time i looked there weren't many poetry books i was interested in circulating. but maybe there are more now, or perhaps we should remedy that it not! in fact, i have a dozen or so books (not mine, other people's) i was thinking of gifting/donating. stuff i have multiple copies of or just don't need anymore. hmm.

    in his book how to make a living as a poet gary mex glazner tells a story of how he convinced a hotel to allow him to put a copy of one of his books in all their nightstands. in return for the free copies, he got a complimentary poet-in-residence term at the hotel. :) i'll admit to leaving a copies of DS in two favorite vacation spots myself--places where i am friendly with the owners because we've stayed there several times. they have signed copies in their bookcases in the guest lounge.

    By Blogger shanna, at 11:17 AM  

  • Pirooz, ah, well, yes buying small numbers at POD is still not the most cost effective way. I usually plan ahead for events and readings and purchase in bulk. And I haven't purchased the comic book size, so I'm not sure what that looks like.

    I've been trying a number of poetry marketing ideas. Ideas that haven't been particularly effective: Google Adsense and getting a table at the AWP book fair. I've done postcards too -- given them to all the contributors to send out and handed them out to potential buyers -- it seems cool, but I'm not sure if it's helping to sell books.

    By Blogger RL, at 12:38 PM  

  • I've been using Lulu since 2003 and I've always liked their work. I have a question about this whole idea -- why does the website have to be hosted on Lulu? Why can't we use geocities and pay 3 bucks a year to get a domanin name and have the ads removed? We can each give an image and description for our book, with a link that sends the buyer straight to buying it on lulu, or if someone wanted to use another POD, straight to that page.

    For example, my book could be listed on the DIY website with a picture, and when the buyer clicks a link there -- it goes straight to this page, where the book can be purchased: http://www.lulu.com/content/96806.

    Perhaps this is too many steps? But also, it gives each writer complete independence about how to publish the book.

    By Blogger Christine E. Hamm, Poet Professor Painter, at 11:55 PM  

  • I assume Shanna wanted to go through Lulu and Amazon for their traffic -- but if that's not the case, all we have to do is buy a domain -- I have plenty of server space to donate.

    But yeah, if there was an easy way to create a DIY Press "mall" -- I'd be game for participating.

    By Blogger RL, at 12:46 AM  

  • Oh, sorry not to be clear. The reason I am beginning with Lulu (& Amazon & possibly Powell's) is because they are preexisting systems, where the fulfillment & payment issues are already worked out. The idea is to organize a way for a potential reader to shop a selection of DIY books in a single storefront. So, if I could organize a shop at Lulu and link/mirror it here (I'm think I could do something kinda basic with a popup window & frame set) someone could browse the web ring's sponsored books there and just have to check out once. It's a little overwhelming to try to sift through the Lulu site on one's own. Entering "poetry" into the search engine brings up an enormous number of results, which aren't categorized or organized at all.

    Amazon has some of this functionality in place, with Wish Lists, Listmania, & So You'd Like to Guides. So we could do a similar thing over there. And Powell's also has a Wish List feature.

    The problem with building a site from scratch (which, yeah, we could do) is that it wouldn't be much more functional than this simple blog. It'd basically be just a bunch of links to individual stores.

    The first-thought solutions for me (and others I have talked to) was some kind of collaborative online catalog, which would give the customer the ability to shop a bunch of presses at once, check out just once, but then have fulfillment & shipping be the responsibility of the individual presses. The problem with that idea is obvious when you think about it for a while--it would need an administrator (or several) to take care of the details: making sure order & shipping info got transferred from catalog to press, making sure payment was distributed to each press (and there'd need to be a single bank account designated for PayPal), & making sure customer order tracking and other questions directed toward the main site got sorted appropriately. it's hairy logistically, to say the least, plus would require hiring a programmer or database specialist to set up. (i ain't quite that talented.)

    while something like that may indeed be possible, eventually, say if somebody were to write & achieve a giant grant to pay themselves & the requisite programmer/database/hosting/design costs & turn it into a nonprofit org, it's a little bit bigger project than this version of the idea.

    but...this version would be an improvement over the blog as it stands now: a bunch of links. it would be two or three curated storesful, plus a bunch of links to presses who don't use one of these larger networks. :)


    By Blogger shanna, at 8:00 AM  

  • i hinted at some of those considerations above in the email i sent around asking people who might be interested in this to chime in here. i'm sorry i didn't include you on that christine--i thought i had! i went through my address book & tried to hit people who were DIYing & not just send the announcement to everybody.

    By Blogger shanna, at 8:06 AM  

  • Shanna -- I got the email, I just didn't "get it" until you explained it now. So one check out, huh? that is tricky.

    By Blogger Christine E. Hamm, Poet Professor Painter, at 12:56 PM  

  • i guess i'm sort of thinking rhizomically, of curated showcases within existing stores as nodes or buds. trying to see if we can use the existing online retail structures (the ones that will deign to carry DIY poetry) to better advantage, crosspollinate, etc.

    By Blogger shanna, at 1:44 PM  

  • i don't know if "rhizomically" is actually a word, maybe "rhizomatically." let's hear it for DIY etymology...woohoo!

    By Blogger shanna, at 1:48 PM  

  • thanks for this good info, katie. i have requested a new group.

    updates to come, y'all...

    By Blogger shanna, at 4:19 PM  

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