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Location: Denbighshire, United Kingdom

After deciding to resign from the Civil Service after 25 years, I am now free to pursue my dream of writing. My first book '194 Radio City - The Heart of Liverpool' was published through Lulu in April 2006, and is available from good bookshops and internet suppliers. If you have difficulty getting a copy, please contact me.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Lulu's Explanation

All UK authors who have taken out Global Distribution received this email today:

"Dear UK Lulus,

You're receiving this email because you have purchased Lulu's Global Distribution Service. Since the beginning of this service, Lulu has translated the US dollar price you set into other currencies. In early 2006, Lulu found that the price set in pounds sterling was often not covering the higher costs we incur for manufacturing in the UK. Further, the tranlations were in many cases inconsistently applied and sometimes simply wrong. As a result, Lulu has altered the currency translation formula to cover the higher costs of manufacturing in the UK and reflect the dollar value versus other currencies. You will notice in most cases that the retail price to consumers has risen, and has been rounded either to 50p or 95p as most books are priced. We know it's alarming to see a price increase for no apparent reason, so we wanted to explain the reason for this change.

Remember that you will continue to maintain complete control over the price of your content in USD. You've always had this right, and the corrected international pricing formula does nothing to affect that right.

We know this change is unsettling right now, but the new global pricing structure will be more stable than the old one, which was adjusted monthly. That meant that books which were almost exactly the same, but published at different times, would show significant differences in price. Those inconsistencies are also eliminated under the new system.

All that said, we take full responsibility for our failure to communicate this change to our international community in a timely manner. We're already designing a system for community notification on any pricing issues, to ensure that we never make this mistake again.

Thank you for bearing with us as we work out the details of bringing distributed, print-on-demand self-publishing to the entire world. It's never been done before, so we're all figuring this out together. We're here to do all we can to minimize any adverse effects that the sudden change may have had on you, our UK Lulus. If , for example, your price printed on your book cover is now incorrect, let us know and we'll assist in changing it. Please feel free to Email (.........) with your questions, and we'll do our best to help.

Best wishes,
Lulu Customer Support"

and from Bob Young, CEO Lulu inc. in answer to our queries within the forums:

"You are quite right, we messed up, badly.

While pricing decisions--for whatever reason--are always difficult, there is no excuse for us not to provide our loyal customers with lots of notice of such changes.

For some complicated technical reasons we cannot now roll back our prices to the former ones, but we have come up with a plan that we hope will properly address the problems this particular change, and the lack of notice we provided, has caused you and other Lulu users.

I greatly regret that we didn’t afford you the proper time to prepare for a pricing adjustment, but we’re more than willing to work with you and other authors that have been adversely affected by this change. A note to this effect, along with the details, rationale, and positive expectations surrounding this price change, will be going out shortly to all UK owners of our Global Distribution service. I truly believe that we will resolve this to your satisfaction, but let me know if you have any further concerns.

Lastly, to insure that such occurrences will not happen again, I've instructed the Staff to create a process by which any future price or service changes are given proper amounts of time for community feedback and notification. We will not make this mistake again.

Thank you for making the effort to ensure this error on our part received the attention it deserved."

Although I know that people make mistakes and I accept Lulu regret the way they handled things (after all Lulu is a pioneer in this type of print-on-demand publishing so we shouldn't be too surprised when things go wrong) I feel they have perhaps become a victim of their own success here. In rushing to get a UK printer set up in order to satisfy the growing demand here, it appears certain things were overlooked. However, whether we accept these apologies or not doesn't make one iota of difference to the fact that our books have now doubled in price in the marketplace. Personally speaking, for the moment I will attempt to market my book myself as much as I can. If I sell any through Amazon or wherever it will be a bonus, but I really can't afford to spend too much time worrying about it. I need to get back to making some phone calls and writing some letters/emails to bookshops etc and seeing if they are prepared to buy direct from me, or whether the Global price increase even matters that much to them. Until such time, I won't really now how much this has hit my sales. There are some authors who will be in a much worse position than me though. The Lulu forums are currently full of irate UK authors left floundering with books they feel they can never sell now, whether that be because of the massive price increase, or for other reasons. A lot of people appear to have completely lost confidence in Lulu. You could say the bubble has burst.

And to think I believed I could finally start work on my new book this week....!


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